Hi. My name is Kory, and I am a culinary moron.
I’ve always been this way. Something about the way root beer tickles my throat just sends me over the edge. I prefer Sunny D to pulpy, fresh orange juice. If I’m forced to choose between eating out at Le Petite Entree and stopping at the Chevron for corn dogs, well, it isn’t even close. I’m going for the dogs.
I think it stems from my time as a bachelor. Too often, I found myself in a hurry, or in the middle of a compare/contrast essay about Hamlet and King Claudius, and instead of thinking about themes of revenge, melancholia or Elizabethan politics, all I could see in my mind was a vast, tasty field of Cheez Balls (that’s “Cheez,” with a Z). Oh, how those puffy, fluffy semi-food products distracted me from Denmark.
But something was rotten in the state of my belt size. Where once there was a spry high school boy — a boy who could put down an entire pepperoni pizza, make a rude noise, and then look around for the tub of cookie dough ice cream — there now sat this creaking, grunting adult, a man who carried Tums everywhere he went, and who felt a little awkward wearing shorts in public.
This predilection for processed foods has previously been easy to hide — midnight stops at Taco Bell, a stash of Oreos in the closet — but there’s something about getting older or getting married that suddenly brings you face to face with your gooey, cheesy demons. These days, I’m expected to enjoy salads. Not tolerate salads. Enjoy them. I don’t know who decided that combining the stuff that grows in between the cracks of my sidewalk with a couple of nuts and (oh, most vile) Craisins constituted a meal.
Healthy people don’t know what this feels like, unless they were previously unhealthy. TV and other forms of media are filled with peppy, skinny people in workout shorts, vivaciously grinning and yelling at us to put down the string cheese and mayonnaise and join them for a light and lively jaunt around, say, the entire city of Chicago. My thoughts are that someone who voluntarily wakes up at 5 a.m. to squeeze in a four-miler before work does not understand what it’s like to spend 35 percent of the day thinking about the spring line of Pringles.
Just like anyone in America, I blame my parents. More specifically, I blame my father. He was raised on a farm, which makes him so obnoxiously grateful and easy to like. Dad has a set of special genes (no, not jeans. Genes. Although he may have special jeans, too) that allows him to be completely pleased about whatever he is eating. He is the most un-finicky person on Earth. Hamburgers, goose liver pate, sea cucumber foam or a tomato right out of the garden — he likes it all. He is the only man who could put ketchup on Kobe beef, or caviar on his scrambled eggs, and just enjoy it for what it is: tasty.
The most cherished memory of my father comes from my childhood. We were all gathered around a table of hamburgers, ready to begin a happy family meal, but whoever had put my burger together had topped it off with too much ketchup. I complained to my dad that I didn’t like that much ketchup on my burger. Instead of telling me to eat it anyway, or to just scrape some off, my dad picked up the burger, pressed its edge against his tongue and rotated the burger in a complete circle. His tongue took care of all the extra sauce, and he handed the burger back to me. Problem solved. I’m still in therapy.
The other thing about my dad, though, is that he has another set of genes which also include willpower. He’s healthier than a horse, and better-looking, too (hi, Dad!). He’s more than happy to replace an oily steak of animal meat with a bowl of romaine lettuce and garbanzo beans.
I, unfortunately, inherited the first set of easily pleased genes, but not the second, healthier set. That’s why I find myself fighting a daily battle with barbecue potato chips and white chocolate raspberry cheesecake.
Nevertheless, I am now an adult. I am expected to love diet syrup. Nothing is allowed to make me happier than credit card-sized portions of meat. I know what fiber is, and what it does.
But in my dreams, I dance through meadows of licorice stalks that wave in the wind, and the chocolate malt river flows past while I frolic. And the McDonald’s breakfast menu stays up for 24 hours.