Janet Sheridan: Those who live in glass houses
April 30, 2015
My grandchildren believe chips to be one of the USDA recommended food groups for healthy eating; so they strive mightily to eat an adequate amount each day, consuming any greased, salted, crunchy morsel available: fried, baked, seasoned, or stale. Though I've warned them they're eating Styrofoam peanuts dyed orange, they even eat cheese puffs.
I'm appalled by their addiction and aghast when they wash the chips down with gigantic soft drinks and then munch cookies to refresh their palates. But I keep my thoughts to myself because I recently encountered one of my food obsessions at a funeral luncheon. And my loved ones noticed.
We had filled our plates from a line of tables holding an abundance of appealing homemade food. I smiled wryly as the young ones piled chips on top of their servings of hot dogs and fried chicken and headed toward the dessert table, which, they gleefully informed me, included scoop-it-yourself ice cream.
Then I neared the salad section and gasped with delight at the sight of shimmering, sugary Jell-O salads. Though I no longer make such salads, I still consider them the crown jewel of eating; I sometimes dream about them. Surveying their splendor, I saw red, green, and orange Jell-O; Jell-O containing bananas, grapes, raspberries, and pineapple with nuts and whipped cream blended in, spread on top, or offered on the side. All were called salads, but nary a vegetable lurked in their soft, creamy depths.
I picked up an extra plate.
I like to think I eat mostly healthy foods, but I remember all too vividly the foods I yearned for growing up in the '50s, foods much like those my grandchildren crave today.
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I used to save the few pennies I earned to buy and eat anything sugared and frozen on a stick, especially blueberry popsicles that dyed my mouth an admirable fluorescent shade and milk nickels with a crunchy chocolate shell and vanilla center that melted and oozed down my hand. But, I drew the line at Fudgsicles.
I was along when Dad bought fudgsicles for everybody in the car. Those of us in the backseat whooped with appreciation, but Mom took one bite, said it tasted like brown chalk, and tossed the remains out the window. Though Dad yelped, "Hide 'em, kids, or she'll get yours too," I immediately threw mine away as well. Carolyn looked disgusted; Bob told me I was too stupid to be in third grade.
Like today's teenagers, I craved soft drinks of any sort, spending far too much of my babysitting and fruit-picking money at the Arctic Circle trying to decide between lemon lime and orange. I also accepted dates with young men I didn't care for with the hope that the A&W would be on the itinerary. When with my family, I routinely convinced Barbara I would let her taste my soft drink if she would give me a taste of hers. I would then take a generous swallow through her straw and refuse to let her put her lips on mine, because I didn't want cooties.
Raised in a home where caffeine in any form was frowned upon, I didn't discover cola drinks until later in life. But I'll never forget the illicit thrill that ran through me when I told Mrs. Tucker how much I liked the birthday cake she'd made for Betsy. She thanked me and said that the cherry cola cake was her family's favorite as well. I ate two pieces and walked home convinced I was drunk.
So today, when I notice my grandchildren inhaling chips, soft drinks and anything listing sugar as the main ingredient, I keep quiet about both their poor choices and my disgusting hope for a Jell-O salad with dinner.
Janet Sheridan's book, "A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns," is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays.