Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fun Dip

You can’t always know what is in your food. Anyone who is foolish enough to believe that they always know every single ingredient that goes into their body has obviously forgotten about all the times they ate Chinese food. There is simply no way to identify all the weird meats and vegetables that are in chow mein. There are things in there that are completely unidentifiable as to domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, etc., like the thin, black, rubbery, squiggly things. Meat? Vegetable? Thinly-sliced seaweed or thinly-sliced fish liver? No telling.

Then there are times when you can know what’s in your food, but you choose not to. Chorizo is a good example of this for me. I loved chorizo and eggs for a long time, and I didn’t ask any questions. Then last month I accidentally read the ingredients on the package:

Pork (salivary glands, lymph nodes, and fat (cheeks)), pork, paprika, soy flour, vinegar, salt, spices, red pepper, garlic, sodium nitrate.

Well, that’s it for me and chorizo. I’m no health expert, but I’m pretty sure God didn’t install salivary glands and lymph nodes into pigs because they were savory treats. Never mind the cheek fat, how come you guys didn’t use the pituitary glands, too. Do pigs not have them, or were they all snatched up by the guys who make the discount hotdogs? I guess chorizo just goes to show you, if you have enough sodium nitrate in anything, you can make it taste good.

My chorizo scare has led me to start reading the labels on a few more of my shadier culinary loves. Turns out ingredient lists can be pretty handy if you are concerned about what goes into your body. Who knew?

As laissez-faire as I have been with my ingredient intake, there is one group of “foods” that I have always avoided, and I keep my kids away from as often as possible. That would be any food or drink that is neon in color. This includes Froot Loops, sports drinks, and most types of hard candy. Basically, if the color doesn’t exist in nature, I’m not eating it. I have never had to read a label to figure that one out.

“Dad, can we get a Gatorade?”
“You mean the electric blue drink over there?”
“Aw, man. What about the orange one?”
“Let me ask you a question. What makes it orange? Do you think it has actual oranges or bell peppers in it?”
“Then, no.”
“Aw, man.”

When did we decide that the only way kids will like something is if it’s a scary, unnaturally bright color? What’s wrong with brown food? What’s wrong with normal colored drinks? Apple juice and beer both look like pee, and they’re delicious.

I am used to fending my kids off at the baseball park snack bar, or at places like the county fair or the movie theatre, but I had some nutritional issues arise from an unexpected source the other day. Son Number Two came home from piano practice with Fun Dip.

In case you are unfamiliar, Fun Dip is a bag of unnaturally-colored granulated sugar. The delivery method is a white, solidified sugar stick that you suck on to get wet, then stick into the metallic-purple sugar crystals to coat it, then lick it off and start over. He came home with the bonus pack, which includes two sugar sticks and three different pouches of lab-created death sugar. Yum.

His piano teacher doesn’t normally give out sugary treats, but he won a prize for being most improved in his group for the week, and he got to pick something out of the prize box. For whatever reason, Fun Dip happened to be one of the prizes, and our kids never miss an opportunity to try and get away with eating something we don’t normally let them have.

Up until that point I hadn’t thought too much about the piano prize box, but I guess I would have expected prizes from piano practice to be a little more cerebral. Maybe a pack of crayons, or a small coloring book, or even a miniature plastic Beethoven bust. Getting a bag of colored sugar for doing well at a music class struck me funny, sort of like getting a bobble head as a giveaway item from the opera.

“Welcome to the Metropolitan Opera House. You are in the orchestra section, row E, seats 23 and 24. Here are your complimentary Puccini bobble heads. I see you have brought your giant foam fingers with you tonight. Bravissimo! Can I interest you in one of our Met dogs? They are a full foot-long all beef kosher dog, with mustard and relish. How about a Miller Lite? We have three sizes: The 12-ounce Madame Butterfly, the 16-ounce Carmen, and the 24-ounce Barber of Seville, which comes with a commemorative plastic cup for only $18.50.”

Anyway… He was really excited about his Fun Dip, and since he won it as a prize I didn’t want to simply take it away from him. I offered to trade him for a Ziploc bag full of white granulated sugar from the pantry, seeing as that would be healthier, but apparently sugar is more fun to a kid if it glows like a 120-watt purple light bulb. I told him since he got the big bonus pack he would have to share with his brothers, in part to help our ongoing efforts to instill a sense of sharing and fairness in our children, but mostly because I wanted to reduce his exposure to Irradium Blue # 40 by a third.

I kept trying to find a good time to let him eat half a pound of nuclear sugar isotopes.
“Can I have it now?”
“No, you have baseball practice in an hour and I like your coach.”

“Can I have it now?”
“No, your brother has soccer practice in an hour and I’m not willing to sit next to you after you eat it.”

“Can I have it now?”
“Right before homework? You must be joking.”

I managed to put it off a whole week, but the pressure was building. Each day his desire to devour his insanely unhealthy treat grew stronger. Finally the perfect time occurred to me.

“Hey, buddy, it’s fifteen minutes until piano practice. Come eat your Fun Dip.”

As I sent him whirling toward the door of the piano studio with his wild-eyed stare and his stained blue lips, I could see it all playing out in my head. He’d be like a miniature Jerry Lee Lewis on crack, kicking over the piano bench and trying to play the keys with his feet, and maybe even his head.

That’ll teach her to have Fun Dip in the prize box.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2013 Marc Schmatjen

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