Saturday, February 4, 2012

Orange Food Obsession

I grew up on a farm in Greendale, British Columbia with ethnic German parents and my grandparents directly across the street on a farm of their own.  We grew virtually all of our own food, including meat.  My mother is of particularly industrious hardworking, sturdy stock and tended a garden the size of a small country every summer.  Then she put everything away: toward the end of the summer the pressure cooker was always fired up as the jams and fruits of the season were canned and sealed. 

Our lovely pets were sent to the local slaughterhouse when their times had come and became our mealtime main courses.  “Oh, this is Cocoa we’re eating tonight,” we’d say wistfully as we tucked into our hamburger casserole or, “Wilbur sure was a feisty pig. I miss him.  But boy, this ham is tasty!” 

Chickens?  Don’t even get me started.  I’ve never had a taste for chicken, probably because I’ve stuck my hand up too many steaming anuses, pulling out innards, and watched a few too many of the nasty beasts screaming around the woodshed well after their heads had been freed from their bodies via the axe and the chopping block.  Pretty much the only thing we didn’t do on our farm o’ plenty was grind our own wheat.

Which brings me to my fixation for orange food: faux orange food, I might add.  Don't get me wrong: growing up with so much homegrown goodness was a gift from the heavens.  I am a gal who is committed to having “whole foods” in her house and most everything is cooked from scratch around here (though, admittedly, not often by me).

But somehow all the earthy goodness we grew up with instilled in me a particular fascination for food that came in tins, bags and wrappers.  When I was bringing my homemade German “katerinchen” and pfernusse cookies to school, my compatriots had Oreos; my stinky liverwurst sandwich served on hearty rye bread was met with sneers by the children who had their Skippy peanut butter and high fructose corn syrup jam sandwiches on pillowy soft and fluffy Wonder Bread.  I was the German church girl who ate the strange food; they were the cool kids who had junk food and pop. 

We got our junk food fix not at home, but from Omi and Opa across the street.  They were pushovers.  The first McDonalds in the Fraser Valley came to Chilliwack when I was eight years old, and my Opa, brother and sister and I were among the first customers. He clandestinely took us after school in his VW Beetle, telling us not to tell our mother who was off at work, selling shoes. We ate the hallowed hamburger, fries and milkshake and skulked home to eat the abundant dinner set before us, not uttering a word to our parents about where we had been.  This happened more than once.

We would often accompany Omi and Opa on their grocery shops, too.  Unlike my mother who refused to buy store bought cookies and insisted that oatmeal would be the morning meal from here to eternity, Omi would load the shopping cart with Fruit Loops and Honey Comb and all manner of sugary cereals.  The chocolate coated cookies with marshmallow fluff inside?  Of course! Like my mother, she was baking up a storm constantly, but she still indulged our whims for sugary, packaged goodies. That’s what grandmas do.  It’s their job.  

We would go to Omi and Opa’s house after school most days and stuff ourselves silly on junk food, and then come home to an abundant, beautifully prepared healthy meal that my parents had slaved over from the planting of the seeds and the feeding of the animals, to the chopping of the homegrown onions and garlic and the sprinkling of the dill that had been drying from the summer.  We had the best of both worlds.

At 16 I got a used car (a 1969 Chevy Impala) as did most teenagers who lived out in the boonies.  Back in the day, parents couldn’t wait for children to turn 16 so they could stop ferrying them around hell’s half acre.

With that freedom came the ability to drive oneself to after school jobs, and the ability to make money beyond the raspberry and blueberry picking pittance we made during the summer time.  With the extra pocket change and a car, came the chance to go to stores (back then there were no 7-11s, but lots of locally owned convenience stores and gas stations) where you could stock up on all the junk food a teenager’s vibrating hormones could desire, including Hostess Snowballs and Twinkies and the Canadian favorite: Hawkins Cheezies. 

If you’ve never had one of these bright orange monstrosities that are as thick as a fat man’s fingers and will stain your hands a brilliant henna, you’re truly missing out.  Over time I discovered other chemical laden orange food that delighted me yet further, orange Fanta being one of them.  (There’s nothing better than the double orange zinger: a cold bottle of freezing orange Fanta to accompany a bag of Hawkins Cheezies.) 

Later I discovered Cheetos, the American version of Cheezies.  Hawkins will always be my first orange food love, but the crunchiness and relative thinness of the Cheetos combined with the transfat and salty crunch factor appealed to all my senses in a heart palpitating way that made me want to cheat on the other orange fatties.  Upon moving to Asia, I was introduced to Planters Cheez Puffs, another orange concoction that doesn’t so much crunch as melt in your mouth.  Another guilty orange ecstasy.

I like oranges of the citrus variety well enough too (I recommend putting them in the freezer for about an hour: it changes the consistency of them in a way that is very refreshing), but there will always be a place in my heart for orange foods of the chemical variety.

After work yesterday, we teachers celebrated the fact that report cards were signed, sealed and delivered with some delicious peachy Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Lays Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips and some Nabisco Cheese Curls, another incarnation of the orange savory variety. Oh, and there were orange Doritos as well.  This teetotalling Mennonite farm girl from Greendale was in junk food heaven.

Bless my parents for instilling in me a love of healthy, whole food that I indulge in 90 percent of the time, but when I’m going to cheat, good chance it’s going to be with faux orange food.  Sometimes a gal just can’t help herself.

For Today (After the Sins of Yesterday):

-       Absolutely no orange food, except of the citrus variety.
-       Positively nothing out of a bag that crinkles and consists of items that were once vegetables, now transformed into crunchy carcinogens.
-       Probably no wine.
-       Definitely some abundant sprays of stain remover to take out the greasy smear marks I managed to get all over my white shirt!

Emily enjoying her first-ever orange Fanta
in Thailand last summer.

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