I don’t think it’s too late to start off a post around this time by continuing to wish everyone Happy Holidays! For us, the gift giving didn’t end on Christmas, but extended at least through New Year’s with the gift of a food coma to ourselves. Now, it’s not unusual to have a holiday food coma, but ours wasn’t from tryptophan. It was HFCS.
That last Tom Jones reference aside, the title of the blog is a reference to the Beatles’ “Happiness is a warm gun” (NB: according to Wikipedia, that itself is a reference to Charles Schulz’ Peanuts comic proclaiming that “Happiness is a warm puppy,” which may have been an inadvertent reference by John Lennon, but which I find to be true. Still warm “gun” rhymes better with cold “one,” so that’s what I’m going with.). The cold one here is one of many sources of the afore-mentioned HFCS and also the holiday gift we gave ourselves.
At a certain few hardship posts around the world, the government will pay for a shipment of up to 2500 lbs of “consumable items.” The theory here actually matches the reality (true at least for Brazzaville) and goes that most food items to which we’re accustomed are not available, nor are local equivalents. Those that have followed this blog much will know that we’ve certainly had our difficulties finding things like cheddar cheese, non-rancid meat, and juice that isn’t 90% sugar. And so, with great Christmas cheer, we received our consumables shipment last week that could fairly be described as a ton of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
Now, for those of you not familiar with what a ton of HFCS looks like, I’m including pictures. Most of the time, though, it looks like Reece’s Pieces, Teddy Grahams, Pop-Tarts, Cheetos, Captain Crunch, and hundreds of cans of Mountain Dew and American Coca-Cola (the stuff here, like many places, uses sugar). And that’s what it looks like to us, piled up in our house. But it doesn’t look that way to our bodies, and despite what the corn lobby of America say, it doesn’t look like sugar either. It’s basically sugar on steroids. Actually, eating sugar then steroids might be healthier.
But boy oh boy does it taste good! At least, I think it does. For much of the last week, we’ve (actually, just me) been gorging ourselves on all the good treats we’ve been missing by being here. And my body and now the rest of me have become acutely aware that we’ve been without HFCS for sometime now because all of a sudden, I’m tired, worn out, have an aching stomach, and generally feel crappy. Ironic, of course, because we’ve complained that it was so hard to eat healthy in Brazzaville because of the limited vegetable options and the fact that everything is served in a soup of palm oil. Yet when I look around as a trudge around the streets now trying to burn off the inevitable weight gain that we shipped to ourselves, the Congolese look downright ripped, while I’m starting to have trouble seeing my belt buckle. (Of course, I’m probably going to live twice as long than most of the people here thanks to America’s medical system and the comfort and (relative) cleanliness I can surround myself in. Seems unfair, huh?)
So maybe it’s better after all that the title’s reference is too The Beatles’ self-destructive lyrics rather than the wholesome Peanuts reference to Snoopy (NB2: again, irony, as I’ll be eating Cheetos and drinking a Mountain Dew while watching the playoffs this weekend – go Bengals! – which will be covered by the MetLife blimp, painted with a giant Snoopy on the side). Still, cold comfort is sometimes the best you can get. Even if that coldness is a cold bottle of neon green teeth rot. Mmmmm!