There’s a group of people in this world that are courageously un-picky with what they eat. They are not to be confused with the less impressive and less exclusive group of genetically un-picky eaters. Before moving further, a distinction must be drawn between the two.
A genetically un-picky eater is one that was born with dysfunctional taste buds, and their un-pickiness is therefore a result of reproductive lottery. You can know these mutants by the way that they never show any preference in matters of food. If you ask them what they want to do for lunch, they will say, “Eh, I don’t care.” If, when you get to the restaurant, you ask them what they’re going to get, they will say, “Hmm, I don’t know. It all looks good!” Then they’ll browse through the menu and make some game-time decision based on money or portion size. When the waiter takes their order, they’ll never make any little interesting changes to the dish, and they’ll almost always finish their plate. And then, under no circumstances, will they complain about their meal. Even to their friends who are all complaining about it. They are often misdiagnosed as polite.
It is true that, at times, I have envied their gifts. How easy they have it on Jewish holidays! But as useful as their faculties are, I have never respected them. After all, they couldn’t change their condition if they wanted to. As an (amateur) psychologist, I am interested in the way that people behave, and the type of person that intrigues me is one that will voluntarily gobble down of truly dirty, rotten, and/or inedible things. These are the courageously un-picky eaters.
To fully appreciate this chivalrous group, one must understand the inner workings of the human body. One must realize that it is a complex machine designed to maximize our chances of survival. We come fully equipped with mechanisms that ensure we don’t ingest any harmful materials. This intrepid group, though, does not play by the rules of nature. They have developed some secret system of techniques allowing them to overcome tremendous psychological barriers to eat just about anything. I needed to know how they managed to manipulate the mind like they did. Over the course of several months, I studied this group intensely. Here are my results:
Within this group, there are varying degrees of courageousness. Just because someone will drink from a glass with dried lettuce glued to it does not mean that they will eat a piece of grilled chicken that falls on the carpeted floor of a senior citizens’ home. But, that gross chicken person will almost certainly drink from the lettuce cup. I have concluded that courageousness in eating follows a strict hierarchy, with the more advanced levels fully encompassing the abilities of the ones before it. With this breakthrough in mind, I borrowed the belt system used in Taekwondo to better organize my research.
White Belt – White belters never wash their fruit, even if substantial adhesive remains after they peel off the little identification sticker. They’ll eat fruits with significant bruising. If they see someone preparing their food without gloves, they won’t bother to ask if they had washed their hands. They’d prefer to just take their chances; it doesn’t bother them that much. Most grandfathers hold at least a white belt.
Yellow Belt – Yellow belters will eat severely bruised fruits. Bananas that are up to 95% brown are completely edible to them. They will also have no problem with eating half of an apple and then returning to it hours later after it is all brown and slimy. So long as they can safely swallow a seed or pit, they see no problem with it. People with unclipped nails and obviously dirty hands are allowed to prepare their food.
Orange Belt – These individuals place little trust in institutions like the Center for Disease Control, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and widely accepted news sources. They completely ignore expiration dates and headlines. They do not refrigerate after opening.
Green Belt – To make it to the green belt, one is ok with eating significantly moldy food. Mold is “just mold” and can easily be scraped off to reveal “perfectly good” food.
Blue/Purple Belt – There’s a growing movement called Dumpster Diving. These people raid the dumpsters of supermarkets to find discarded food that is “still good”. If you want your blue/purple belt, you better get your swim trunks on.
Brown Belt – All reasonable people adhere to the five-second rule. This is the rule that states that food that is dropped is still good to eat if it is picked up within five seconds of hitting the ground. But all reasonable people also understand that this rule only applies to reasonable surfaces. Among others, gravel parking lots and restroom floors are exempt. Brown belts have no interest in making these distinctions. To them, a floor is a floor is a floor.
Red Belt – If a red belter finds food they are lucky, no matter the circumstances. The food can be hanging out of a trashcan for all they care. If it can provide them with calories and it’s free, they’re all over it. There’s usually one of these guys in every fraternity house.
Black Belt – The distinguished rank of black belt is reserved only for individuals with the muscle to consume inedible parts of other peoples’ bodies. They do notice that there happens to be a fingernail in their food. They also notice that you’re a whiney little wimp. “It’s protein, whatever.”
Despite the range of this group’s abilities, they all operate under the same strategy. Last week, I had the opportunity to dine with a fourth degree black belt, and I finally learned their secret.
One of my not so close friends was having a birthday get-together at some Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, NYC. I had nothing better to do and he’s Asian, so I figured what the heck, at least it will be at an authentic place. It was not at an authentic place, though, unless there’s some hidden village in China where they only serve gross and disgusting food.
I knew I was in for it when we arrived and there was a gigantic “C” pasted to the window, the lowest grade the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will give before immediately shutting a location down. The last time I ate at a “C” restaurant was at a pizza joint. I actually witnessed the server drop the slicer on the ground, wipe it on his apron, and then cut our pizza. Let me clarify here. This was the same ground that his old and sweaty army boots stood on. Army boots! They’re built for traction. Do you have any idea the type of crap that can get stuck in their soles? And this guy was wearing them for style. He had probably been in mosh pits with those things. And this was just what I happened to see!
Army boots, built for traction.
So, I was not happy to be eating at this place. But I’m a respectful person, and I didn’t want to offend my friend. It was his birthday, after all. I figured that I could probably handle something safe, like fried rice. Again, I had figured wrong.
If Ashton Kutcher popped out of the kitchen and told me I’d been Punk’d, it would have all made sense. But he didn’t, and so I was left to figure out on my own how my dinner was not a practical joke. I had ordered fried rice, and to their credit, there was fried rice on my plate. But, by any standards, this was a meal of fried hair. In fact, there was so much hair in my meal that I seriously considered alerting the police. It seemed quite plausible that someone in that kitchen had been murdered and they were little by little mixing their remains in with the food.
I gently pushed the plate a bit to my side and pretended to enjoy the water. As the night wore on, one gentleman at the table whom I had never met made the astute observation that I hadn’t touched my meal. He said, “What’s wrong? You don’t like it?”
I responded, “Dude, there’s so much hair in there it’s ridiculous.”
He looked at my food and pushed it around a bit with his fork. I said, “Dude, be careful! You’re going to get some on your fork!”
This seemed to make him laugh. He asked me, “You’re not going to eat it?”
I said, “Are you serious!? Oh my god, are you actually going to eat that!?” I began to get that nervous and excited feeling, like I was the one being dared to do something. This was so amazing. This guy was going to voluntarily eat some random guy’s scalp for absolutely no money at all. And I had front row seats! “By all means, be my guest!” I pushed the plate over to him.
He sensed my interest. He chuckled and said, “It’s not that big a deal, man. It’s just a little hair.”
Just a little hair! First off, he was wrong. It was a whole lot of hair, but that’s beside the point. This guy had no problem with eating hair!! For a second, I considered his stance. I wondered, was I simply being a wimp? Is it really not a big deal?
And then it hit me. I finally realized how the courageously un-picky eaters work. You see, he will look at hair and simply see a harmless thin black string. However, I look at hair and see someone’s reddened, dandruff flaked scalp. I see sweat dripping from their acne-ridden forehead. I see an obese man with open sores. I see a skinny man wiping his runny nose with his forearm. And then I see that forearm hair fall in my food. I see hairy chests, hairy backs, hairy pubic regions being scratched by hairy hands. This man has sacrificed his imagination for the sake of eating hair! How romantic this group truly is!
With a humble gaze, I watched him shovel the last bits of my meal down his throat. He took a sip of water, glanced over at me, and said, “Thanks.” I said, “No problem,” and felt my respect for this group grow even deeper.