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Shit Bucket Paradox

Been there, done that

By The Food GuyPublished 10 months ago 5 min read
Shit Bucket Paradox
Photo by Pedro Forester Da Silva on Unsplash

Have you ever felt tired and gloomy, and to lift your mood and alleviate hunger you decided to have a filling greasy meal? A meal you know will make your senses scream and you fall into a joyous coma.

A moment later you are covered in grease and sauce. You feel your endorphins rise and cover you like an ocean wave on a summer day. You feel bliss. Your belly button is about to pop but most importantly you feel none of the worries you felt before you started eating.

Difficult colleagues, demanding bosses, long working days, weekend shifts, low pay, short holidays (if any), and personal life that looks more like a soap opera from the 80s, convoluted and spread over too many bland characters to see the happy ending.

When the meal is over the fence of joy starts crumbling, steady at first, drip drops of annoying work thoughts, then matters of everyday life - errands, family, smudge on your shoes. And before you arrive at the next comfort zone the flood of gloom is back. Is it time to reach for another Easy Greasy™? Or is it time to hear a story about the “Shit Bucket Paradox”?

Shit bucket paradox

In the summer of 2022, I travelled to Delft, Netherlands, to see my Uni friend. He bought a small flat earlier that year and was doing much-needed work. The heaters were ripped out, floors and walls part-stripped, wires dangerously exposed and random items of furniture all around, just enough to live. He was happy to see me and we got deep into the fun of the past before addressing the present days. He told me he got a new job at the same manufacturing site, a managerial role involving working days and nights over long shifts, telling people what to do, troubleshooting and solving issues on the day as well as reporting solutions for the future. He worked so much that even during my three-day stay he would have to work the first night. I was shocked to hear how much he works and how positive he is about this type of life - “I get to travel for a month, once I accumulate more holidays, it doesn't come cheap but they pay me extra for the overtime”. He looked pumped full of life even before the second coffee. I asked him how he felt day to day and what he does to manage the workload, barely any personal time and the makeover. He described his strategy to reward himself after four nights and a couple of day shifts if he gets more than one day in between - to buy new music records, drink a beer and an extra large greasy meal to feel better. I told him I knew the feeling. I also knew how most of my friends would do the same thing - binge on joy. Without a second breath, he explained how it didn't work and it made him feel worse. Heavy and sluggish. All those flavours would wash off of him unlike the rain that nurtures the soil but as a flood that strips away nutrient-rich topsoil. Even though it made him feel worse, the desire to eat more of the easy and tasty food persisted. And he would repeat the same mistake the next day, and the next time off. Feeling blessed and rewarded before realising that the things he was trying to escape followed.

We laughed about the normality of this state. I told him about the same alcohol-based strategy that persists in UK. He mentioned KFC and we coined the term “Shit bucket paradox”. KFC which gave birth to so many of the deep-fried chicken joints sells a bucket of food, you only need one to get yourself a meal. A large one. Tasty but deadly these buckets seem like a solution that makes you feel better, while a second later fill you with regret and sadness. And what do you do to stop those feelings? Eat another one.

Don't blame the food

Blame the producers. KFC and other fast food chains don't care about how you feel after. Your feelings and emotions are not their concern unless it is the joy that you are looking for. In fact, no food business that makes cheap, quick and addictive foods thinks that you need to feel better. All you need to do is buy their food. Salty, sweet, flavoured, crispy, fat, quick - designed to deliver joy like heroin delivers a dose of euphoria (felt only the first time) into the junkies' veins. And we know how this story ends.

We laughed at the paradox and our addictions, simple but true, catered for our difficult busy lives. So we thought a little deeper about the food that we eat. I asked him if there is a way out of it for him, and he pointed out that during work days he eats porridge for breakfast, salads and frozen meals. The buckets don't fit into his daily routine. We agreed that the buckets are good but only when they are consumed in moderation.

The trouble is - if you feel like shit, the shit will follow. Good decisions require space and time to make, and who has got those? When work and life balance are non-existent and one quick meal makes you happy, it is an extremely attractive option to normalise it.

While we talked about it my friend mentioned that he wasn't going to make changes for now. His work paid him too well for the extended hours in the randomised shift patterns. He needed money to fit the kitchen, buy a better sound system, take care of the garden that was double the size of his living space, and take himself on the 6 month holidays he couldn't wait to save enough for.

When he left to work I wondered how different our lives were. How the food we ate represented who we were, how it build and made us feel. I couldn’t share his fondness for the shit buckets even if I wouldn’t have known about the paradox. I was happy to be satisfied with less. I saw enough in beans on toast, a low-pay job with a regular schedule and a view of the world that didn't include 6 months' trips to another continent on a regular basis.

Until I started my own business.

-TheFoodGuy Edd

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About the Creator

The Food Guy

I read about food politics like it's a Harry Potter.

Eating my way through culture and cooking up the future.

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