Were I asked to compile a list of things I will miss the most about Japan, I think I can honestly (and somewhat terribly) admit that making the top ten would be the vending machine directly across the road from my apartment.
That vending machine has been loyal. It has been steadfast. As the witching hour of the coldest winter night is struck. On the edge of typhoons, gales competing to claim black umbrellas and rain pelting parallel to the street. The moment dinner comes off the stove so as to be enjoyed hot alongside a cool drink as nature dictates. In sunshine. In rain. In my pajamas. Only twice, by my count, has access been hindered by the evil refill-carrying truck, evil, but so infuriatingly necessary. Numerous times, too numerous to reliably recall, have I made the crossing to its always kindly lit-up display of refreshing beverages on offer.
And there are many on offer. But there is only one, only ever one, that commands my coin. It is that I consume most every day. That which tickles throat and tongue with its sweet effervescence. Described by Nico, a most sage warrior whose opinion I trust (from Michael Pryor’s “The Doorways Trilogy”), as the nectar of the Gods. That which fuels me. I speak, as other devotees must now have realised, of coke.
Coke. Plain and simple. And tasty.
Coke is my fuel in more ways than one. I have a bit of a problem with hot drinks – chronic fear of burning lips – so if I need a caffeine hit, coke’s where I turn. Energy drinks are not an option. Disgusting, they are. I maintain that the reason I got sick after doing my first Jägerbomb(s) was the large quantity of Red Bull, not the shot of jäger, it(they) contained. However, quite apart from being a sublime wakey-wakey concoction, coke is what fuels me through tougher writing slogs.
So yes, things that fuel creativity and the production of solid usable material may include invigorating dreams, train rides served with a side of dub step, exciting travels to exotic locations, midnight runs to the convenience store, thrilling showers, friends (and strangers) who say interesting things, stairs that lead into water, a new notebook, strings of seemingly random coincidences that always leave you in a lurch, and no doubt an endless array of other unusual petrol. Alongside them are the more practical, but no less important fuels of love and support (morale, emotional, financial, metaphorical, and so on) from those closest to the writer in question. But sometimes, you have to get even more basic. Sometimes to keep typing, to keep personalities and events that remain somewhat pleasing filling computer screens, the body just has to be seen to. The digestive system filled. And not just to keep everything functioning, heart beating, lungs pumping and kidneys filtering as they should. Not even to keep awake.
Sometimes it is the pleasure engine within that must be filled. And when choosing remain before a computer screen, clogging most available “free time” with writing stories, junk food – and coke – is generally the fastest and most immediately satisfying way to go about this.
Unfortunately, junk food is not only the very fastest and most immediate of immediately satisfying foods, but is also – somewhat obviously, given the name and warnings to keep consumption low – loaded with sugar, oil, and God knows what else. Aside from my happy coke syrup, chocolate is what does the job best – I would say Doritos too, but they often hinder more than help, cheesing up fingertips and the process of reaching into the packet and fishing for crumbs taking time away from the keys. Karaage, tonkatsu, burgers, chips (french fries) – cravings creep up, and knowing that if I rise to slice potatoes, smother them with oil and spice, throw them in the toaster oven and after thirty or so minutes flood them with mayonnaise, that this horror scene will at last start coming together, of course I get up and take down my sharpest knife.
While undeniably tasty and effective, considering again that I spent most of my free time in front of the computer, this does present something of a problem, sideways-wise.
So, what began as an unnecessarily dramatic description of the wonders of having a vending machine across the street has become a plea: what food do you find helps best when you’re writing? Does it depend on the style of writing, the genre? Pumpkin pasties for fantasy and tomato soup for murder mysteries? The length – is shortcake better for brief yarns and Cumberland sausages for novels? Does food inspire? Distract? Change the very tone of a story? Though I’ll not soon forsake the abundant fuel supply available not twenty meters from my door for only another short month, I hope there are some well-tested fooding options for the writer seeking satisfaction, convenience, and to somewhat maintain their good health (maintaining a perfectly trim figure not necessary in my case, that was abandoned years ago, if it was ever taken up).
And now, to finish in as unnecessary a manner as was begun: there must be more to starting wars and raising beggars to hero status than simply drinking coke.