I find parables, both of the religious and secular variety, interesting as a literary device. Specifically, it's interesting to me that parables are supposed to impart a universal truth, yet they are often subject to one or more interpretations, sometimes radically different or even diametrically opposed to each other. That they can both be described as "explicit imperatives" and "inkblot tests" speaks to both their strangely variable nature as a means of conveying an idea.
With that in mind, I've tried my hand at a parable myself. It's also a true story, if you're interested, but that's neither here nor there. It's one that I wrote with a particular fanfic (and a particular fan thereof) in mind, but that's also neither here nor there; these things are supposed to be broadly applicable, after all. In any case, click below to read...
The Parable of the World's Saddest Philly Cheesesteak
Once, when I was in college, I and some friends got drunk. Being drunk in the presence of equally drunk friends is always a good way to come up with bad ideas, but for the most part the crowd I associated with was pretty tame. To whit: on this particular night, the bad idea we came up with was to create "the world's saddest Philly Cheesesteak."
A Philly Cheesesteak, if you've somehow managed never to have one, is steak and swiss cheese on a bun with grilled peppers and onions. For the record, they are also delicious. How could they not be, with an ingredient list like that? Our goal, though, was to make an evil twin to this sandwich, one which used junk processed food equivalents ("sad food") for all those delicious elements which make up a Philly Cheesesteak. Our goal was to produce something that would reduce you to tears through the sheer soul-crushing-ness of its constituent parts, if you actually tried to consume it.
We quickly assembled the ingredients which we had lying around the house:
In place of a bun, we used Wonder Bread,
In place of steak, we used Spam,
In place of real cheese, we used spray cheese, and
In place of grilled veggies, we used Funions.
The end result looked as unappealing as it sounds. Immediately, I was dared to eat the entire thing. Still being more than a little drunk, and not being one to back down from a challenge regardless, I did.
Honestly, I kind of liked it.
I initially assumed I just found it palatable because I was intoxicated, but I made another one for myself a few days later with the leftovers and decided that, no, it was pretty alright. I wouldn't say I loved it, and I definitely wouldn't say it was "good" for any meaningful definition of the term, but I've made it for myself several times since, without any dares involved.
I've also made my "signature dish" for many of my friends in the years since, usually as a (for them, at least) morbid curiosity after hearing me talk about it. Many won't even try a bite. Most who do find it as unappealing as I and its other creators had initially hoped. A couple thought it was okay. Regardless, the fact that I willingly eat these things has become one of those defining bits of trivia about me within my social circle.
A few weeks back, I went to get sushi with a small group. Now, I'm not a big sushi eater, and when the guy who'd recommended the restaurant asked me what I thought of my dish, I said something to the effect of, "It was fine, but I guess it wasn't really for me."
His response? "Yeah, but we all know you have a terrible palate." When I raised an eyebrow at that, he clarified, "What? You're the guy who invented the World's Saddest Philly Cheesesteak."
I'm not particularly defensive about my palate; I like to think I have good taste when it comes to taste, but I wouldn't take it personally to be told otherwise. And so, I laughed along with everyone else and agreed that yes, I probably just couldn't "appreciate" the food. Heck, it was probably true.
However, liking World's Saddest Philly Cheesesteaks doesn't disqualify me from having a good palate, any more than liking Hercules In New York disqualifies me from appreciating good movies, or reading the Vampire Hunter D novels disqualifies me from having valid opinions about literature. There's a big difference between liking something, even liking something unironically, and saying that it's objectively good.
The World's Saddest Philly Cheesesteak is not good food. If I said it was good food, it would be a lie, one which others would be right to correct. But, I still like it.
And that's okay.