Andreae Prozesky isn’t quite as pure as one might think.
Every now and then I’ll have a weird encounter involving food. I’ll be out picking up groceries or grabbing some kind of quick bite and someone, sometimes a stranger but more often a vague acquaintance, will come up to me and say, “you write that food column, don’t you?” “Yes,” I’ll reply, and realize that my shopping basket is carrying packets of Kool-Aid and a bag of white dinner rolls and a Styrofoam plate of confetti squares, or that my food court tray is holding up a large poutine and a giant waxed-paper cup of Sprite.
Then I’ll get the look, the “well, now I can’t believe anything you say, because I caught you sucking back high-fructose corn syrup at the mall” look. If I were a truly secure person, I would be able to ignore this judgey judgeness, perhaps even offer a cheese curd-draped French fry. But instead I get all socially-awkward and say things like, “Uh… I’ve just read a fascinating article on dying felted wool with Kool-Aid… if only you could get organic drink powder, but oh well, heh heh heh…” or “Man, this Sprite is gross, but when you look at the environmental impact of bottled water, I mean, heh, what are you supposed to do?” Then I babble nervously for a while, and the Nerd-spotter walks away, no doubt never to read my column again. Way to go, Food Dork.
I mean, yes, Sprite is gross, but it’s a kind of gross I like. I don’t drink enough of it to do any lasting damage, and it’s only ever in combination with greasy fries. Based on my own highly scientific research, I feel that the acidity of the soft drink counteracts the greasiness of the dinner somehow—although that’s probably wrong in about fifteen different ways. Oh, well. And poutine? Well, that’s food of the gods if you ask me. I’ve been known to go to the mall for no other reason than to get a big dish of it. Poutine is just tasty stuff.
Invariably, as the judgey-pants former reader walks away, I get all mad with myself for being so sheepish about my trashier food choices. For one thing, I know enough about food to balance my confetti square addiction with steady doses of green vegetables and whole grains. For another, just because I love a plate of sautéed Swiss chard with garlic butter, does that mean I can’t also revel in the magic that happens when hot gravy meets cold cheese? Just because I can whip up a gorgeous brown-rice soda bread, resplendent with sultanas, each slice yieldingly gritty beneath its thick layer of sweet butter, does that mean I should be ashamed of the pleasure I get from tearing paste-white dinner roll from paste-white dinner roll, the strands of unholy gluten pulling and snapping, the interiors soft as the dough they once were?
These are the sorts of things people call “guilty pleasures,” but I think that’s ridiculous. Feeling guilty about food isn’t going to help you eat more healthfully, and it’s certainly not going to make you a better person. In fact, I think that applying the principle of guilt to eating just waters down the meaning of guilt. Guilt is a potent feeling, so for heaven’s sake, save it for when you’ve actually done something wrong. If I eat half a chocolate cake, I may feel bloated, sticky, simultaneously wired and lethargic, and mildly nauseated, but I’m not going to feel guilty. Unless I stole the cake from a child’s birthday party. (Stealing from children is so wrong!)
Eating too much cake is perhaps a little stupid, but it’s not immoral.
So there you go. No guilt, no shame, and moderate amounts of junk food. There’s not a thing in the world wrong for it. Should you catch me in the grocery store, loading my cart with nasty, sugary, chemical doughnuts, rest assured it’s not something I do often, and that I’ll pay for it later when I feel like absolute rubbish. Then it’s back to the sensible homemade goodness for me.
Several really kind of gross things I dearly love
(in no particular order)
Marshmallows. I can’t have them in my house because I will devour the entire bag over the course of 48 hours, standing on a chair in my kitchen so that I can reach the top self where I’ve hidden them. And those fruity pastel mini marshmallows don’t even make it to the 36 hour point.
Miracle Whip. Oh how I love it. I know it’s not real mayonnaise. But you know what? Neither is Hellman’s. It’s all just glop in a jar. I’ll take my glop in a jar sweet and tangy, thanks.
Egg salad sandwiches made with Miracle Whip. On white bread, cut in triangles. At a school fundraiser. So very good.
Assorted squares. Of the sort that you find in the bakery section of your grocery store, or in convenience stores, especially those attached to gas stations, for whatever reason. Assorted squares needn’t be square, actually: peanut butter balls and their cousins, peanut butter mice, both count. I cherish them, even if they actually list “Parowax” as one of their ingredients. *Shudder*
Fried egg sandwiches. If you look at the components of the fried egg sandwich – fried egg, toast, cheese, mayonnaise (ahem, Miracle Whip, ahem) – there’s nothing actually wrong with them, but any sandwich that drips greasy egg yolk is kind of gross. But it’s oh so tasty.
Viva Puffs, and any of their copycat versions. See above entry on marshmallows. I can easily eat a whole package of them. Nobody in my house likes them but me. I’m so lucky!
Fried chicken. From Mary Brown’s. With Orange Crush. There, I’ve said it. Now you know.
Send your questions, comments, and guilt-ridden suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org