We went to two parties in one day on Saturday--two pool parties. They were both at different pools and they both featured kids and adults having a good time. They also both featured bowls of those radioactive-colored Utz orange cheese balls--you know, the ones you feel drawn to even though you know something that orange just can't be good for you (unless it's an actual orange).
It was funny because I hadn't seen those puffy cheese balls in awhile and there they were, at two different parties in two different parts of town.
It was also interesting how the children were drawn to the cheese balls, like moths to a flame--even the littlest kids pointed at those cheery bright orange balls, driven to a frenzy over them from the get-go. Obviously there are a lot worse things you can feed your kids than cheese balls, but I think most people would agree that a bowl of cheese balls just isn't the healthiest snack food for anyone. But part of the fun of parties is that you get the chance, as a child (and as an adult, I would say) to sample those forbidden fruits: food and drink you wouldn't otherwise consume but there, at a party, you just feel you've been handed permission to indulge. Not only did the cheese balls drive the kids crazy, but the adults, too, couldn't help reaching for a handful.
"I know these are so bad for me," an adult at the second party said, as he stretched his hand into the bowl for a second time. "But I NEVER got them when I was a kid."
We all have our own personal lists of those forbidden-fruit foods--foods we remember wanting so badly when we were kids. For me, it was Twinkies and white bread. Growing up in the hey-day of the lunchbox Twinkie I couldn't understand why my parents wouldn't pack me one. I also couldn't understand why my sandwiches were always the ugly step-sister at the lunch table--thick slices of homemade wheat bread that never looked as picture-perfect as the neat, white bread sandwiches my friends had. And MY sandwiches were filled with things like cucumber and cream cheese, and olive spread and, sometimes, liverwurst and sprouts.
I wanted bologna, and peanut butter and super-sweet grape jelly on Hostess white bread--maybe washed down with a carton of chocolate milk and, most definitely, a Twinkie of Ho-Ho for dessert.
Just as I'm a firm believer in reading constantly to your kids, I'm also a firm believer in instilling good, healthy eating habits at a young age. Although I complained about my unconventional lunches, I'm grateful that my parents raised me with a taste for the good stuff, not for the overly-sweetened empty-caloried foods that so many of my peers ate. Processed foods and high sugar sodas and snack foods are addictive, and when they are make up a regular part of a child's diet, the more they grow-up to crave them. Today, healthy, unconventional-looking lunches are more the norm in school cafeterias everywhere, and life is easier for those kids with the wheat bread sandwiches.
I'm happy to say that I haven't had a Twinkie since college (although I have more than once been tempted to try making these). Heady with freedom, I bought a package on impulse at the college bookstore. But when I opened one up and bit into the spongy, cream-filled cake, it tasted disappointing to me: cardboard-like and flavorless--not the dreamy creaminess I had imagine when I was a child. In the end, I think my parents helped me learn that the healthiest foods are not only good for you, but they are often the ones with the best, most satisfying flavors--the ones that stick with you long after that orange cheese-ball dust has faded from your fingertips.
What are your forbidden-fruit foods?