Food Paradoxes:Origins

I’m writing this at 10:00 PM the Sunday night before posting, and fittingly I’m doing it from the library where many fifteen page research papers were vomited out the night before they were due.  If anything, this proves that “lack of interest” was a weak excuse for my procrastination in college.

Pictured: a better excuse

Pictured: a better excuse

I’m back in the ol’ college town givin’ it the ol’ graduate try because my mom’s wedding was here this weekend.  The only gift I’ve given her so far was a page I made for the well-wishers/advice/memories scrapbook on which I wrote “Happy 60th Birthday!” (seven years and five months too soon).  She won’t discover it until her honeymoon at best, so in order to preemptively smooth things over, I’m giving her the second most precious gift of all: my words.  The first most precious would be the sound of my delighted laughter when she confronts me about the scrapbook in two weeks, sunburnt from Mexico with a single “rebellion” braid in her hair.

I wrote a few weeks ago about the paradoxes that define my diet: love pumpkin flavoring but hate pumpkins, spent two years working at Zaxby’s and love the food even more now, love dogs but can’t stand their taste, etc.  Since then I’ve realized that these weird rules about food come directly from my upbringing, specifically the crazy rules my mom blindly followed when I was growing up.  In honor of her marriage, here’s a lovingly passive-aggressive post criticizing her parenting skills.  Mazel tov Ma.

1) Breakfast

Like many kids of our generation, my sisters and I were raised on fast-food.  No one had time to cook in the go-go 90s, what with all the karate lessons and baton recitals and a minivan that could only pull 60 at best.  We were crunched for time and Ronald McDonald was happy to give us a little something extra to give us the edge we needed to compete.  Lunchtime wasn’t much better, what with all the pizza Lunchables and Dunkaroos (I’m not trying to join in the current “90’s nostalgia” trend, that’s really what I ate all the time).

The thing that makes no sense whatsoever is the pass breakfast got from this laissez-faire attitude towards nutrition.  The hatred my mother had for all the good cereals baffles me to this day.  The scornful looks I’d get trying to slip a box of Peanut Butter Crunch into a cart overflowing with Bagel Bites and Oreos were my first introduction to the term “mixed signals.”  I’m twenty-four years old and I still look over my shoulder when I put a box of  Cookie Crisp in my cart, feeling more guilt than a handle of whiskey or case of beer could ever cause.  My mother has effectively turned me into one of the mascots from the commercials of the cereals I love so much, hiding my habit and living in constant fear of being outwitted and losing my prize.

Before you get lost in images of a young me eating freshly picked berries on a bed of cottage cheese every morning, you should know that Pop-Tarts were a staple of my diet.  Here again, however, some strange logic led my mom to decide that S’mores Pop-Tarts (the only kind worth eating) were going to give us childhood diabetes.  But Chocolate Fudge?  It’s what a growing boy needs!

Breakfast of champions

Breakfast of champions

Her imagined thought process: “I’ve lost ground on the dinner front, lunch was lost as soon as they went to public school, but with God as my witness, I will NEVER give up on breakfast!!  They will not eat dessert disguised as cereal so long as I draw breath!  I mean, it’s called a Wildberry Pop-Tart. That means fruit, right?”

Mom at the breakfast table

Mom at the breakfast table

2) Cookie dough

I’m not sure if this qualifies as a paradox, but I’m still bitter about this one.  I was raised to believe that eating cookie dough would give me worms, because of the eggs or something.  I love cookie dough, way more than actual cookies, so the Sophie’s Choice I went through whenever I found a tub in the freezer was torture.  I would eat a few spoonfuls and the anti-placebo effect would kick in, making me thing my stomach was starting to hurt.  Now, if I hadn’t been a total idiot as a kid I would have realized that a) cookie dough ice cream would be banned if this were true, yet I still ordered it all the time without making the connection and b) I caught my mom eating cookie dough on a regular basis.  She has since admitted she told us this to deter us from eating it, thus eliminating her competition.  I’ll concede that my love of cookie dough probably necessitated this lie if we were to ever have enough to actually make cookies, but the embarrassment I felt the first time I was set straight by a cackling friend after warning him in the nick of time is forever burned on my brain.

I might have overreacted

I might have overreacted

Her imagined thought process: “Lying to your kids is the consolation prize for having them.  Besides, it’s not like one of them will ever have a platform to tell tens of people what I did.  MUUUAHAHAHAHAH!”

3) Cutting The Sweet

Once again, this might not be a paradox in the strictest sense, but it is a quote either my sisters or I say every single time cake is around.  Since we were at a wedding yesterday, you can bet we said it A LOT.  Basically, anytime we have cake my mom sends us to the store to also get ice cream to “cut the sweet” of the cake.  I have no idea how this works, but I’m dying laughing as I type it.  Just in case I’m starting to paint my mom as an idiot, I feel I should mention that she is a nurse and a very good one at that.  But a nurse ain’t a dietician.

Her imagined thought process: “Ooo this cake is too sweet for lil’ ol’ me!  Since this cake is warm, something cold will naturally counterbalance the sweet and negate the negative impact.  I’ll ask one of the kids to get some cookie dough ice cream.  Man, are those idiots ever gonna figure out that one?”

I have a few more but they aren’t enough for a whole entry, so I’m just gonna run through them as little mini-scenes from my childhood.

Potato=vegetable: “No Tyler, I’m not buying Doritos. so put them back and grab that huge bag of plain chips next to them.  It’s time we started eating less junk food.”

Always Refreshing: “When y’all go to the store, could you pick me up an extra extra large Coke?” (Not a typo-my mom says extra extra for everything.)

“That’s a lot of soda Mom.”

“I’ve been working hard, cleaning all day!  I’m thirsty!”

“So….shouldn’t you want….water…?”

“I want what I want!  Now I’m gonna go catch my breath with a cigarette.”  She doesn’t smoke, but you get the idea.  It’s worth repeating that she’s a nurse.  My sister and I forgot her Coke earlier tonight and we were legitimately scared to return without it.  I got her a small bottled Coke from the gas station instead.  I haven’t seen her that disappointed since I told her I wasn’t going to be a doctor.

Hierarchy of candy: “Mom, can I have a Butterfinger?”

“No Tyler, get something healthy, like Starburst.  They have fruit juice.”

My little sister: “Can I get this giant lollipop?”

“Absolutely not!  Here’s five pounds of gummy worms instead.”

I love my mom very much, and I wouldn’t be who I am without her.  I would also have about half as much material.