Stranger Things, Eggos, and When Eating is Resistance

eggo

I can totally relate to eating a box of Eggos by myself, trying not to make a sound. I wish I had a less superficial (or juvenile) baseline reaction to Episode 6 of Stranger Things, but I’m too young, too gay, and too lefty to view 80’s small-town America with nostalgiaBut I think the ubiquitous framework of oppression is where I find the charm; the show is about the small-scale liberations we fight for even amidst world-altering events. Even when the government is holding your small town hostage and a monster has eaten your friend, you still need to resist toxic social dynamics, repel bullies, and take pleasure in watching someone throw a van with their mind.

I think this is why Eleven’s narrative is so compelling—her arc is the journey from the ultimate oppression to the ultimate liberation. She’s alien and identifiable in equal measure; most of us will spend our lives waxing in waning in the inbetweens of the clean break she attains in 8 episodes.

There’s a lot you could extrapolate from Eleven’s introduction to, and later affinity for, Eggo waffles. It’s symbolic of the American Way of Life’s acceptance of an outsider, and that outsider’s reciprocation. It’s the gifting of innocence to someone who has known a darkness beyond her years. Having your destroyer of worlds fall hopelessly for a cheap, processed food emblematic of the typical American childhood is a very effective (and American) way to ensure your audience imprints or empathizes with her.

All this could be true. What I want to talk about, as I would be hella remiss in my purview as a food blogger if I missed this opportunity to discuss a cheap comfort food given such media visibility, is how Eleven’s relationship to Eggos reflects real-life experiences with food.

eggo orangeI’ve always been fat. Well, I’d say my true form has always been fat. My parents tried ritalin and after school sports and putting me on Slim-Fast when I was 15, but like Kirsten Dunst in Interview with a Vampire, I would become chubby again before anyone had time to give me a once-over and say “see? Isn’t this much better?”

I grew up having my eating monitored and reviewed. I wasn’t allowed to use the toaster or stove, and didn’t learn how to fry an egg until I was in my 20’s. I would sometimes sneak the blandest of snacks—white bread with spray on butter—just to eat something unaccounted for.

(To be fair, when I was maybe six I nearly set our toaster on fire by putting in a full PB&J into it, so I’m not entirely blameless here.)

VH1 had this music video block called Insomniac Music Theatre—I would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night, anxious and depressed, sneak out into the living room, watch music videos and raid the freezer in the garage where my parents stored all their bulk purchases for things I could learn to cook that wouldn’t be missed. pikablu

This often meant Eggos, Toaster Strudels, and the like.

When Eleven receives the Eggo from Mike, it’s likely the first time ever that someone has given her food without an explicit expectation of something from her in return—to borrow from Dungeons & Dragons, the Eggo is a “free action”. The Eggo is symbolic of a kinder world, an alternative to the clinical brutality that has made up the whole of her life to that point.

When she shoplifts the Eggos from the grocery store, despite having access to foods that she was likely more familiar with, that tasted better and didn’t need to be thawed, she grabs as many boxes of plain, bland, and frozen waffles as she can carry. It’s dramatic irony—we as adults have ideas more practical and indulgent ideas of what we’d steal in that situation. But Eleven’s story isn’t one of the long game—she’s holding onto the promise of a better life in the best way she knows how.

Also: as someone who’s been incarcerated by the government against her will, I can attest that a soggy Eggo is probably a lot better than what you’ll get in a top secret bunker in 80’s Indiana. Especially the Pokemon Eggo I grew up with. It was fun to try and fill just the center part with syrup and watch it flood the rest of the waffle incrementally as I cut into it.

I rarely eat Eggos now—my memories of eating them in the dark, watching Orgy and Eve 6 videos, enjoying neither but committed to them as acts of teenage sovereignty, are cute and comforting but not anything I want to relive. I imagine Eleven would similarly outgrow them—it’d be a fun in-joke between her and those who know her true origins, but she gets a lot of nosebleeds, and frozen waffles aren’t really jam-packed with iron, per se.

But for those times you want to relive your rocky childhood while getting enough protein to start your day—

I’m sorry. I did it again. I monologued and told you a bunch about my childhood instead of going right to the recipe.

I mean, it’s not really a recipe. Frozen waffle sandwiches are sort of a staple of the Leftovers/Easy Dinner Ideas corner of food writing. I don’t mean to suggest I’m turning your ideas of what a waffle is and does Upside Down.

Eggos were originally called “Froffles”—customers started referring to them as Eggos because of their eggy, custard-like flavor. So, any recipe that would call for a very eggy bread could be swapped out for Eggos.

This is kind of like a Monte Cristo if you swapped out its insides for a Fat Joe, which was a sandwich, named after the rapper, served at Times Squares’ once-famous Stage Deli.

I call it the It Goes To Eleven

2 eggos, toasted as much as you can stand.
1 slice of cheddar cheese.
2 Slices smoked turkey.
1 Egg, scrambled.

Stack it up and smother it in maple syrup.

egg sammy

It’s got a spectrum of textures! It’s got hot, melty, and cool elements. It’s smothered in fucking sugar. It’s got everything you want out of a small-town breakfast sandwich.

The syrup is kinda watery-looking because it’s reduced sugar. I save the pure maple for special occasions. I understand the idea of maple syrup on scrambled eggs might make a few readers squeamish—but after ten hours fighting hobgoblins and malevolent slimes uphill, this sandwich will make a more welcome sight than the fairest maiden. Or half-orc leather daddy.

Swipe left on racism and kink-shaming in the magical realms.

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