Have you ever had one of those ideas that seemed completely brilliant until you said it out loud? I had one of those today. It was a thought for an essay, but when I tried to describe it to my partner, it just sounded sort of dumb. Reflecting on it, the idea isn’t actually dumb – it’s the fact that I can’t articulate it in the brilliant way my brain first conceived of it that’s dumb. It was a flash thought (though there’s got to be a better phrase for this concept) – a thought that must be made up of more emotion than thought, because at the moment it makes great sense, has tons of promise, and is something I can most certainly write and immediately have accepted for publication in a highly acclaimed literary journal, if I can only find the time to sit down and get it on paper. Now that I’m sitting down, though, I can’t capture that perfect thought, and I think it’s because the words around the idea never solidified. They zapped themselves in and out of my brain the way a person’s name does when I’m first introduced to them. I forget names before I even finish hearing them.
Anyway, I guess there’s not much harm in having a smart thought turn dumb on you. As long as it’s a thought, anyway. Say it out loud, put it on paper, inadvertently send something moronic in an email to your coworkers – that could be more harmful, but in my case, it’s just a writing idea I need to kick around a little longer to see if it develops. If it does, great – if not, no big deal. Spam vegetable strudel, on the other hand, seems like it is probably a true monstrosity. As a Google fan, I use GMail, and it doesn’t bother me at all that they target ads to me based on the content in my emails. The ads are so unobtrusive, I rarely even notice them on the screen. A few days ago, though, this line virtually leapt off the page at me.
Spam Vegetable Strudel – Bake 20 minutes or until golden, serve with soy sauce.
I couldn’t comprehend first why this ad would appear above my inbox, but more importantly, why anyone in their right mind would not only put those three words together, but actually create a recipe, then pay to advertise something so preposterous. I believe I have solved the mystery of why it appeared in my personalized ad window. At first I thought I must have used the word ‘strudel’ in an email. That would be odd, but not unheard of – I come from a very German part of Wisconsin, and ate plenty of apple strudel growing up. In fact, we had to sell something like strudel door-to-door to raise money for band at school. Technically, those were kringles, though, not strudels. Anyway, I thought maybe I discussed a recipe for apple strudel or something with my sister, who is an excellent baker, and just didn’t remember doing so.
I searched my mail, though, and was surprised to find that the other two words were the culprits. They appeared in plenty of emails in my trash folder. Don’t worry. I didn’t intentionally have regular discussions about vegetables or spam with other real human beings. The words show up at the bottom of other advertising emails I get because I bought something and never bothered to unsubscribe from a mailing list. ‘Vegetable,’ in the case of a gift from Williams Sonoma, and ‘spam,’ courtesy of Writer’s Digest emails that have a daily ad for some other writing website at the bottom promising that if you sign up for their weekly email report, you will get no ‘spam.’
Back to Spam Vegetable Strudel, though. Because I am obsessed with looking things up on the Internet, I took a few minutes to Google ‘strudel,’ because I thought strudel was only a sweet pastry. It turns out that savory strudels are not uncommon in Germany, but I have to think Germans would be mortified at this version of a time-honored tradition that dates back hundreds of years. Serve with soy sauce?!? Come on. There’s just something wrong with the whole picture.