Words by: Luke Hickey
I should probably preface this by saying that I am neither a smart nor creative individual. I don’t read books, and art scares and confuses me. Which is essentially the genesis of how this article came to be; unlike other Rotunda contributions that offer personal perspectives on international news stories or well-measured thoughts on local performance art, there will be no critical thought or nuggets of wisdom to be mined in this shit-show. No, this is just my story of eating nothing but food bought from service stations over a 24-hour period and documenting the results.
They say “write what you know”, so behold, my tale of keeping the diet of an incapable mouth-breather. I hope you enjoy reading my culinary version of a Jackass skit as I wait in terror for my eventual bathroom nightmare. Bon appetit.
- For every meal, I will visit the same servo. The servo in question will be the Puma station in Como on Canning Highway. For two reasons; I’m jeopardising the external validity of the results by including other participants in what is meant to be a single case-study, but also mostly because it’s the closest one to my house.
- I can only eat what I have purchased at said servo. This means no added ingredients for flavour, no condiments that aren’t also available there etc.
- This is what I call the ‘Super-Size Me’ rule. Whenever something is priced in a 2-for1 and the register operator mentions it, I will buy and consume 2.
- I will eat each meal until I am full. No skipping lunch, this is 3 square meals plus dessert.
I usually don’t have much more than a cup of coffee and a slice of toast or a banana for breakfast even when my options aren’t restricted to servos, so i’m gonna continue that tradition today. Enticingly displayed in the Puma front counter was a small container of fruit salad comprised of strawberry, watermelon, kiwi fruit (how exotic!) and a slice of orange.
The sticker on the front said ‘FRESH’, the use-by date said otherwise. But at $4.50, how could I ignore such a healthy bargain? And to be honest, it wasn’t actually that bad. Apart from some kind of preservative slime that covered the entire contents, it tasted pretty alright. However, looking around the servo as I waited in line to pay reminded me what I was in for when lunchtime rolled around. This was definitely the calm before the storm of microwavable chicken rolls.
So, much, milk. Strong feelings of nausea paired with an ice coffee-fuelled stimulation like so much bad ecstasy, the urge to call this whole thing off knowing I still have one more horrible meal to choke down is getting more palpable with each bite. Lunch today was a ham/cheese/tomato and I think cucumber sandwich, coupled with a 2-for-1 Brownes Double Espresso Chill (Another bargain? How lucky can one deadshit get!).
The meat was grayish, the cheese was Kraft Single-y and I’m pretty sure the cucumber was plastic. Also the bread was beyond stale; to say it was dry would be an insult to… I dunno, droughts or something. After a couple of bites I was gagging and ready to throw in the towel, but for the sake of quality journalism I kept on soldiering. To offset the feeling that I would be soon driving the porcelain bus, I ripped open the carton of milk and started chugging.
Unsurprisingly, that didn’t make me feel much better. 10 minutes into my lunchtime feast and I was both pinging from sheer ice coffee consumption and ready to vomit my entire digestive system. Which I did another 10 minutes later.
Quick story: When I was still studying, the Murdoch food court had an item on their menu called the ‘Mexican Pizza’. It was the cheapest item on there, and it was hideously comprised of flat bread, half a tub of sweet chilli sauce, half a tub of sour cream, and a handful of mozzarella. Up until this day, that Frankenstein of fusion cooking was the worst thing I had ever ate. Each bite of this microwavable double cheeseburger is making me re-evaluate that ranking.
When I came back to the kitchen after microwaving it for a couple of minutes, I was greeted with a stench that had to have arisen from the seventh circle of Hell. This cheeseburger is packed with so much non-food and preservatives I’m pretty sure it’s gonna outlive me. When the nuclear apocalypse claims us all and drowns the world in carcasses, only the cockroaches and this burger will remain.
The meat patty had a brownish-grey tinge and the cheese was a colour I can only describe as “radioactive yellow”. I had just started feeling less queasy after my milk overdose, and here I was again ready to stand over the toilet bowl. I didn’t have any liquid this time to wash down what was probably gonna be my unintentional last meal, so I ended up just holding my nose while taking bites out of it, trying not think about how disappointed my parents would be.
Dessert was a banana smoothie-flavoured Fruitare ice cream, because it looked like the healthiest thing in there. After finally finishing both I laid down on my couch, feeling a combination of trauma and relief that it was over.
“The horror! The horror!”- Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Like I said at the start, there are no lessons to be learned from this dogshit experience. Everyone knows servo food sucks, so I hope by consuming nothing but it for the past day has provided some kind of marginal entertainment for you. This gastrointestinal hangover I’m currently experiencing will be worth it if even just one chuckle is uttered, one smile is raised, etc. Just know that I’m currently going on minute 23 in the bathroom, looking like a constipated Private Pyle from “Full Metal Jacket”. I’m in a world filled with darkness and rectal anguish, but it’s all for you guys.