My friend Janice says I’m obsessed with food. It wasn’t the first time she’d bailed me out of a food-related predicament, and it wouldn’t be the last. Just because I’d protested the Esther Price Candy company by chaining myself to their rack at the local store until such time as the executives admit they’d engaged in a long-term practice of manipulating the calorie levels of their products in an attempt to addict their consumers. After two days of protest, I was no longer chained to a rack of Esther Price candy; I was chained to a rack of empty Esther Price candy boxes. I’d gained eight pounds and I owed the store over $500 for the missing candy. I also had a raging flare-up of chocolate-induced heartburn so severe that flames were shooting out my throat. A troop of Girl Scouts gathered around the flames singing campfire songs and roasting marshmallows for s’mores.

My obsession with food is a family trait. We’re not the only ones. I read about a Michigan family which has a 115-year-old fruitcake as a family heirloom. It was baked by the family’s beloved great-grandmother, who died before it could be cut and served. In reverance, the fruitcake, which has crystallized into a hard dark-brown lump, is stored in a glass serving dish in a china cabinet.

The idea that a family could make a nostalgic, revered shrine out of a dessert is intriguing, probably because it sounds like something my family would do. I come from a long line of people who appreciate the artistry of a well-cooked meal. Food names are often used to describe colors, and memorable meals make a handy reference point.

For instance, we all remember that Easter picnic back in 1972, when my sister brought that delicious broccoli and cheese casserole. We still speak in hushed, reverent tones of the exquisite caramel and nut cheesecake that Aunt Edie brought to my niece Allison’s confirmation dinner. Allison is 45 years old now, but we remember it like yesterday.

We no longer remember which child was rushed to the emergency room with food poisoning in 1978, but we do recall his face was a color somewhere between celery and pea-soup green. The ambulance’s seat covers were exactly the same shade as grandma’s home-made fudge, and the emergency room’s walls were painted banana yellow trimmed in butterscotch.

Occassional culinary disasters are remembered and spoken of in hushed, shameful tones, as if it were a family scandal equal to the time Uncle Zeke got kicked out of Alcoholics Annonymous for spiking the eggnog at its annual Christmas gathering.

Mom, who was an excellent cook, burned the gravy on Thanksgiving in 1967 and we never let her forget it. The horror of it is on a historical par with the Hindenberg disaster of 1937. Oh, the humanity! We should have preserved it in a shrine like that Michigan family’s fruitcake. I wonder what the inheritance tax is on 56-year-old burnt gravy.

Last week I was trying to recall a family social event which I knew was of some personal significance. It was on the tip of my tongue and I couldn’t quite pull it out.

“Hey, Janice,” I said at a recent lunch get-together, “Remember that day back in the 1970s when I wore that long meringue-colored dress and carried that bouquet of flowers the color of melted butter? For some reason you and all my other friends were there, wearing matching gowns the color of peach ice cream. Remember? We had that delicious cake with all the layers and the little bride and groom on the top. What the heck was that event?”

“You mean your wedding? How long are you going to be on this diet?” she asked with a sigh of annoyance. “Try not to think of everything as it relates to food. Have you seen my new car,” she asked in a transparent effort to change the subject.

“Yes. It’s a very pretty shade of chocolate brown. Not that dark, bitter kind, but more like that sweet, smooth, milk chocolate that melts slowly in your mouth and slides down your throat like liquid silk. Sigh.”

“Denise! Snap out of it!” she said as she dug into her slice of pie.

“How is it?” I asked dreamily, as I watched her fork pierce its layers and carry a succulent morsel to her lips. “The crust is nicely browned, isn’t it?” I said dreamily as I leaned over her plate and inhaled the heavenly aroma.

“Get your nose out of my food and eat your rice cake!”

I bit off a chunk of rice cake, chewed, then massaged the dry, crumbly fragments down my throat, a trick I learned while watching the veteranarian force a worm pill down my dog’s gullet. It probably tasted about the same. Not that I would know, although if the vet rolled it in peanut butter, I’d probably try it, as long as the calorie count wasn’t too high.

“What do you have planned the rest of the day,” Janice asked.

“Oh, I have a full day planned. First I’m going to the bakery to watch them take the donuts out of the oven. Of course, I’ll have to wear a disguise, since they threw me out yesterday just because I drooled all over their front window. Then I have to be at the pizza place by noon, so I can smell the pizza crusts baking. Then to the steakhouse at four o’clock so I can climb the drainpipe to the roof vents and listen to the steaks sizzling on the grill. After that, I’m off to the ice cream parlor to watch people eat their hot fudge sundaes.”

“You stay out of that ice cream parlor! I refuse to bail you out of jail again this week!”

“It was a momentary loss of control. Geez, you lick the whipped cream off one stranger’s spoon and they make a federal case out of it. At least you could’ve waited until lunchtime to bail me out. Thursday is fried chicken day at the jail, and it smelled delicious.”

“Just try to behave yourself, will you?” she warned as she gathered her things and put on her coat. “Wait. Where’s the scarf I had when we came in here?”

“You mean the one the same color as strawberry jam on a freshly toasted English muffin?” I asked as I picked a fragment of yarn fiber out of my teeth. Burp. “Haven’t seen it.”


2 thoughts on “What Color is Food Obsession?

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