How Nostalgia Made Me Eat Cheap Frozen Seafood and Enriched My Life in the Process

On Thursday evening, it was so cold that the inside of my freezer seemed warm. That’s probably just what the company that makes frozen “coconut shrimp,” accompanied by “dippin’ sauce,” with the word Calypso printed somewhere on the box, intended when they chose their packaging art. It may have been the only thing they actually did right. So the other week I was in the grocery store, shopping while hungry (anyone who knows any pop psychology or really anyone who has any kind of common sense whatsoever knows this is a bad idea). I was primed for this type of purchase even unhungry – it was around New Year’s, I was feeling loneliness pretty hard, nostalgia had just won a major victory in The Head Games… it stands to reason that something reminding me of the first “upscale chain” restaurant that appeared in my area in the 1980’s, while tugging at my heartstrings with all its pseudo-Caribbean charm, seemed a perfect choice.  I bought it (it was also on special – double score). And then I ate something else on New Year’s Eve.

My usual Thursday night craziness involved getting the kids home and fed and ready for an evening commitment to be followed by homework. I fed them and realized that I, too, had to eat. Progress. Not just coffee. In quick succession there was: a decision to use “the big oven” in a two-for-one home heating bonus, a short internal debate over the original purchase including guilt/skepticism/judgment over the source of the seafood, and the final determination to enjoy the heck out of this stuff with its little packet of “mango chutney sauce” to be thawed under cool running water.

Obviously this went nowhere good. I will spare you, reader, the photo comparison. The uncanny resemblance of the redundantly-named “mango chutney sauce” to halfheartedly adulterated duck sauce. The uncrispness. The blah. Not to mention the lack of digestive success in considering a packet of mango chutney sauce a vegetable. I knew – knew – going in that I should not have high expectations, but dangit, there they were anyway. The whole experience was really a fantastic allegory for how and why we make choices. This morning, I did the requisite speed-reading on Calypso (both the goddess and the music), on Coconut Shrimp as a thing, on chutneys, on the history of upscale chain restaurants. It’s funny how obtaining all of that information satisfied me much more than eating that crappy frozen seafood. Silver linings.

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