Taming the Candy Monster.   That was the name of a cookbook that my mom kept on the counter in case she needed to whip up a quick, non-toxic snack for my Cookie-a-holic sister.  

Mom went through an extended, Healthy Living Phase, smack in the middle of the most important Garbage Eating Years of my childhood.  It was an all-organic foods,pesticide-free existence, so there were no Cheetos, Ding Dongs, or Twinkies gracing the shelves in our pantry.  And FORGET about any of those delicious morning cereals other kids got, like Sugar Smacks or Trix or King Vitamin (which actually turned your milk black–yum).  No.  We got unsweetened, puffed rice that turned into soggy Styrofoam as soon as milk hit it.  Knowing her, she probably puffed the rice herself in the backyard.

Sometimes, she took her cause to extremes by  stickin’ it to the “Man”.  She picketed grocery stores about toilet paper, and during one summer, transformed herself into The Human Barricade, where she used her body as a road block when the mosquito-spraying truck drove through our neighborhood.  The Evil, Pool-Owning, Neighborhood Homeowners Association wanted bug-free, evening soirees.  Through my open window at night, I could hear their wicked cackling rise above the houses of the subdivision, as they splashed about on warm summer evenings, sliding down their water slides, behind privacy fences, while getting tanked on highballs.  I wished with every atom in my chunky body that I could join them in my citrus-colored, skirted swimsuit, rubber fins and underwater mask. 

But I digress… 

Anyway, during one of their so called… ‘Meetings’…they labeled her “Rabble-Rouser”.   Oooooo.  Wow.  That was going to stop her.  But then, they pulled out the Big Gun:  they placed a phone call to Bug Spray Guy to have him waylay us with his Cloud of Poison at four o’clock in the morning.  Same old story.  It’s all about who’s got the Power.  

So, Mom tried to influence us where she could.  She made her own yogurt and yeast breads.  We ate locally grown vegetables from the farmer down the road.  She joined a food co-op through the church that brought in range-fed beef and grain-fed chicken.  Then, she completely eliminated anything with flavor.  Goodbye to sugar, chocolate, bubbles, salt, and Red Dye #4.  Hello to soy beans, dried fruits, nuts, and those wretched carob chips which were supposed to trick us into thinking we were eating Tollhouse Morsels.  She used un-scented detergents and bought toothpaste that tasted like chalk, stopping just short of dressing me in a hemp kirtle.

Here’s the moral of the story:  none of it stuck.  At least with me.  I would trade my entire lunch box which was loaded with cherry tomatoes, homemade soups, and deli meats to my friend, Jil, so I could have her baggy of Doritos and congealed, cold SPAM sandwich on Wonder Bread with mustard.   

Yet…her efforts were not totally in vain.  She actually DID influence…someone.  Unknowingly, she was laying the foundation for Future Food Torture of another family.  My OTHER friend, Ruth Anne, would prop her teenaged-self at the kitchen counter with my mom, consuming dried banana chips like a termite crunching through dried barn wood.  Sometime during college, she bloomed into that person who actually DOES workout in her house, and who pays attention to things like “triglicerides” and “polyunsaturated fats” and now she’s turned into a VEGAN.  Ha!  I think she may have told me recently that her family has gone on strike, refusing to eat anything that doesn’t contain preservatives.  Okay, maybe that might POSSIBLY be a slight exaggeration.  No, it’s probably true.

Of all people, Gary occasionally goes through manic spurts of healthiness.  One day, he’s got a Pepperidge Farm Coconut Cake in one hand and McCallan’s Scotch in the other.  The next day, he’s chewing supplements like Skittles or hauling keg-sized containers of Muscle Powders home from GNC.  Due to his requests I have a closet full of green tea, white tea, and some magical red tea that was harvested by Pygmies in the Congo.  I can’t tell you how many containers of horse pills he’s brought home for me, trying to save me from the next Plague. 

Nope, since I can barely manage to brush my teeth every morning, there is little hope that I will remember to take fish oils, riboflavins, carotenes, or ascorbic acids.  I’m just a real mess.  Once Ruth Anne tried to explain why transfats were bad for me, but I argued with her about the benefits of butter.  Soon, I expect to be walking around, toothless, with balloon-swelled gums, my limbs falling off randomly due to a lack of enough B12 and carob chips. 

Hmmm.  It’s just too bad SPAM isn’t a health food.  I’d live to be 200.