Open letter to the pile of mush I ate today

The innards looked kind of like this but redder. It did taste good.

Dear substance I consumed,

The path leading to you, a “shekshooka” sandwich, was filled with guilt, yellow-bellied behavior, and poor decision making in general. Though the time we had together was short, I would like to thank you for showing me the depths to which my dignity can plummet through the mere act of food consumption, depths I never knew existed. I am now more acutely aware of the pathetic human condition.

My thinking capacity weakened by the mid-day heat, I wander in a daze most closely related to that of tranquilized animals before they are slaughtered. Friend suggests getting something to eat, and I agree with the docility of a lamb, embarking on a journey soon to end with me shoveling goop into my mouth out of a plastic bag.

At the inevitable sandwich place, I crave something on the “lighter side” of Egyptian street fare. I have forgotten this is a side that does not exist. Regardless of other contents, the main ingredient by weight of every dish is oil and/or mayonnaise. In my woefully doomed attempt to avoid eating mostly oil, soybean or otherwise, I order you, a shekshooka sandwich, which I imagine to be a spiced omelet shoved into bread. “What could be healthier or lighter than an omelet?” I asked myself as blissfully uninformed as someone wondering why her mother is making such strange snuffling and grubbing sounds outside the tent. I soon find out the actual shekshooka is remarkably unlike an omelet.

Things go sour from the start, as my order is promptly lost and I have to wait a solid ten minutes (as opposed to the usual one minute) to begin what would ultimately be one of the most dehumanizing activities I’ve ever engaged in. Wasted by heat and restaurant crowd exhaustion, I am no longer hungry and desire only to consume you and finish with this business once and for all. Finally, I see you being prepared: a cup of oil and a few eggs thrown into a pan, a fork mashing it all together with disdain.  Mr. Man scrapes your pulpy substance out onto a plate before slopping you into a round of Egyptian bread that is then thrown into a small plastic bag. Here you take your final form and instantly begin to deteriorate, the thin exoskeleton of bread doing nothing to prevent the hot egg mixture from infiltrating its every pore and beginning to escape. As I cup the plastic sandwich casing, I feel your liquid innards struggling to break free. My heart fills with dread. There will be consequences but no looking back.

With both hands I lift you, dear sandwich, to my jaws and begin to devour you, the sensation closely related to what a bear must feel when it digs into the intestines of a freshly slain deer. The preliminary bites are mostly bread, but I then reach the heart of the mess, my hands supporting you in your plastic cocoon that prevents your complete disintegration. Were I to pump you in my fist a few times, you would instantly become the consistency of baby food. Knowing this, I proceed with caution, as I hope to retain some form of dignity when I polish off your last morsels. I have hopes of removing you from the plastic bag while savoring the final bites…

Alas it is not to be. Though your flavor itself is delicious, I only continue the grotesque task of eating you through sheer determination. As I near your end, there is no longer any distinction between the outer bread and your greasy innards.  You have become a homogeneous mush filling up the right corner of my sandwich bag, its tip a pocket of red oil for contrast that reminds me of my pre-sandwich naivety.  The sight turns my stomach, to be frank.

Unwilling to concede defeat, and despite being disgusted at what I have become in the heat of competition, I proceed to consume you in your entirety. You, since you are a sandwich, cannot appreciate how shameful it is to eat mush out of a bag. Indeed, it is impossible eat in such a manner and retain the same level of self-respect, knowing full well I am one step away from eating out of feed bag strapped to my face. As I use my fingers to invert the corner of the bag and thrust your last remaining particles-a veritable oil slick- into my gaping mouth, I swear to myself I will never stoop this low again.

A new day dawns tomorrow, one in which I will eat with a fork, or a spoon, or even with my hands, but never again will I feed as a common pack animal or wild beast. The obvious exception is if I am, in fact, tucking into an animal I have just chased down and slaughtered. So thank you, shekshooka sandwich, for inspiring me onto new heights after showing me the very nadir of human existence.

Eternally yours,

Emily

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4 thoughts on “Open letter to the pile of mush I ate today

  1. […] the dusty couches and furniture of three different Cairo apartments and one balcony. I wrote about sandwiches and revolutions and expatriates and travel and unicorns and instant coffee as I dealt with the […]

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