When Ray Hill was young, all he wanted was sugar. 'I would only eat the sweetest cereal,' he explains, 'like Apple Jacks, and I could put away five or six bowls at a time.' These days, he can't get down more than a spoonful. And, this is the kid who would eat spoonfuls of sugar out of the sugar bowl, when he wasn't downing marshmallow Fluff out of the jar.
It's funny how habits change. I used to eat a bag of Doritos—the big bag—every day. But, that was after school, and I was 11. I haven't had a Dorito in years.
My dad still wistfully remembers eating Twinkies on a regular basis. This was back in the late '50s, but my dad is still fond of remembering those Hostess glory days. Then, I suggest he just go buy a package of Twinkies, and he says they really aren't very good.
Sometimes you don't outgrow the habit so much as make a conscious choice to change your eating habits. 'I used to eat tongue at Grandma's house,' says Roberta, 'until I actually realized what it was. But, I think everyone has that story.' Uh, no.
Cath used to love Dinty Moore beef stew. 'My mom bought it once when we were little,' she explains, 'and I just loved all that canned meat goodness. I used to get hungrier when I opened the can and got that first whiff.' She loved it so much, that her taste for it became almost a joke. 'I got it as a gift a couple of times. I ate it when I was little and then it was great for college because it was so cheap and filling—until I was shunned by my peers.' You know a food is bad when college kids make fun of it. 'Think about it,' she reasons. 'College kids. People who live on bulk liquor from plastic gallon jugs and days-old pizza. So I was shamed into giving it up. I tried to go back later but when I opened the can and saw the congealed fat clinging to the sides and the top layer of grease I got a different kind of feeling in my stomach.'
These days, Cath is a bit more particular about her beef stews. In fact, you might want to tell anyone you know who is out shopping for Cath's birthday present, that she finds Dinty Moore stew to be less than appetizing. 'The meat is as close as you can get to looking and smelling like dog food.' No argument from me.
This opinion, however, is from someone who ate a chocolate-covered ant in the 4th grade when a classmate brought in a bizarre collection of confectionary treats. 'I ate an ant because it was smaller than a grasshopper.'
Once, after a tough day in high school, she found herself to be suddenly starving. 'I was so hungry, that the girl who lived across the street and I bought a chocolate cream pie and ate the whole thing in 15 minutes. Just us and two forks. The pie didn't have a chance—or our digestive tracts.'
But, Cath saved up her best habits for her best friend. 'We used to have a swimming ritual during summer break. We'd go swimming and then we'd go White Hen Pantry and buy Spaghettio's and Jay's potato chips, and dip the chips into the Spaghettio's.' But that was when she was a kid, right? 'It's still a secret favorite,' says Cath. 'That, and eating uncooked ramen. Not the kind at Jewel—only the kind from Chinatown is good that way.'
That's better than Ray Hill. Remember him, the guy who ate spoonfuls of sugar? He used to only be able to eat his mom's cooking, which combined with the fixation on all that sugar could probably fill up months of therapy sessions. 'If I stayed over at a friend's house for the weekend,' he explains, 'and had to eat several of their family's meals, I would be almost dead by the time I got home.' I hope his mom was flattered. Or scared. Or both.
When he went to Boy Scout camp for a few days, he should have been excited (except for the Boy Scouts part). Instead, he was panicked. 'I had to bring tons of things like Pop Tarts and hide them in my clothes so no one would steal them. A week at camp was torture.' Now, he will eat almost anything, except for those Apple Jacks.
Poor Bernadette. She also liked Mommy's cooking too much. So much, that she freaked every time she was forced to spend some time with her aunt. See, this particular aunt lived in an old house with the toilet in the basement. So far, not so bad. 'But there were no walls,' says Bernadette. 'And the sink was just out in the open.' Making things worse was the floor. 'You could see through the floor—the spaces in the floor. You could see down to the toilet in the basement. I couldn't eat the whole time I was there. It was just all so different to me.' And, thank God, to me as well.
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