It is an absolutely ironclad scientific fact: When the TV set goes on, the appetite goes up. Who proved it? Well my Aunt Irene for one. Over the next couple of days, the TV set will be on All The Time. Ronald Reagan is going through the motions of another inauguration, and a certain pair of football teams will be going through the more elaborate, maybe equally meaningful, motions of Super Bowl XIX.
Everybody will be watching television. And nobody will be watching HBO or MTV. This is a weekend to fall into the mainstream and let it carry you along.
We will watch, and we will eat. We can't help it. Television is ipso facto an incomplete experience, even if one feels riveted to it, and nothing completes the ritual like the hand placing morsels to the mouth. There will be hours and hours of inaugural event coverage -- the actual business of swearing Reagan in again to be a tiny part of it -- and that Super Bowl thing, this year on ABC for the first time, goes on practically all day, what with pre-pre game and post-pre game and pre-post game shows. No viewer dares approach this morass of passive experience unarmed.
Truth be told, and it sometimes is, even by THE MEDIA, we are not just a nation of watchers. We are a nation of watchers and eaters. A sign on an Oklahoma food store, glimpsed during a report last week on "The CBS Evening News," looked like a snapshot portrait of American priorities. It said, "Jesus Is Lord. Don't Forget Snacks for the Super Bowl." It was American priorities, lest we forget, that got this year's presidential inauguration moved to another day so it would not interfere with a football game. Or so it might seem.
During television-intensive times like the long viewing hours that yawn beckoningly ahead, the term "snacks" really becomes a misnomer. There will not be meals, there will be only snacks. Snackus perpetuus. A snackfest, a snackathon, a Snack-a-rama.
We'll eat like there's no tomorrow. We'll eat like there's no Richard Simmons. We'll eat till we fall asleep. According to highly reliable, confirmed, documented, indisputable sources, namely my late Aunt Millie, who buzzed in one mysterious night on the Hallicrafters, that's what they do in heaven. That's right, they eat and watch TV and fall asleep. They can get dead drunk because they don't have to drive home. Besides, they're already dead. Worry do they not about serum cholesterol, nitrites, sodium, saccharin, aspartame, caffeine, huh! Nuts to worry. This weekend, let's eat like they eat in heaven.
For the Super Bowl, perhaps foods appropriate to the home cities of the two teams would be nice. What do we think of when we think of San Francisco? Sourdough bread. Ghirardelli chocolates. White wine. And, of course, gay beer. There is now on sale in this land of diversity a gay beer -- that is, a beer target-marketed to gay beer drinkers. It's called Wilde Beer, after Oscar. And hey, what a great way to toast the '49ers. At the moment, however, the brand is available in just a few test markets like, where else, San Francisco. Yes, you can only get the Wilde brew yonder.
Forget it. Maybe we'll send out for Chinese. That's sort of San Franciscological too.
As for Miami, Miami is pompano and red snapper and stone crabs, all too messy and complicated for living room munching. But it is also key lime pie and Cuba libres, and there are those who believe, including somebody's Aunt Sophie, that in Miami Beach are to be found the best cheese blintzes in the United States. Super blintzes for a Super Bowl would not be wrong. But it's very hard to get good ones in these parts.
Croissants are out, unless we're talking about the bland Sara Lee frozen kind. Otherwise, not American enough, even if there are croissant shops popping up on every block. And yuppies back from a Sunday morning's jog all now think themselves terribly sophisticated for saying "qwahsan" as Frenchily as possible.
Popcorn is certainly an apt, inevitable Super Bowl snack, especially if you go high tech with it. Pillsbury's new microwave popcorn is terrific once you have mastered the time buttons and come up with the proper formula for your particular microwave oven (and provided you don't leave it in more than five minutes and burn the house down) and figure out when it's fully popped and ready to be shaken so you get the right amount of chemical-that-tastes (allegedly) like-butter on it. Put the microwave oven on the TV set and, when the game gets dull, should such a dramatically unforeseen happenstance occur, you can watch the popcorn bag expand like an inflating stomach as the kernels blossom out.
Often watching microwave cooking is actually more interesting than watching television anyway.
For Reagan's inaugural, jellybeans are obviously too obvious, and besides, who really likes them, who cares if Reagan likes them, and who wants to pick one of them up after it has landed on the rug and gotten all fuzzy? California wines are very appropriate to the second Reagan inaugural, despite the recent Californian exodus from his administration, and anything baldly American would be suitable, too: the immortal hot dog, the immortal Twinkie, the immortal pizza (it is American, yes it is), the immortal Little Tavern hamburger, the immortal Cheeto, the immortal M & immortal M, the immortal peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and the soon to be immortal chocolate-coated granola bar, which provides an opportunity to get imbecilically fat while foolishly imagining you are scarfing down something healthy.
Rancho food is certainly in order as well, like refried beans for a recycled regime. Anything even vaguely Mexican-American reflects the Santa Barbaran in all of us, or at least in all of him. At the ranch, Nancy likes to serve guests chocolate chip ice cream. And not on $1,000-a-plate plates, either. If Hearst could put ketchup bottles on the football-field-size dining tables of San Simeon, we poor citizen-slobs of Television Land can eat the potato chips (recommended: any brand not claiming to be "all natural") right out of the bag in front of the TV set. Ah, happiness.
It is going to be a long haul. When it's over, we are going to be larger of girth and no larger of knowledge. We will have gained nothing but weight, really, and the pleasure of having partaken a nationally shared vicarious experience, the 1985 Superaugural. Eat, eat, and be merry, for tomorrow we must diet. That's American, too. Wretched excess followed by retributive reform. Anyone who doesn't overdo has definitely underdone.