Friday, April 6, 2012

Kurt Cobain, Mac and Cheese, and Me: A Personal Lesson in Simplicity

RIP Kurt Cobain (2/20/67 - 4/5/94) 
As some of you who actually know me as a person no doubt realize, I'm a huge music fan. If you follow my Facebook, my personal journal, or any of my music-related profiles on the web, then you also know I'm a long-time fan of Kurt Cobain from Nirvana.

Yesterday was the 18th anniversary of Kurt's death. Nirvana was one of my favorite bands when I was in high school. I was also one of millions of angsty American teenagers who felt about a billion times less alone when I listened to his music. I'm also an angsty adult who still feels about a billion times less alone when I listen to music I can identify with, so naturally I had a lot of feelings yesterday, especially since -- as most people know -- he was a suicide.

When I told Seth what day it was going to be a couple of days ago, he immediately suggested we do what we always do to celebrate special occasions -- make up some kind of special meal that's appropriate to the occasion and listen to old Nirvana albums or something. It seemed like a no-brainer to harness the power of Google to find out what Kurt Cobain's favorite foods were, choose one, cook it up, and eat the shit out of it in his honor.

Well... problem! Kurt Cobain apparently wasn't much of a foodie. He suffered from severe chronic stomach pain and digestive ailments, so most of the foods he liked were disturbingly simple and bland. He was actually asked point blank in an interview once what his favorite food was. He said "rice and water". (OK, dude.) I also found some evidence that he liked "pizza and Coke", as well as a few other similar things. Despite being a drug addict, he really didn't even drink very much, preferring stomach-soothing tea to beer, wine, or cocktails. Then I found the following quote:

"I hate having people feed me fine French meals when all I want is macaroni and cheese!"
I also found a story online about this time he ordered mac and cheese at some hotel somewhere and the kitchen sent up macaroni shells with Monterey Jack cheese and jalapeños in it. Kurt took one look at that shit and threw it right in the garbage. "Macaroni and cheese" to him meant plain, ordinary Kraft Macaroni and Cheese without any extras in it. It used to really irritate him that people simply did not get that even though he was a rock star and could eat anything he wanted, he had extremely simple tastes and preferences.

It's the cheesiest!
Now... that is pretty much the polar opposite of who I am as a food lover. Although I didn't like it as a child and discovered its golden goodness relatively late in life, I actually love Kraft Macaroni and Cheese as an easy, tasty meal solution once in a while and so does Seth. However, we like to doctor ours up a lot. We like to add things like onion, peppers, or sausage, as well as experiment with spices and different cheeses. We cook it different ways. Really, it's more of a component in the making of other dishes than anything else.

I honestly couldn't remember the last time I'd ever eaten the stuff plain. Actually, to be honest, I'm not even sure if I'd ever eaten it plain. Like I said -- I discovered mac and cheese as an adult, so I already had an adult's palate that preferred different flavor dimensions to bare-bones simplicity. I've always "put shit" in my mac and the idea of not doing it felt really backward. 

The more I thought about it, the more I found myself sort of thinking Kurt Cobain was insane for not at least trying the fancy version with the Jack and the 'peños, because I would have torn that mess up and loved every minute of the experience. I judged him for missing out on the veritable rainbow of different things mac and cheese can be if you just step out a little and I shook my head at him for not being worldlier. 

Then I kind of realized that that was the type of attitude Kurt couldn't stand and wouldn't like. After all, how did I know I don't like plain mac and cheese? I've never had it before... so eventually I decided that would actually be the perfect way to honor Kurt. He was a simple guy who liked simple things, so a Kurt Cobain "memorial meal" should be simple like he was. 

So... we had a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in the house. I cooked it up last night and we ate it plain without so much as a dash of pepper or a sprinkle of extra cheese in it... and it was actually plenty tasty! I think Kurt would have approved. Don't get me wrong. I'm going to right back to "putting shit" in my mac and cheese... but I also learned that "simple" isn't anywhere near as intolerable as I always assumed it would be. 

I'm sure I could turn this into a full-on metaphor for life or something, but I'll spare you my Piscean ramblings on the subject. Mac, cheese, harmony, and music to you, Kurt... wherever you are!