Joeblade

Unhappy Food

So I’ve written about junk food and I’ve written about health food, but it’s time now to explore a different category that I’ve only lately realised exists; unhappy food, i.e., food that, when eaten, causes the eater to be unhappy.

For a food to be an unhappy food, it shouldn’t make you ill after eating — after all, junk food can do that quite easily, as can health food I suppose — but it should simply engender a general malaise after eating.

The first food I noticed that fit into this category was, quite specifically, Tesco-branded breaded scampi. Usually eaten alongside some rice and vegetables, I found that after eating I would end up just sat in my lounge or bedroom idly staring around wondering what do to with my time. DVDs, games, books, internet; nothing could break through this sudden glumness. Eventually I’d just have to eat some chocolate.

So I resolved to never eat Tesco-branded breaded scampi again as doing so made me unhappy, but I keep running into foods that have the same effect, such as Ginster’s entire product range, battered sweet-and-sour whatever from Chinese takeaways, or the roast half-chickens served at The Company’s canteen — half a chicken is just too much; after half an hour of eating chicken you find you still have a plate of chicken still to go and the depression kicks in.

Merde!

There was a European food market in Oxford this weekend. You know the sort; you get all excited by these interesting and strange cakes, meats, cheeses and sauces and then you buy a single, murderously-expensive flapjack before heading off to Sainsbury’s as usual. I went all crazy this time though and spent ÂŁ9 on some sausage, of the dried, chewy variety that you’re supposed to hang in your buttery next to the strings of onions and portions of mouse droppings.

The stall had a range of sausages available, and I went with pork and walnut, duck, and stag. Dried stag sausage, it turns out, smelt like my dog, and I don’t mean that in a generic ‘smelt bad’ way, it specifically smelt like my deceased cocker spaniel, Jasper (the way he smelt when he was alive, that is).

I sliced them up and ate them with a glass of red wine and some fresh bread — I figured this would be a good meal, but these sausages just didn’t work out for me. They weren’t bad as such — though the lingering smell of fresh Jasper from the stag one, plus the feeling of guilt I was starting to get about eating a stag in the first place, just wasn’t helping matters — but after finishing my meal I was miserable and had to drink the whole bottle and watch six episodes of Black Books to balance me out again.

There’s no common theme here, which has meant I’ve found it impossible to pre-emptively avoid unhappy food. Another problem is that, by and large, unhappy food makes you think it’s going to be happy food by having, say, an appealing smell. It means that you end up eating it again even when you promised yourself that you wouldn’t. It’s an upsetting situation.

By Paul Haine, in