Ant Life Grand!
The awesome adventures of ChimChim and KoKo.
Last week, our family ate at Smash Burger. All four of us ordered whatever burger or chicken bits they wanted, but the kids and their mom got so excited to have a milkshake with dinner that they didn’t think they’d want any sides. The waitress dropped off the food and shakes and everyone dug in. It didn’t take more than a few seconds for KoKo and ChimChim to start sneaking handfuls of my seasoned fries. I started to push the two little chimps away before my better angels convinced me that sharing was probably the right thing to do.
KoKo raved about how delicious the fries tasted and ChimChim just nodded his head, full of my fries, in agreement. Begrudgingly, I let them eat away and plotted to regain control of the potatoes.
“Ant Life Grand?” I asked as nonchalantly as I could muster.
“What?” ChimChim asked absentmindedly.
“Oh, nothing. I was just laughing about the name they gave the fries. It’s really clever!”
“Well,” I started, carefully setting the trap and hoping I’d keep a straight face, “There’s an expression, ‘Ain’t Life Grand.’ It’s basically a way of saying that it’s really great to be alive. The Smash Burger marketing team used that expression to come up with the catchy name for their ant fries. Ant Life Grand?” I chortled, pretending to be really tickled at Smash Burger’s wordplay.
“Wait,” KoKo snapped at the bait. “Ant life grand? What does it have to do with ants?”
“Yeah!” ChimChim chimed in, eager to demonstrate that he was equally as hard to trick as his sister.
“These are the new ant fries. This craze has been going on ever since they discovered that ants are supposedly good for your brain,” I rolled my eyes to signal that I thought that the claim about ants and brains was dubious and faddish. “There’s always some new wonder food,” I continued. “Anyway, this is how Smash Burger is trying to break into the brain food market. Pointing at the seasoning, I asked “You see all of the black specs and pieces in the fries? That’s the ground up ants.” I hoped to keep them on the line with my matter of fact approach.
I heard the gears turning loudly enough that I didn’t even have to look up to know that they were calling bullshit in their little heads. “I was surprised by how good they taste to tell you the truth. I thought it would be gross and taste like crap, but I have to admit, it’s not bad.”
“Yeah, they do taste pretty good.” ChimChim glanced to see if KoKo would agree.
KoKo would have none of it. She scoffed at her brother and challenged me directly. “People don’t eat ants.”
“Says you. People in Thailand eat ants,” I guessed, remembering the disgusting assortment of insects in the markets. “And other people too, but…I don’t remember who and I don’t want to make something up that ends up being wrong. You should know all of this, you’re Asian.”
Three countries on three continents grant KoKo citizenship. She doesn’t really understand how unusual or fortunate this is yet, it’s just a fact to her. She’s hazy on how it works but thinks that there must be requirements and expectations that each of her countries imposes upon its citizens. Something along the lines of Princess Diaries I’d guess. I hoped she’d hesitate to call my bluff if it brought her Asian cred into question.
Finally, she gathered her strength, Asian cred be damned. “I’m going to ask them.”
“Good idea,” I agreed enthusiastically. “You should go up to the grumpy cashier and ask her. It’s not like it’s a secret or anything. They talk about it in their ads. Haven’t you seen the Ant Life Grand advertisement on YouTube between videos? It would be illegal if they didn’t tell you. Hurry up and ask, otherwise, I’m going to drink the rest of your shake.”
KoKo carefully considered her options, switching her gaze between the fries, her shake, and the grumpy cashier. I had to distract her before she decided to ask Grumpy.
“I think it’s because they grind them up so well. Think about how cool that is–delicious and really good for our brains!” I pushed my luck and added, in a too corny tone, “Ant life grand?”
Everyone laughed and finished off the fries, seemingly satisfied. In a situation like this, it’s easy to overplay your hand and keep talking about how grand life is or the amazing properties of ants. So I let it drop and hoped that the seeds hit fertile ground.
Fast forward a week to today. I forgot about the ants completely, as is often the case and paradoxically best for the story because I don’t overthink and ruin it. I decided to skip Starbucks and make one of our occasional trips to a nearby Caribou Coffee. It happened to be next to Smash Burger, which I didn’t think of until the monkeys pointed it out. Caribou coffee is an infrequent treat for the kids; they love getting some version of white chocolate milk there. As we pulled in, I asked what they wanted, expecting to hear the usual order.
Instead, ChimChim asks if he can get an order of Ant Life Grand. Then, assuming that I was too old or stupid to remember, added helpfully, “that’s the fries that they make with ants. Remember? ” KoKo perked up and agreed that an order of Ant Life Grand would be awesome. I demurred and mumbled something about really needing coffee. “Yes, of course, I remember. You two are getting so spoiled. We’re not here for ant fries, we’re here for coffee. We can’t just go buying ant fries every day.” They gave in quickly. Thankfully white chocolate is popular too, so they forgot about the ant fries.
Then it hit me that they might be fucking with me and pretending that they want ant fries just to see how long they can trick me into thinking that they believe me, all while conning me into buying them more seasoned fries. What will happen next? Stay tuned for the next episode of Ant Life Grand! with ChimChim and KoKo