Open Letters to People or Entities Who Are Unlikely to Respond
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An Open Letter to the Today Show.
BY MEG THOMPSON
Dear Today Show:
During an episode I randomly watched while I was hungover, you invited a food writer on to prepare a small batch of oatmeal. At first this struck me as peculiar. Why do you need someone, I wondered, to illustrate how to microwave a bowl of water and Quick Oats? But I quickly realized my mistake. This was the motherfucking Today Show on NBC.
To be fair, Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything seems like a really nice guy. There’s something about the way he holds his whisk and banters with the smiling hosts clustered around him that makes me think, Hey, I can do that, until I remember I don’t own a whisk, or any food item that needs to be whisked, or a brushed aluminum bowl. And when my husband stands that close to me when I am cooking, it is usually because he is hungry and wants me to hear his stomach growling so I hurry up. But that’s besides the point. Mark was just doing his job, and his job is to encourage class struggle, seeing as how one of his recipes is Steel-Cut Oat Pilaf with Coconut and Raisins.
Since I was making fun of it the whole time I was watching and wasn’t sure I heard correctly, I visited you online to see if it was really true. Did you, in fact, offer even more oatmeal recipes at your web site? Oh yeah, you did. You went there. You have, and I quote, “five delicious ways to prepare oatmeal.” If ever there were a more symbolic reason for the working poor to be angry it is the phrase “Oatmeal Recipes.” But let’s examine the phrase “Oatmeal Recipes” closely. There is an “s” at the end of the word “recipe.” Besides that it is possible to smoke out of an apple, my liberal arts education taught me the difference between plural and singular. Not only do you suggest that we do more than run tap water over our oats, you are actually proposing that there are multiple other ways to go about this.
For starters, the word “pilaf” should not even be used before 8 p.m. It also shouldn’t be used by anyone under the age of 31 or by someone who only goes to Target to scan the perimeter of the store for clearance lip gloss and red wine. But that is my mistake, not yours, Today Show. Clearly I am not your target demographic. What was I thinking, watching you highlight my inequities that early in the morning on a weekday? What the fuck is Steel-Cut Oat Pilaf anyway? I can’t even picture what that looks like in my mind, and I am trying super hard. Dear God, what do you have slated for tomorrow? How to demurely suggest that your chauffeur needs a haircut?
So here’s my question. Does anyone make these recipes? Even people that buy coconuts off-the-cuff, do they spend their mornings toasting it in a skillet over low heat? The amount of time one is asked to invest in this recipe is 30 minutes, according to your web site, and I’m guessing that doesn’t account for the time it takes to find a grocer that stocks coconut. Don’t even get me started on recipe item No. 3: minced ginger.
Minced ginger?! Do you have any idea how much ginger costs? I don’t, but I know it’s a lot, because eight years ago I was going to make something with ginger in it but I didn’t because I delivered pizza for a living.
In a way, all of this breaks my heart. Right now I am picturing a woman, standing at a stovetop, eyeing her pan of coconut, making sure it doesn’t burn. She wants her family to be just as happy as the gleaming hosts on the Today Show. She knows that every single one of those hosts is riddled with existential angst, but fuck it, she is going to toast this coconut and then fluff it with a fork even if it makes her late. Because isn’t that what capitalism does to us? Makes us all want something? Dream for something bigger than we are? Bigger than our oatmeal? Does Mark Bittman even eat this or does he fantasize about French Toast Sticks from Burger King like a normal person?
And this is what you do to me, Today Show. Before I watched you, I thought I had it all together. I thought I was doing the right thing, eating oatmeal in the morning, half-awake, staring at the wall. Now, I’m all torn up inside. Does this oatmeal not taste as good as I thought it did? Should I be waking up earlier so I can start mincing the ginger?
But here’s the thing. Those oatmeal recipes sound really good and I want to eat all of them. There’s one called Leftover Oatmeal Fritters. People have leftover oatmeal? How is that possible? This recipe in particular sounds awfully down-home-ish, but the subtext is clear: these fritters are for people with expensive stovetops. The kind you see on cooking segments.
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