Japanese ponzi sauce

The Japanese have some fantastic condiments. Soy, yuzu, mirin, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil…and ponzi, which is a sauce made by simmering mirin, vinegar, bonito, and seaweed, cooling it, and then adding yuzu (a tart citrus juice). Wait, no! That’s ponZU. Ponzi isn’t a delicious sauce at all, but rather an unpleasant economic structure that suckers, religious cults, and the uneducated lazy have latched on to in order to “get rich quick.” I loathe ponzi schemes.

You’ve heard of them, perhaps by their other moniker, “pyramid scheme.” It’s the arrangement wherein Jimmy comes up with a “life-changing” product. He sells it to his two friends, Alice and Ron. He tells them they can make money, too, just by selling it to their friends and family. But Alice and Ron can make EVEN MORE money if their friends and family sell it for them. And their friends and family can make EVEN MORE money if they sell it to THEIR friends and family. And so on it goes, until the people at the very bottom of the pyramid get to enjoy the gentle sprinkle of Bernie Madoff jacking off on them from high, high above at the top of the pyramid.

Allegedly the people at the top of these pyramids (“top executives”) get rich from the work done by the ranks below them, but to my knowledge it is difficult to spend this money from within a jail cell. Perhaps it comes in useful to pay off gangs of horny inmates so they don’t take a shine to any “top executive” rear ends.

I’ve always prided myself on steering clear of this entire industry, largely because my father had a hatred for ponzi schemes that would often spill over into other realms. It was just his brand of McCarthyism. “Krisser, stay away from those Amway people. It’s a ponzi scheme.” “Krissy-da, stay away from those vacuum people. It’s a ponzi scheme.” “Kristen, stay away from Taco Bell. It’s a ponzi scheme.” and so on. So I’ve always been very wary of them.

I had an ex-boyfriend who told me about these magical pills that had “special sugars” in them that our bodies couldn’t make naturally that could cure cancer. I asked him how this was possible, and he said these sugars could shrink the bad cells (I’m not making this up). I asked if that were true, how come we hadn’t used them to cure cancer? He told me it was because the government wouldn’t allow it. When I asked why that was, he was too stupid to come up with the stock answer about big pharmaceuticals that Americans typically love to bleat about. It was shameful. Worse, even, than the guy at Whole Foods who told my brother that water is only nutritious if you talk to it about nice things.

Given all of this background, you’d think I’d be hard to shock, ponzi-wise. But today I was sitting in my boss’s office, listening to her gabble on about sales projections, thinking about how many weeks it was until I needed to take various trips that will necessitate a permanent leave of absence, feeling delight that it’s only a few…when she came out with this gem of a conversation:

Boss: Oh, Kristie! I have something for you!

Me (kind of excited): What is it?!

Boss: I can’t tell you, but it’s awesome. I need to bring it from home.

Me (back to daydreaming about quitting): Okaaaaay.

Then a not-at-all-cued (wink wink) entrance of another trainer…

Boss: Oh, Todd! I need to get one of those things I gave you back so I can give it to
Kristie. I’ll bring you another one.

Other Trainer (as if reading off of a cue card): Oh no! Okay, well, make sure you bring another. Because it’s something I’m really excited about, since getting rid of my original brand!

Boss: I will, I promise. I just don’t want to leave Kristie out of the loop!

*Exit other trainer*

Boss (reaching behind chair and extracting a bottle): Here! This is so exciting.

*I glance in my hand at what appears to be a bottle of juice*
Me: What is it?

Boss: I’m glad you asked! It’s a “perfect blending of science and wisdom” *she is now reading off of the bottle* “scientifically validated superfruits from Asia are combined with carefully selected herbs and other fruits in a proprietary formula developed by Traditional Asian Medicine experts in Asia and North America. The result is an effective blend of “warming” and “cooling” ingredients that promote true health and wellbeing.”

*she proceeds to read me the entire table of ingredients*

Boss: The first time I tried it, I felt this rushing warm sensation down my left arm. It was so cool.

*Chris has pointed out that this was possibly a stroke, and I should have called for help*

Me: Wow. Thanks.

*at this point I am rolling my eyes so violently that I think I may have pulled an eye muscle*

Boss: Try it out, see if you like it. I can help you get more. I think it’ll really make a difference in your athletic performance.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to seem disrespectful of Traditional Asian Medicine. I’m sure acupuncture has a physiological effect on people, which may or may not be healing for some. But I can tell you for free that after looking at the ingredients on this bottle (a proprietary blend of fruits–apple, pear puree, grape juice, pineapple juice, longan fruit juice, citric acid, xanthan gum, fruit juice and/or vegetable juice) I’m certain that I could get exactly the same benefit from this miracle cure as I could from, say, a V-8 Splash. Except I don’t think V-8 Splash has xanthan gum, but no matter as I have some in my cabinets for when I do my food experiments. Because it’s a chemical. And longan fruit is just lychees ugly brother, and comes in cans at Asia Mart.
Chris and I took shots of it to test it out. It didn’t make me tingle, but it did cause Chris to say “it’s not a bad aftertaste…it’s more of a bad middletaste.” We consoled ourselves with warm pork rilette on Vinta crackers.

I was feeling kind of torqued off when I got home. Isn’t a workplace supposed to be free of the trappings of door-to-door culture? Isn’t a gym supposed to be founded on actual principles, rather than “magic” juiceboxes? And shouldn’t my boss maybe change her meds to something more effective against crackwhoritis (inflammation of the crazy gland)? Shudder. She also asked me to sign the fitness foods cookbook I gave her as a hand-me-down. I told her I didn’t write it, I bought it for $4.99 at Barnes and Noble. She handed me a pen and looked expectant.

Working for any kind of legitimate business sucks. Maybe not Whole Foods. I think I’d like it there, until they asked me to work outside the hours of 8 am to 1 pm, M-F. But WhoFo isn’t hiring right now, and my guess is they’d make unreasonable demands of my time (like working on a Saturday). If only there were a way I could make money helping other people be happier and healthier, but without doing any actual work myself…

Wanna buy some magic juice?

13 thoughts on “Japanese ponzi sauce”

  1. Gyms are the worst. The trainers at my gym were always trying to sell me a better hr monitor or the "perfectly balanced" vitamins that only their shop sells. Even their exercise principles are whacked. One trainer told me, after testing my body fat and coming up with 12%, that if I just lost a little more off my stomach I could get down to 8% and look like the figure competitors he trains. I don't think health professionals should be encouraging women to have 8% body fat unless they're olympic athletes and making a shit ton of money off their shriveled up uteruses.

  2. Don't they usually dole out free samples of crack? I mean if the whole point is to get you hooked, they need to get you that first hit for free (or really really cheap)…

  3. Clarification: A ponzi scheme is actually where a central dude takes in money from folks and then pays out pieces of the principal collected from everyone and says that it's a return on the investment. Obviously this can't hold up for long unless he keeps getting more and more people involved and/or keeps getting people to invest more of their money into the system. There's only one central dude.

    A pyramid scheme is the one you described, where people get other people involved and so on. The keys to what makes it illegal (as opposed to legal, but still potentially shady) are that illegal schemes generally require a large purchase of product up front, they pay you for recruiting people (not for sales), or you're paying money for something that isn't a product (like you have to pay your trainer for advice or something).

    Anyway, there's that. I was actually in an MLM in college and it wasn't the worst experience of my life, but I certainly didn't make any money. The people were really nice and I did read a ton of books on sales and personal growth and all that I never would have read otherwise. Still, not something I'd do again. The main thing that sucks about it is that every person you meet is now a target instead of just being a person. It makes everything really stressful, and it can force your friends to pull away (if they don't get involved).

  4. Whole foods was great once I got transferred into the seafood department. They do, sadly, have 5 AM opening shifts and 11 PM closing shifts. Also, if you aren't careful, co-workers will whisper Hitler to your water. That, of course, renders it useless.

  5. Thanks Jared, I stand corrected. I've always used the two interchangably, given they're both forms of multi-level marketing economics (MLMs), but it appears that this is the difference:
    "A multilevel pyramid scheme is a form of fraud similar in some ways to a Ponzi scheme, relying as it does on a mistaken belief in financial reality, including the hope of an extremely high rate of return. However, several characteristics distinguish these schemes from Ponzi schemes:

    * In a Ponzi scheme, the schemer acts as a "hub" for the victims, interacting with all of them directly. In a multilevel scheme, those who recruit additional participants benefit directly. (In fact, failure to recruit typically means no investment return.)
    * A Ponzi scheme claims to rely on some esoteric investment approach (insider connections, etc.) and often attracts well-to-do investors; whereas multilevel schemes explicitly claim that new money will be the source of payout for the initial investments."

  6. That is just horrifying. You shouldn't be subjected to peddlers at work, especially your boss. Not cool man. Not cool. And I gotta say, I've never been sales-pitched anything at my gym. They leave me alone, I do my thing then leave with ass sweat all over my gym shorts.

  7. Oh god, I CAN'T WAIT UNTIL MIKE READS THIS!!!! I have a walking target on my back that always makes people start by saying, "You know, you're so friendly and sociable. You have a great way of being. I could really use someone like you on my team….hey, since you have a good head on your shoulders, I'm willing to open up some time to talk business with you…." BAH.

    Oh, OH, or the old friend who finds you on Facebook and writes, "Man, remember the good times we used to have? We should totally grab a brewskie and catch up…" and when you show up s/he's wearing a suit and flipping restlessly through brightly colored but otherwise vacant "product education materials".

    From home care products to jungle juice, I can't even TELL YOU how many times it has happened.

    The best though, my absolute favorite, and one where Mike was a witness to the madness, was the miracle cure that came in drug OR pill form, and was able to cure cancer, and that the government wouldn't allow because "we make more money when people are sick than we do if they're healthy". Yup. He had juice to CURE CANCER, that I could sell to the people I loved ("you don't want your loved ones to have cancer, DO YOU TINA?") for only dollars a day….. oh, and all the product education materials were in Spanish. I should have mentioned that part. So….that's something else we have in common. Idiot people tried to sell us on the same ridiculous pyramid scheme.

    PS – pyramid, ponzi, meh – that's all semantics. Let's just call it a Loathesome Cheating Free For All and have done with it.

  8. Hey, I got a cooking question. I'm making Eggplant Parmesan and am following my MIL's recipe. She has this part where you slice the eggplant and then basically squish it between cookie sheets for half an hour to get rid of liquids. Only then you fry the stuff and it returns to its normal thickness, and is now, of course saturated in oil. I can't find this step anywhere else in Eggplant Parm recipes…so is there an actual reason to do this squishing step, or can I just go and fry the damn eggplant right after I slice it?

  9. Kristie – I know you hate eggplant, so do you mind if I help Katina out with this one? Nice plump Italian eggplants do have both a lot of water and occasionally a lot of bitterness from the seeds. Instead of squishing them you might want to lightly salt the pieces (both sides) and let them drain for a half hour – it helps the water leech out and takes away a goodly amount of the bitterness. THat's just my two cents.

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