Food, glorious food.
Every meal, I perform my typical mealtime activity, which I have fondly dubbed "grazing." I go to the menu and scan what reheated delights they have for the meal. There will be a short order line with fried goodness, usually whatever was for dinner the night before, breaded and fried and called "x meat delight." There will be a main line, which will include various mystery meats, rice, overcooked veggies of some variety, and usually some more fried meat. They have a pretty decent salad bar (well, for institutionalized food, it is pretty decent), a carving station that will feature a different item daily: a pork roast, roasted turkey, sometimes they will have a few guys mixing chicken caesar salads. Then they have a sandwich bar, a stir fry bar (where you throw a bunch of stuff in a bowl and hand it to the dude who doesn't seem to understand what "just a little bit" means, and proceeds to make soy and teriyaki sauce soup out of everything), and a bar, that will have tacos or pasta or wings. They have drinks galore - sodas, gatorade, Rip It (energy drinks), juice boxes, juices on fountain drinks, coffee, iced coffee, iced tea, and milk in little boxes.
Don't be fooled. This sounds like a Chuck O Rama feast daily, and I know that there are some folks who love the food here. They have never eaten better. I, however, have a few issues. First, I am battling a wicked amount of depression here, so I am hyper aware of what I am eating. I have a tendency to go to sugar for comfort, which makes me feel like more shit. Second, I will not eat food that has been frozen longer than my sister has been alive. Since I cannot confirm how old exactly some of this stuff is, I see the boxes that go in the back of the chow hall, especially on surf and turf night, which is Friday. Somehow, crab legs and precooked, flash frozen beef that comes in large boxes marked "FOR INSTITUTIONALIZED AND MILITARY CONSUMPTION ONLY" tells me I should stay away. I heard about the LSD experiments in the 60s on the troops. Except I am not that lucky, they won't be testing fun drugs on me.
So, I have mastered the art of grazing. For breakfast, I h
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ead to the main line, get two pieces of turkey bacon, go to the pastry bar, get a croissant and cream cheese, grab a banana from the desert bar (for some reason, they keep bananas at the desert bar for banana splits, but never on the fruit line), then get a glass full of ice and make my own iced coffee - their premade stuff is half sugar and cream. I have a shot of orange juice and tada! I have avoided powdered eggs for another day. At lunch and dinner, I go straight to the salad bar, and then stop by the caesar salad bar for chicken (once again, "little bit" doesn't translate very well here, but we try), or to the main line for a piece of salmon-flavored substance, or salmon-looking baked chicken.
If I have a bad day, it is all over. The other day, I walked in the chow hall, went straight to the short order, demanded a plate full of french fries. The Indian guys behind the line looked at each other, confused. They know the blond who runs around the chow hall concocting semi-appetizing meals. After they loaded my plate, I went straight to the desert line, where the Japanese guy who is obviously hiding from some serious shit he got into with the mafia and so is hiding in Iraq working for $400 a month for an Indian company, gave me a double take when I demanded four scoops of vanilla ice cream. I made root beer floats.
But don't think that I am a saint for eating like I do. The desert bar here is heaven. In fact, every deployment I have been on has an amazing desert bar. I am not sure what makes it the best - the 800 calorie/piece cheese cake, the perfectly melted Ben and Jerry's served to you so that your knuckles don't get sticky when scraping to the bottom, the cakes, cookies, cobblers...I don't know why the military can't do food like they do desert. They have Dumsticks from Kuwait in a freezer case and sometimes, if you get to dinner early enough, you will find toffee ice cream bars that don't have any freezer burns.
Yours truly never gets to dinner or lunch on time, especially on my days off. I wander in around 12:30 for lunch on my days off, get my lunch to go. I hate the Army staring me down like a piece of meat, I hate seeing people I work with and having to make small talk with them. But the downside to not getting to the meals early is that the desert is picked over.
Unless the Japanese guy at the desert bar likes you. He has been stashing them for me. It is the best thing that has happened here to me.
I ate my lunch in my room, eating my ice cream bar, watching The Countdown with Keith Olbermann (they sneak it in right before the Bill Oreilly and the Faux News 8 hour afternoon/evening block). It is like I am home. Except I am not.
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