Pam Stone: No binge benefits from ‘healthy’ snacks
Paul and I had been given (by ourselves) full permission to be somewhat hedonistic this past week. Before you imagine reservations at a luxury spa or champagne-laced bubble baths, remember who I’m talking about: Mr. and Ms. Whole Foods, the Costco couple, the annoying “we only eat wild-caught salmon and organic, free-range eggs as a protein” people.
So when Paul’s mother made the transition into assisted living a few days ago — she now has a galley kitchen with a wee fridge — something had to be done with the piles of food in her other apartment.
Listen, we were dutiful: the first thing we did was to find out exactly what Mrs. Z wanted to keep and that, in no particular order, was sherry, her beloved Dutch cheese, sherry, Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, sherry, wasabi bread and sherry. Added to this were several Tupperware containers of Lance crackers, Melba toast and a few cookies.
With her new kitchen full, we stood among the stacks of foodstuffs that remained in her old apartment and, remaining dutiful, Paul packed up every unopened box and took it to our local food pantry.
“What about all the rest of this stuff,” I said as I gestured toward the freshly opened packets of Girl Scout cookies. Then with dismay, I found upon opening a final cupboard: three bags of potato chips, one bag of multi-grain tortilla chips, a box containing 12 packets of cheesy Goldfish snacks, a box of granola bars and six bottles of Heineken. Oh, and a Grolsch.
“It’s a Dutch thing,” Paul explained to my raised eyebrow.
“How does your mom stay so tiny with all this stuff around?” I wanted to know, “This looks like the catering truck for an old ‘Cagney and Lacey’ episode.”
“Well, most of it’s my fault,” said Paul. “She likes to have friends over or something to nibble with ...”
“Sherry?” I guessed.
“Sherry,” he continued, “so as she doesn’t grocery shop by herself anymore, when I go to Costco, I just pick up a big box of snacks. Some of this is probably a year old. It’s a waste to throw it all out so we might as well take it home. Besides, we usually have some chips during the cocktail hour.”
It should be mentioned that my idea of the cocktail hour is draining a beer in the barn after feeding, sweeping the aisle and refilling water buckets for the night. Paul’s the “Don Draper” in this relationship: all cocktail shakers and martinis.
So back to the farm came three cardboard boxes (oddly enough, marked “Taylor Sherry”) filled to the brim with snacks. And like a wine taster, that evening, between moments of yelling at the screen during our regular viewing of “International House Hunters,” I sampled, from neatly arranged piles along the top of the coffee table: Archer Farms “traditional potato chips,” a Nature Valley granola bar, Girl Scout shortbread cookies, Pepperidge Farm goldfish snacks and two beers.
I felt like Henry VIII at the banquet table, tearing with my teeth a chunk of meat from an enormous drumstick, all the while madly gesturing, “bring me more, more!”
But it didn’t last long and that’s the reason we never buy this stuff in the first place because, beside the fact none of it’s healthy (the first five ingredients of the Nature Valley granola bar include high maltose corn syrup, sugar and tapioca syrup), the truth is I have no willpower whatsoever and just like a child rolling on the floor of their bedroom after binging on their entire stash of Halloween candy, within minutes I was pressing my palms to my temple and groaning, “Why did I eat all this crap? I have the worst sugar headache, ever!”
Paul passed me a Clancey’s multi-grain tortilla chip.
“Maybe this will cleanse your palate,” he suggested, helpfully.
Now, look: I have nothing against the brand, Clancey’s. I have no ax to grind and I’m sure they’re a great old firm and I’ve seen their products all over the place, but when I put that tortilla chip in my mouth, I thought I was gonna die. Truly like a wine taster, but without rolling it thoughtfully around my tongue and thinking of words like, “charming, eloquent or precocious vintage” to describe it, I spat the thing out of my mouth with such force that it hit one of the terriers in the forehead like a ninja star.
“Well, that was attractive,” Paul said.
“What, are you trying to kill me?” I spluttered, scrubbing my tongue with a napkin. “That was the worst-tasting chip I have ever put in my mouth. I’d rather eat a moth ball. Blech!”
Curious, Paul popped one in his mouth and demonstrated an expression one might expect to see if someone bit heartily into a lemon.
“This can’t taste right,” he gasped, “there has to be something wrong with this bag. All I taste is chemicals and cardboard.”
“You’d better hope so because we donated a ton of that to the food pantry,” I suddenly remembered. “Those poor people will think we’re sadists.”
So consider this a PSA if you have visited our local food pantry and ingested any of those sugar stumps (aka “granola bars”) or “multi-grain” tortilla chips in an effort to eat healthier, you have our profuse apologies. And we’d like to make it up to you. We’d love to take you out for a steak dinner.
Or, you know, wild-caught, sustainable salmon.
I’ll bring the beer.
Reach Pam Stone at firstname.lastname@example.org.