Hey, everyone. Dan here. I went on a week-long sabbatical to realign my scapulae after they entered their rebellious phase and went swimming in the meat soup of my chest cavity. I was not made aware of who might have filled in for me last week, but I am excited to be back on the horse again. (For those of you who have not worked for The Lawrentian, we brainstorm articles and conduct our section meetings on horseback.) Time to get to it.
This may come as a shock to some of my most loyal readers, but I am not the person I claimed to be when I started working for The Lawrentian. My public persona is not an organic collection of experiences and obscure music preferences. Everything I am is the product of careful curation to mask my true role as an undercover reporter. Being a deep-cover field journalist has been one of the most trying times of my life. Six years ago, when I was still naïve and full of youthful ambition, I relished the idea of masking my identity. I was already accustomed to days spent in secrecy and shame. Naturally, when the opportunity to broaden my horizons and journalism harder than anyone had ever journalismed, I dove right in. I answered the call of the sewers of Appleton. With my assignment finally completed, I can confidently tell all of you that there is a world of food waiting to be discovered by us, the surface dwellers.
It is hard to be a white man in the 21st century, especially if you are the type of white man who tries to build a personality by discovering ethnic food for his other white friends. Technological advances are undoubtedly to blame for this new challenge. There was a time when the internet was still a glimmer in Al Gore’s eye, when the only means of culinary enlightenment was to buy another church cookbook from the next town over. Life would have been so much easier for me back then! I could have walked up to any one of the 599 white people in my grandparents’ 600 person hometown and given them my recipe for Authentic Lo Mein But the Noodles Have Been Replaced With Spaghetti and the Soy Sauce and Sesame Oil Have Been Removed Because the Grocery Store Does Not Stock Either of Those Ingredients, and they would have viewed me as the Woke member of the friend group. One of my friends always seems to know the hottest new food trends that are new to this corner of northeast Wisconsin (and therefore the world), and that means he definitely knows at least one minority! When he told us about the new Honduran restaurant in town, he made almost no mention of his unfounded belief that everyone working there is probably related. Way to go, Ron!
Unfortunately for us white men who are slow to catch up on trends, the world is becoming smaller by the day. Every time one of my friends tells me about a dish without any mayonnaise whatsoever, I am overcome with rage at my own inability to look smart, cultured and imperialistic. For a long time, I toiled away at the drawing board for new ways to Columbus up some new cultural staples. Even when I approached people of color at the grocery store and asked them to give me their recipes so I could publish them as my own, I was unsuccessful. As I left the store, dejected, I noticed a column of steam escaping from a manhole nearby, and boom! Inspiration hit me like Paula Deen hit the hard R before she was welcomed back into the industry with open arms!
Before my ground-breaking assignment, nobody had ever ventured into the sewers of Appleton to study the culture of the Wisconsin mole-people. Armed with nothing but a pen, laptop, trust fund, trusty pair of Dockers, vintage Patagonia jacket and a handgun, I began my quest to find the next big dish for restaurants where the only theme seems to be “food.” Now that my crowning achievement in journalism is complete, I can tell you all that the culinary world of the mole-people is unlike any other.
I knew I was in for a challenge from the moment I arrived. A mole-person, obviously shocked by my devilish, handsome appearance, shrieked at me and scurried away into the darkness. In that brief moment of terror, I noticed that mole-people have different tongues from our surface-dwelling standard. Instead of a little pink nubbin that rests inside of the tooth-cage, mole-people have a long, prehensile and perforated tongue that can be wrapped around the neck like a mid-winter scarf. The tongue changes color based on the health of a mole-person’s nether-kidneys, but most of the tongues I saw were either a deep shade of green or a delicate turquoise. With a longer tongue, the mole-people have a greater number of taste buds and a more nuanced set of descriptive adjectives for eating. I knew I had no chance of enjoying their cuisine with my ordinary surface-tongue, so I severed my frenulum like Gene Simmons to expand the usable number of taste buds on my tongue. When I finally sat down to eat with some of the mole-people, I noticed that they retract their tongues into their mouths so they resemble the size of normal surface-tongues. I was pleasantly surprised, and doctors tell me I should regain motor control of my tongue any day now.
One of the biggest hurdles for any newcomer to mole-people food is undoubtedly the prevalence of paper and plastic in most dishes. We surface-dwellers make little use of these flavorful ingredients in our food, but among the mole-people they are a prized element of cuisine. The pairing offers a one-two punch of texture for even the pickiest diner, starting with the chewiness of the paper and ending with the satisfying crunch of plastic that could have been recycled.
My mole-person fixer took me to a wide variety of restaurants, ranging from expansive treatment plant dining halls to hole-in-the-wall joints that were located in adorable holes in the sewer walls. There were so many flavors used in these restaurants that have no equal on the surface world, but one of the flavors that sticks in my mind has to be what can only be called “stress vomit.” This flavor is less of a traditional staple than it is a new craze that began just a few years after I began my assignment; the flavor first hit the sewer streets in mid-2016. Around November of that year, the flavor positively exploded on the cooking scene in the sewers and has been in steady supply ever since. Some food prognosticators predict that the flavor will make a resurgence in 2020, but only time will tell.
To elaborate further on the culinary miracles of the sewer world would take away from the marketability of my upcoming cookbook, “Sewer Home Cooking: Recipes I, Dan Meyer, Conceived and Created on My Own with No Additional Help.” Anyone who wants even the slightest chance of impressing their guests at brunch needs to buy this book. It is already being lauded by “The New Yorker” as one of the best books ever written, and I anticipate winning a Pulitzer. Until then, I will continue my mission to take credit for cultural staples everywhere I go and pass the wisdom on to you. Watch out, Mariana Trench: your grandma’s favorite recipes are about to become a flatbread dish in one of my pop-up restaurants!