Monday, May 15, 2006

Food Flashback: Enduring Chocolate

I've been pregnant now for almost five months and I've experienced only one real craving (my excruciating desire to drink four glasses of red wine in one sitting doesn't count). Just after Valentine's Day, I developed an intense and constant need for chocolate. After a week or so (and two really big heart-shaped boxes of Russell Stovers - purchased at a convenient post-V Day 75% off), the craving subsided.

Until 15 minutes ago. All of a sudden, I wanted something chocolate with the sort of desperation I usually reserve for water or Diet Coke. That's when I remembered: we had two candy bars hidden in the dark recesses of our refrigerator. They were favors given after a friend's baby's baptism last October. But candy bars don't go bad in the refrigerator, right?

(The answer is: no, they don't. At least not these candy bars.)

But this post is not about the slightly gross fact that I just downed an eight month old Hershey bar. It's about what happened as soon as I opened the wrapper on the chocolate: pure regression. A food flashback in its purest form.

The summer after I was in eighth grade, my family took a very, very long vacation together. My mother, father, 11-year old brother, 5-year old sister and I flew from Maryland to Denver, where we rented an RV and spent the next three weeks driving all over Colorado, Wyoming, Montana (just for a night), Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. We saw countless natural wonders, watched Lane Frost perform in a rodeo in Cody, WY less than a month before he died, stayed in a crappy cabin at a nice resort in Jackson Hole, and ate enormous amounts of red meat.

I hated it. Every single second. I was thirteen and miserable and I'm not particularly outdoorsy anyway. I'm sure if I went on the exact same trip today, I'd have a much better time. Unfortunately for me, thirteen is not the greatest age to spend 21 days in a 30-foot space with your entire family. Or to have those days captured on film. The pictures of the trip that actually include me are...less than stellar (including the two my father had blown up to poster size). At least my sister looked cute in them, I guess.

Naturally, I made my displeasure known. Probably the only thing worse than being a 13-year-old on a big family trip is being the family of an ungrateful, miserable 13-year-old on that trip. The only time I didn't spend openly sulking was the time I spent reading...and eating candy bars.

For whatever reason, we ate a ton of candy bars on that trip. Everyplace we stopped, we'd each get one and I always, without fail, chose a Hershey bar. I'd very carefully unwrap the candy and neatly fold the wrapper into a little square (I unwrap presents like this, too - it drives my family crazy). Then I would methodically break the bar into its little rectangles, each of which I let slowly dissolve in my mouth at its own pace. It must have taken me 30 minutes to eat those few ounces of chocolate. Thirty minutes during which I pretended I was not in an RV with my family.

Today, I wasn't nearly so patient, but as I unwrapped the candy, something innate in me took over, and I broke the bar into its pieces without even thinking. Until that moment, I'd completely forgotten I'd even eaten Hershey bars almost every day for three straight weeks.

Somehow, the taste even felt like a reminder of a good memory. And it only took 17 years to get there.

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