New Year's resolutions are, in my experience, self-defeating propositions. The old year shuffles offstage at long last, taking with it (in this instance) the last overripe fromage of the Bush administration and giving us -- on the personal front -- a nice clean slate to write on.
And do we ever. We make dozens of high-minded resolutions and then spend the rest of the year crossing them out. And that costs us emotionally. It puts dings into our psyches. It's unpleasant to fail at something we care about.
After more New Years than I can comfortably count, I've finally come up with a strategy that will allow me -- or anyone -- to sidestep all that annual guilt. Here it is (are you listening?):
Make resolutions you don't care about.
For 2010, I've resolved to do the single most trivial thing I can think of. I'm going to eat at least
six Japanese KitKat bars, each one a different flavor.
"Ha," one of you scoffs. Six candy bars? That demonstrates resolve?
If that was you who scoffed, you clearly don't know about Japanese KitKat bars.
Many of us see Japan as a sort of parallel universe, where drinks have names like Pocari Sweat and used women's panties are available in vending machines. (Honest.) But once you look at the variety of KitKats developed (and, presumably, eaten) by the Japanese, you're more likely to look at Japan not so much as a parallel universe, but rather as a diverging one.
I owe much of my own knowledge in this area to Bruce Tierney, who lives half of his life in the Land of the Rising Sun and who has his own wonderful blog at http://mysteriousorientations.wordpress.com/. Since Bruce is perhaps the West's leading expert on Japanese KitKats, I'll introduce the topic by quoting a recent post:
"For those of you not familiar with Japanese KitKat bars, they come in all sorts of arcane flavors in addition to the normal chocolate wafer bar available stateside. There are Orange, Mango and Apple KitKats. Cherry, Pumpkin and Banana KitKats. All of those are comparatively normal, and reasonably tasty as well. Then there are some more unusual flavors, like Soy Powder, Roasted Corn, and Buttered Baked Potato KitKats."
Yes, buttered baked potato KitKats.
Bruce goes on to offer pictures of two of the most twisted new varieties, Miso Soup KitKat (left) and Wasabi KitKat (the perhaps intentionally poison-green package at the top of the blog.) About the latter, Bruce says, "Wasabi, for those not up on their Japanese condiments, is a piquant Asian horseradish, which when prepared looks like guacamole, but tastes not unlike oven cleaner. I quite like it, actually; nonetheless, I haven’t yet screwed up the courage to try one of the Wasabi KitKats."
As someone who feels that misery deserves company, Bruce occasionally sends my wife and me a little gift package of the newest flavors. Every time I open one of these, I have visions of a bunch of middle-aged, conservatively dressed Japanese men sitting around a table and wiping tear of laughter from their eyes as they toss out new ideas: "Mothballs KitKats?" "Chocolate Wool KitKats?" "Putrefied Sting Ray KitKats?" (Those are for Iceland.) "Kittycat KitKats?"
Here's the latest batch from Bruce. The green one at the top is, um, Ginger Ale. The orange one
below it is, I swear, a Vegetable V-8 KitKat. The one to its right, in the red package, is Royal Milk Tea. The yellowish one below the V-8 is Banana, which is sort of reasonable and will probably be recalled. The yellow diagonal just right of Banana is the ever-popular Baked Sweet Potato, and the blue at left on the bottom is Sports Drink, which suggests nothing to me, and that's probably an accurate description of the flavor. And finally, bottom right, in the long yellow package is (wait for it) a Soy Powder and Red Bean KitKat.
You may wonder whether I've ever actually tasted any of these, especially since all the packages in the picture above are unopened. Well, yes, I did. I forget what flavor it was -- Dried Camel Tongue, maybe -- but I actually opened one from an earlier package and took a healthy bite. It tasted like one of those cardboard pine trees New York cab drivers hang from their rear-view mirrors to make their cab smell even worse than people do.
So my resolution for 2010 is to eat six of the seven KitKats in the photo above, which I took on my dining room table and for which I will accept compliments regarding its composition. I reserve the right to decide which one will go uneaten, although I'm sort of leaning toward skipping the Soy Powder and Red Bean.
And you know what? If I keep my resolutions, I can congratulate myself on my resolve, and if I fail to keep them, I won't have to eat the Vegetable V-8 KitKat. It's a win-win situation.