Originals

Spoiled: A Visual Diary of Compromised Groceries

I left my fridge cracked open all night. Please do not judge me. It was very much an accident and I very much need your help. In our current apocalypse, I can’t afford to throw out anything unnecessarily. After all, groceries are gold, and we will soon be forced to use soft cheeses and gluten free English muffins to barter with Bezo-Muskians for safe passage off Earth!
All this considered, I must ask you the following.

This pack of boneless skinless chicken breasts cost sixteen dollars and isn’t even organic. It’s the kind of chicken a gym bro might boil and blend into a water-based smoothie worthy of the Upside Down. (That’s a real thing some muscle gays do, I’m sorry to tell you. Must be nice to have an eating disorder that produces abs!) I was going to make some sort of chicken-centric taco meal, because, though I am white, I am also Mexican and therefore rebuke any and all forms of ground beef tacos. My personal ab-avoidant eating disorder was looking forward to delicately kissing and caressing said tacos, but now I am just as concerned about the state of the chicken as I am about the state of the world. Is it spoiled?



This is a carton of eggs machine-snatched from beneath the asses of birds I’m sure are completely happy and well cared for and not mistreated at all. I know farm-fresh eggs are shelf-stable thanks to the protective coating slathered on their shells by the chickens’ tight little bird holes, but what about these eggs bleached to high hell for “sanitation” reasons? When I hold the carton, I think of Easter and therefore Jesus Christ and therefore I am sad. Are they spoiled (like my belief in God)?



I haven’t used this cream cheese in over a month, but the expiration date says it’s good until the housing market finally crashes in 2037. The top layer is 65% toast crumbs, as required by law. Is it in the clear, or must I now put butter on my bagels like a freak?



This is my medicine. One sip contains 10 mg of high-potency THC. My prescribed dose is half a bottle guzzled an hour before every Zoom call. I know it isn’t spoiled, and even if it were, I would still drink it. It is important to take your medicine.





This is a box of Sees candy. I was planning to give it to my dad for his birthday, but my little cousins caught COVID from a maskless mouth-breather at school. (They’re okay! Not at all traumatized by the pandemic in any way!) We’re all quarantining in our separate households, so I haven’t seen my dad yet, which is fine, because I definitely haven’t eaten half the chocolates already. I’m a bit concerned because the box is a variety assortment and some of the pieces have creamy centers. I mean, I think they do. I’m just guessing, because how would I know for certain having not eaten a single one? But just in case my guess is correct and some pieces are filled with a deliciously smooth sea salt citrus raspberry Chantilly, I need to know, are they spoiled?



This is a shameful carton of milk from the fiery utters of Mount Doom. Despite its insidious effects on my bowels, I used to drink it every day as a kid thanks to Big Dairy’s celebrity milk mustache commercials gaslighting my parents into believing my bones would otherwise spontaneously snap while riding my bike to the Beef ’n Bun. (Joke’s on Big Dairy, though. My parents never taught me how to ride a bike. I walked to the Beef ’n Bun, thank you very much!) The milk smells as okay as it ever did. Is it spoiled?



This is falsa: “fake” homemade salsa without any of the good parts that trigger my absurdly delicate stomach. It’s mostly tomatoes, cilantro, and desperation, and no, it does not taste anything like actual salsa. Is it spoiled literally as much as it is figuratively?



I bought this salmon fifty percent off at Smart & Final. It was the only discounted fish, which would have felt like a blessing if it hadn’t also felt like a warning. Post-fridge crack, I now wonder, is it (more) spoiled (than it might have been before)?



This is an absurdly large container of high-sodium low-taste luncheon meat. Uncured honey smoked shaved ham, to be exact, because I hate myself. It sticks flat to the wall when thrown, but it’s a high-stick meat even when flung after proper refrigeration conditions, so I’m not finding this data point as informative as I’d like. Is it spoiled?



This is my gut-wrenching primordial cry of mourning shrieked in the style of Toni Collette. I sealed it in an old Ragu jar using my great aunt Sylvia’s electric pressure canner. It’s always quite warm to the touch, so it’s hard to tell, is it spoiled?



This is America. I keep it in the fridge to muffle the screams and gunshots. This is mostly a rhetorical question for obvious reasons, but still I feel compelled to ask, is it spoiled?

by Gabriel Thibodeau

Gabriel Thibodeau

Gabriel Thibodeau makes indie movies, edits children’s books, and writes queer stories, by every definition of the word. He is the proud recipient of a Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers, an 8th-place ranking among McSweeney’s Top 20 Articles of 2020, and a Speculative Literature Foundation Diverse Writers Grant, which was awarded in support of his novel-in-progress. (Yes, his novel is quite queer.) Find him online @gabethibodeau