“You’re a good egg” is something I say often —I try not to buy into rigid stratas of how to be the “right” kind of person, be it a woman, a queer, or a radical. We’re malleable, trying to reconcile how we see ourselves with external forces that push and pull us. In this way (and ignoring the admittedly fitting context of trans womanhood), people are like eggs; the difference between good ones and bad ones has less to do with a rigid binary of “right/wrong” and more to do with the care, knowledge, and resources that go into shaping us into what we’ve become.
What makes two $.20 eggs part of a $10 breakfast isn’t necessarily quality of the ingredients, but rather the time, energy, and skill it takes to cook a lot of them at the various desired consistencies of the brunch rush. People say “I can’t even fry an egg” to demonstrate their lack of cooking prowess because eggs are as good as the care in making them, and we often conflate that with some obscure and esoteric knowledge only bestowed on the crafty. MORE ON HOW SOCIO-ECONOMIC FACTORS ARE ACTIVELY ALIENATING US FROM THE GRATIFICATION OF MAKING OUR OWN FOOD AND HOW CONVENIENT IT IS FOR CAPITALISM THAT WE KEEP BLAMING THIS ON WOMEN JOINING THE WORKFORCE AND POOR PEOPLE EATING FAST FOOD LATER.
Some love sunny-side up put hate soft-boiled; the egg is merely a vehicle to a particular texture and flavor. When someone outside of a restaurant setting asks me how I like my eggs, it’s an invitation to understand a part of me, even if it’s only as superficial as “I prefer sliminess to rubberiness”.
Food occupies such intimate spaces in our existence, even beyond the ever-present need for it; who we eat it with, what we celebrate or mourn with it, what food makes you connect to where you come from and where you hope to go. Because food has so many tendrils dug basically balls-deep into the human experience, it becomes a helpful conduit for people to commit oppression, on the micro and macro scale. MORE ON HOW FOOD IS USED AS A TOOL OF VIOLENCE LATER.
An egg can be anything — a comfort, an indulgence, a way to attract gentrifiers to line up for an hour and force undesirables out of your neighborhood. We can be underdog and oppressor in equal measure. Just as various social justice rhetoric has worked to explore socio-economic factors to societal inequity, I am using FRY HAVOC as a way to explore and push back against systemic shame and misinformation around food so that people who often don’t get to enjoy or “be good at” food can become intimate with it.
One of my happiest memories is being at an all-gender strip club where people screamed and cheered the performer regardless of gender because even if the performer didn’t match their “preferences”, they were happy and excited to see the human form in the throes of enjoyment. I think of this when I see pictures of food on instagram or twitter go viral — even if I can’t convince you that I know of at least one way to make eggs that you’ll like (or a way to approximate the texture and flavors of cooked eggs through non-egg means), I want to foster an appreciation for the fluency and enjoyment of food.
FRY HAVOC is a platform to allow people who don’t normally get to enjoy food — those coerced into diets, those isolated in food deserts and are shamed for the choices they make with what’s available, those who’ve had the foods of their childhood stolen from them — to gaze at food, to fetishize it even, and know how to make the best food you can with as few resources and absolutely no shame.
To this end, I’m establishing a five-course menu of some ground rules:
Junk can be a tool.
When I was homeless, I ate a lot of candy. It was cheap, had a lot of calories, and wouldn’t spoil or get crushed if I kept a bunch in my bag. Candy bars basically started out as a way to keep soldiers fed. My dietary habits were only “unhealthy” from the purview of the banks harassing me for my missing loan payments or the people in San Francisco cafes that would wince at me through their $15 salads while I counted out the change to buy the McChicken and a Coke that would hold me over until I could visit my girlfriend the next day.
If you’re eating ramen and doritos because it’s what you can afford, it’s no longer junk. It’s a tool to survival. And those tools can be used to love and care for your bodies. Ramen can be paired with dirt-cheap veggies and proteins to make a soup that you can portion out over a week. Doritos can be used for the crust to baked chicken, or eaten with sour cream and salsa to make sure you’re getting protein and veggies.
At that point, it isn’t “junk”. I believe that giving people knowledge on how to integrate the food that’s available to them into a balanced and conscientious diet is better, 10 times out of 10, then deriding them for their choices which aren’t always choices in the first place.
The only “clean” food is that which comes with no shame.
Shame isn’t snapped up by the liver or expelled when you use the bathroom. You can binge on organic food; you can lie in bed eating $40 cheese and crying because you feel hideous and that you deserve to be punished for it. The shame that comes with our food stays with us.
It often comes as an unasked-for condiment. I was once invited to be an apprentice for a chef; he worked with a nutritionist who’d casually say shit like “well, you don’t have to worry about it too much — you’re not poor, you know?” I turned him down and even though I’d probably be working in a kitchen for money by now, I don’t regret it. When we assign shame to people for the food they eat, we reify our own ignorance to the socio-economic factors that inform those decisions.
Health and “healthy” are amorphous, abstract concepts aiming to quantify aspects of the human body we still have a lot of grey area around.
We still can’t decide whether or not eggs are “good” for you.
Understanding this: the healthiest thing I can advocate for is to unlearn the shame associated with eating, whether receiving or assigning it to others.
Tasty food is a universal right.
My biggest gripe with food replacements like Soylent isn’t that it allows people to bypass the labor and anxiety involved in food preparation. By many accounts it, like Slim-Fast before it, tastes like shit, and if the tech-aristocracy begins to adopt this, we will be pushed into a future where workers will be pressured to drink fucking slop instead of taking a meal break.
We accept that hospital and prison food is bad as a matter of course. We as a society, accept that there are times when making sure the food is palatable is more effort than you’re worth. We elevate taste, and the ability to enjoy your food, as a privilege. Part and parcel to shaming poor people for eating fast food is a societal vindictiveness around people deigning to enjoy the food they eat despite not belonging in the proper strata.
You don’t deserve to have food you hate. You might fuck up a fried egg a couple times trying to get it the consistency you like. That’s okay. You’ll learn. And once you do, you’ll have one more tool in your belt to make sure your body and mind are cared for, even when all you’ve got is a frying pan, some eggs, and hot sauce packets you’ve saved up from trips to Taco Bell.
There is no such thing as an empty calorie.
Anyone who insists on such is speaking from a place of assumed perpetual abundance. Anyone who’s had to drink a pitcher of water to stave off hunger pains knows the inherent fake-ness of the empty calorie.
I’d rather look at food as a system of addition (of things that can round out a particular dish to make it more balanced) rather than one of subtraction, where we expect people to whittle down their portions while gaining the ideal amount of x, y, or z nutrient.
Play with your food. Wear it. Let no one use it against you.
Hang photos of food you enjoy on your walls like you would your favorite band. Sing songs about food while you’re making it. Food does not have to be something you do in-between excursions of monetized productivity. Treat trying a new hole-in-the-wall like you would a craigslist hookup; wear an outfit that people might not recognize you in, pretend you’re a different person. Watch videos of people eating and talking about food and allow yourself to be aroused by them, even if not sexually.
Meet someone on a dating site that will come to your place, make you breakfast, and then leave when you’re done. Let them lick the egg off your face.
The deeper in the shadows you place your relationship to food, the more reach people have to hurt and shame you for the food you eat.
Food without ignorance, food without shame. That is the Fry Havoc way.