January 27, 2015

Attack of The Food Eroder

Or, "The Ninja Nibbler of the Night"


As a friend of mine recently pointed out, "Women shop. Men resupply."

Too true. Whenever I find myself in one of our current Cathedrals of Food (AKA: "Whole Foods -- Why Pay Less?"), I don't buy meals, I buy components. Though I've lived alone for some time, I buy like I'm supplying a small tribe. I've tried to control this by selecting the "little" cart. You know, that half-pint shopping vehicle, that grocery Miata, that let's you believe you're not really buying as much as you are. It doesn't work. I come home, unpack my "kills" -- at about $69 a bag -- and mumble, "Who's going to eat all this?"

House guests are the God's answer to "Who's going to eat this?" They are. That's okay. I love to cook for people. I'm good at it and it gets boring cooking for one; expensive too since I loathe leftovers.

Problems return when your house guests are stealth eaters. You know who I mean. Yes, you. Stealth eaters never, ever overeat -- except on the sly. They are the Merrill's Marauders of the post-midnight refrigerator.

Ordinary stealth eaters can be dealt with because the damage done by their pillage is obvious. You had half of a banana cream pie in the frig at sunset but by dawn it is gone. Vanished. Evaporated. Kaput. Never to be heard from again. Not so much as a ransom note, just a crumpled tin husk folded and stuffed down the side of the garbage bag beneath the camouflage of a crumpled milk carton.

Not pleasing, especially when you were planning on banana cream pie for breakfast. Still you suck up your sorrow, move on, and resupply.

No so with the worst sort of stealth eater -- the dreaded food eroder.

The food eroder is so stealthy he or she can even conceal their eating from themselves. The food eroder wishes to eat but not be seen eating nor to be known to have eaten. The food eroder can make your entire refrigerator into a Potemkin village where you think you have a LOT of food, but actually have almost none. A food eroder deals in cuisine disinformation.

Case in point:

Some weeks back I had a house guest. This house guest was a very careful eater -- someone cognizant of the fine points of nutrition; someone who knew the calories in a twice-baked potato down to the last bacon bit swimming in a dollop of sour cream. This nameless but shameless someone also had a finely tuned economic indicator and never met a leftover that was not loved, caressed, and consumed -- even when the original meal was lost to recorded history.

I once had a kind of grudging respect for this guest who was so much more disciplined about food than I could ever hope to be. But that was before I discovered -- after the guest's departure -- that I had been sharing my home and sacred refrigerator with a food eroder, a late-night Ninja nibbler.

You see, in order to fulfill my male mission of re-supply, I need to know what supplies are actually on hand. With a food eroder, this cannot be known since -- if you do not actually hand inspect every item in your larder -- you can never be sure of the quantity. What you can be sure of, I now know, is that a food eroder will guarantee you have less than you think.

The clearest example of this is -- as I have discovered today -- the most often decimated target of any self-respecting food eroder, ice cream.

About a month ago I noted that the house had no ice-cream in the freezer. This is not good -- especially should an after-midnight-ice-cream emergency break out while watching, say, "I Got the Hook-Up."

To prepare for such an emergency, and thus avert an ice cream crisis, I resupplied the freezer with a full half-gallon of French Vanilla. Since my house guest was looking a bit peckish at the time I offered to make a couple of sundaes (carmel sauce, shaved almonds, etc.). My guest gracefully accepted and the half gallon of ice-cream supply was reduced by perhaps a pint overall. This left around three pints. Such was the state of the ice cream three weeks ago at last check. Need for resupply? Negligible.

Fast forward to today when I was suddenly stricken with an ice-cream-emergency (While watching, yet again, "I Got the Hook-Up.") and staggered to the supply in the freezer. As I removed it I noted it felt strangely light for a container that should have contained about three-pints. You can only imagine my shock when upon opening it I discovered that it contained only about a half-inch thickness of ice cream covering the now far distant bottom.

But that was not the worst of it.

On closer examination, the surface of that razor-thin level of ice cream was scored by a series of small parallel grooves across it from side to side. It was as if somebody had gone back and forth over the ice cream with a teaspoon like a lawn mower.

I knew then I had been hit by the food eroder. I knew that, over several nights, my ice cream had be hit again and again and again.

Just a little this time. Just a little more that time. Then a bit again when the compulsion struck. And all, it was clear, in a shameful and furtive way as I slept.

This degradation probably went on and on until the food eroder could no longer avoid the terrible truth that nearly a half a gallon of ice cream had been consumed whilst standing at the refrigerator with spoon in hand. At that point shame overcame the eroder and the container was placed carefully back in the refrigerator so that it would appear to be undisturbed.

The food eroder escaped without ever having to face the shame. I'm off to resupply and thus avoid a post-midnight ice cream crisis. My only solace is that I know that the food eroder, now back home and faced with a refrigerator stocked only with the desiccating remnants of cantaloupe and celery is still having to walk an extra two miles every day in penance. Ice cream giveth, but ice cream doth not taketh away.

Meanwhile, my stock is back to normal. But I am taking steps to avoid future shock. I'm installing a state of the art motion-sensing alarm on the refrigerator instead of my previous sign that said, "Too late. Already here."

[Republished because..... because.... because.... The Food Eroder has returned. This time with teeny-tiny storage units. ]

Posted by Vanderleun at January 27, 2015 12:39 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

A perfect recipe for the subject that shall remain nameless for the week. My better half thought my resupplying(the bank account) was the best source for her shopping. She was not pleased when I explained it had more to do with women pick berries and while men hunt.

Posted by: David McKinnis at March 19, 2008 5:44 PM

Did'nt I see something like this in the Caine Mutiny Capt. Queeg?

Captain Queeg: Ahh, but the strawberries that's... that's where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt and with... geometric logic... that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox DID exist, and I'd have produced that key if they hadn't of pulled the Caine out of action. I, I, I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow officers...

Posted by: Robert Hows at March 20, 2008 9:44 AM

An eroder is preferable to an ice-cream miner, who will dig down the side to tap the rich vein of add-ons, like cookie fragments or caramel. That violates the rules. You take what the scoop yields.

Posted by: Lileks at March 20, 2008 10:30 AM

Ah. You must have had my older sister as a house guest. She can calculate the calories on anyone's plate within 3% of accuracy, throws a fit about the food on your plate, and her plate, then moans and groans about her "thighs." But she picks through the refrigerator during the night.

Posted by: Trillian at March 20, 2008 12:59 PM

Oh, that was so funny. I had to laugh out loud!! Thank you.

Posted by: Geri at September 19, 2009 7:05 PM

Better the ice cream than the liquor cabinet.

Posted by: Gypsy at September 19, 2009 7:10 PM


Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at September 19, 2009 7:10 PM

Funny! My teenaged boy is our food eroder. Grew eight inches in 18 months and everything goes. I have tried buying tons of snacks and hiding anything special behind the (hated) vegetables, but it barely slows him down. Go to make a quick cold Chinese noodles w peanut sauce after work with the leftover pasta & chicken from the night before....gone. Quick change of menu. Or grill twice the veggies and steak on the grill for dinner one night and a quick salad the next night's dinner, only to find that it all became a midnight snack for him.

I'm impressed by the discipline of keeping ice cream untouched for three weeks, tho. There, I couldn't blame the kid.

Posted by: retriever at September 19, 2009 7:19 PM

Teenaged boys are bottomless pits. My husband apparently "won" the calorie load at his high school, to the point where everybody looked at him in disbelief. "You eat how much?" He didn't remember the number but I said, "Michael Phelps diet?" and he laughed yes.

I'm dreading the time when my son hits puberty. We're going to go broke in two years...

Posted by: B. Durbin at September 19, 2009 8:31 PM

"I'm dreading the time when my son hits puberty. We're going to go broke in two years..."

Had my nephew over a few times when he was still in his teens. Prodigious does not begin to describe his appetite. I'm a lifelong bachelor who's used to cooking for one, or sometimes two, but making family-sized meals was a new one for me. I gave up after a week or so and just went the restaurant (all you can eat salad bar!) or delivery route. It was easier to take the hit in my bank account than my fridge. Man, that kid could eat!

I've hosted the liquor cabinet eroder on a couple of occasions. To find your favorite single malt down to the dregs (and the rotgut untouched) could be a cause for justifiable homicide, but I didn't care to find out for sure. I thought about it, though.

Posted by: waltj at September 20, 2009 7:40 AM

Whassa matter, you don't like ice cream? A pint to make TWO sundaes? That's about half a regulation-size sundae at my house.

Posted by: Ed at September 20, 2009 8:34 AM

You didn't mention 'the sliverer'. My Mom is convinced that three one inch slivers of pie (or cake or brownies) has fewer total calories than a single three inch piece. Then there is 'the grazer'. That's my Dad. A nutritionist by trade, he extols the virtues of a balanced diet for everyone but himself. He spends the day grazing on cookies and chips, then has no appetite when mealtime comes around.

Posted by: feeblemind at September 20, 2009 10:07 AM

I was having a pretty cr@ppy day today till I just read your story...very funny, thank you.

Posted by: Barnabus at September 20, 2009 11:17 AM

My favorite food eroder has her own style. She eats straight down the middle. A thin layer of ice cream, sherbet, pudding, peanut butter etc down the sides of the container, and a hollow core to the bottom.

Posted by: Patty at September 20, 2009 12:16 PM

I know what you mean. The food eroder above recently "discovered" a new jam jar anomaly. When interrogated as to why there were two whole inches missing from the new cherry preserves jar, eroder claimed there was an unseen "sinkhole" just under the surface of the new jar that caused the shocking subsidence.

Posted by: vanderleun at September 20, 2009 1:11 PM

I will confess, I am a sliverer myself. Oh, I eat a regular slice of cake first. Then later I take, um, not seconds, but, just a little sliver. And then another little sliver, just to even up the edge. Sometimes the edge needs evening up just a bit more. I am always surprised when the cake gets smaller after this--it was only slivers!

Posted by: Sarah Rolph at September 21, 2009 7:01 AM

Ah yes, the snacking death of a thousand cuts.
Have you ever discovered a jelly doughnut with no jelly in it? I have.
(I always wondered why we had to have drinking straws when nobody uses them.)

Posted by: ed in texas at September 21, 2009 12:42 PM

I live with a food eroder. He'll leave three teaspoons of ice cream at the bottom of the tub, five almonds in the can, a swallow of wine in the bottle.

It drives me out of mind. Just eat it all, proclaim that we're out and be done with it - you aren't doing anyone a favor by leaving that tease taste behind.

($68 bucks!! I'm so in a state of pure envy over your tiny outlay)

Posted by: Daphne at September 21, 2009 1:48 PM

Pie for breakfast? That's my kind of guy!

Posted by: Mike Anderson at February 23, 2012 3:23 AM

Better the ice cream than the liquor cabinet.
Posted by: Gypsy at September 19, 2009 7:10 PM

Interesting question. If a guest leaves your house in an inebriated state you could have legal problems if they are then involved in a accident.
So when will the nations lawyers start suing to recover the resulting costs of health clubs, larger size wardrobe purchases and tummy tucks?

As for the liquor, the wine and beer are made open and available, the single barrel bourbon and the single malt scotch is in the solid oak cabinet. Locked. Like the gun safe.

Posted by: John the River at February 23, 2012 9:36 AM

Horsewhip the bastard. Only way he'll learn.

Posted by: Mike James at February 23, 2012 10:57 AM

I had the devouring horde. Five kids and two grandkids living at home. I could not carry enough gallons of milk to make it two days. Cereal boxes gone in a breakfast, loaf of bread gone in a sandwich fest, cookies-- well open the pack and its gone. I remember two yes two of the hummer sized grocery carts filled to the brim and the underneath rack packed also. The daisy chain of humans when I arrived home and yelled out "groceries". All hands on deck to carry in the foodstuffs and then filling the pantry and cupboards to overflowing, knowing that next week a repeat would ensue. Don't even ask about the bill, I could have owned a porsche for what I spent on food, but I wouldn't change a thing. As for the "3 week" ice cream, ha, the best I could hope for was 3 day ice cream and only if it was mushroom/cabbage flavor.

Posted by: tripletap at January 27, 2015 3:23 AM

Yeah, but tripletap, think of the work force you have under your roof. Can any of them shoot?

Also, Cheez Whiz and Spam can be bought in case lots, haw haw.

Posted by: chasmatic at January 27, 2015 6:08 AM

Last week, I added a case of Cheese Wiz to my Yellowstone Caldera Survival Larder already stocked with cases of Saltines, Spam, beans, rice and water. I pulled a can of Spam, a jar of Wiz and a tube of Saltines for survival training exercises. My report follows: The fried Spam was as delicious as it has ever been, however the Cheese Wiz was shockingly disappointing. Post-training research lead to the discovery that Kraft has “kraftily” removed every trace of real cheese from its Wiz. I’m not saying skip the Wiz, just proceed with caution.

Posted by: MOTUS at January 27, 2015 9:23 AM

Shopping cart?
We restock with a forklift.

Posted by: ghostsniper at January 27, 2015 10:40 AM

You guys are doing something wrong, talking about supplying food for visitors and family members.
Got that backwards. Others are required to bring food when they visit us.

My clan, for generations now, has always traveled with three days food and water .
Essential to any male member and female members are encouraged to be equipped thusly: knife, firearm, lighter, spoon in boot.

My clan does not play. When they like you they stare at you with cold, mean, dead expressions.
When they don't like you they just get up and leave without saying a word. Very dpjk.
That’s Don’t Play, Just Kill.

Posted by: chasmatic at January 28, 2015 5:47 AM

I lovingly made a double portion of stuffed manicotti. I planned on the leftovers for the next night.
What I didn't plan on was my brother.
"How could you eat a full tray of manicotti?"
"First I had one bite, than the next and than the next".

Posted by: Katherine at January 28, 2015 12:57 PM

"It was as if somebody had gone back and forth over the ice cream with a teaspoon like a lawn mower."

Hahahahaha! So funny! What gets me is the person who eats all the good stuff in the ice cream and who then leaves about 1/4 cup in the bottom and doesn't touch the rest, letting it ice over into uselessness.

Posted by: AbigailAdams at January 28, 2015 6:46 PM

Anybody who gets between me and food is considered guilty of attempted murder.

Posted by: chasmatic at January 28, 2015 9:31 PM