My first game console as a child was the original NES (Nintendo Entertainment System… I am not sure for whom this expansion exists). I was pretty young when we got it, but I had to be less than seven years old (you can do maths if you want). We had the original Mario Bros., Mario Bros 3, and a few other games. One of the games I owned that I was not yet old enough to fully understand or play was Final Fantasy. I have no idea where or why we got this game because it was clearly too much for my attention span.
By the time we got a SNES (Super…) I was seven or eight. We had a lot of fun playing Super Mario Bros. (which is a game with which I am still fascinated - ROMHax mainly keep my interest) and Mario Kart, etc. At some point, I was reintroduced to the Final Fantasy series again by way of Final Fantasy II, which remains in my top-10 games of all time list. By then, I, at least, mastered the game system to play the game, I understood the objectives, and how to improve in the game. It made sense to me.
One interesting aspect (to young me) was the inventory system. As the player’s party quested through the world, he would acquire armor, weapons, and items. Armor and weapons were straight-forward to understand: exploring a new area, city, or dungeon would often result in finding new armor/weapons to use for the upcoming battles. The current armor/weapon would go into the bag and get sold later (or thrown/broken, in the case of weapons - FFII had an interesting system for old weapons never really becoming obsolete). In the case of items, I would usually stock up on simple potions, fenix[sic] downs (revival consumable), ethers (returns mana), and other battle-useful consumables. Potions had varying strengths and would return health points (a potion might give 150 and a hi-potion might give 350, using completely made up numbers).
However, there was an item that restored 100% of the character’s HP/MP - the Elixir. These items were rare in the Final Fantasy games and one might only have encountered 20 or so in an entire 40-plus-hour game. Given this scarcity, I would hoard them, and not for the obvious reason such as saving for the final boss, or even a really hard boss. See, the early Final Fantasy games had limited resources to dedicate to the battles, and there was always a very simple way to make boss fights easier: grind random encounters to raise your level higher than what was expected to fight that boss. Final Fantasy II was more about the story than the battle system by design, so when you got to the Antlion, the player’s party was expected to be level X across the board. It was expected that if the player was younger and having trouble with the technicalities in the fight, then that player could just grind a few more levels in the dungeon before trying again. It was truly brilliant and simple.
The more recent Final Fantasy games abandoned that beautiful simplicity in favor of a scaling system where the enemy would be doable at any level, but moreover it would be scaled to the party level so it would always be a challenge. I understood this decision, but I always preferred the simple purity of the original model.
So, then, why did I hoard Elixirs if every fight could be made more simple by grinding up additional levels?
I suspect I am not alone here, but I think it’s a FOMO (fear of missing out) thing. I think that I always worried, even after playing and beating the games several times, that I would need that Elixir and then have squandered it earlier in the game. Again, this fear is completely nonsensical, and I would always get into the last boss fight of the game with 20-30 Elixirs on hand and then beat the game without having used a single one.
Since the start of the pandemic, I have had a bit of a weekend ritual. I would wake up on Saturday, make myself a cup of coffee (which I swear I cannot type normally anymore - I type covfefe every time my fingers start dancing), and sit and watch my “stories” (anime, mainly) sipping away. At or around 9am my son would wake up and want to get his day started, and we would work our way into the kitchen to make some breakfast. He would usually have a breakfast bar or something simple, though I would offer to make him weekend-esque breakfasts like oatmeal, pancakes, or what I was going to cook myself: bacon and eggs.
I would first cook the bacon, as it took the longest, while my second cup of covfefe (I am just going to leave this and type it this way from now on) brewed. After the bacon had cooked to my preferred doneness (I am not going to share this because it will cause a war regardless of what I claim to prefer) I would cook my eggs in all that delicious rendered bacon fat. If you like eggs over medium, as I do, then I highly recommend eating them this way - cooked in bacon fat is basically the greatest tasting eggs I have ever had. I am reminded of my grandmother cooking me bacon and eggs this way when I visited as a child; in fact, I would wager that most of my joy comes from this nostalgic memory of bacon and eggs.
A few weeks ago, I got a new package of bacon. Mind you, I only cook 4-6 strips of bacon per weekend, so it takes me a few weeks to go through an entire package. I plopped a couple slices down in my skillet and turned it on as I always did. To my astonishment, when my bacon was “done” basically no fat had actually rendered into the pan. I was confused, but assumed that it was the newness of the bacon and that as it aged a bit the rendering would improve. The next day was the same thing: the bacon rendered next-to-no fat and my eggs were sad because of it. The bacon had fat, mind you. It was not as if I was sold bacon that was somehow 99% lean. I could see, and more to the point taste, that fat when I ate the cooked bacon. It was not a question over the duration of the cooking - I cooked two strips until they were very well burnt for science and still no fat rendered out. The next weekend was the same. Over a few weekends, I ended up cooking that entire package of bacon, but it never did render enough fat and each breakfast was a disappointment; so much so that I simply have not bought a new package of bacon since then, or really cooked eggs on the weekend. On the one hand there are calories to cut and it seems like low-hanging fruit to remove for a diet, but on the other hand, what is the point of buying bacon (which is okay but certainly not my favorite aspect of the meal) if it is not going to render fat and make my eggs taste delicious (bar none, the one aspect of the meal about which I care most dearly)?
I love to cook. Cooking is science for hungry people, and the end-product is usually something that gives joy. Many, many years ago, I started collecting bacon fat when I cooked it for meals (if the entire family was coming over, and we were going to make BLTs, for example) and storing it in a Bob’s Big Boy salad dressing jar (how I got this, I do not know - I have not been to one of these restaurants for 25 years).
I finally decided to relieve myself of the fear of needing this bacon fat for some imaginary future scenario, and made myself some eggs in a dollop of my Elixir.
HP/MP fully restored.