A True-Life Trunk-or-Treat

The other day I was at the local Wawa (love saying that word—wawa—like kissing smooth silk, but also sounds like a baby came up with the name) getting me some of that sweet, free pressurized air for the minivan tires. But as I was hunched over, filling the passenger-rear tire, I spied with my little eye, out of the corner of my eye a person stealthily moving towards me.

We are all susceptible to making quick judgments, and I must confess that my thoughts quickly jumped to one of a couple of scenarios. Either this guy was (1) going to ask for money, (2) going to try and shank me, or most likely (3) going to try and cut in line so that he too could taste the succulent nectar of free compressed air out of a rubber hose in the middle of a parking lot. I could never have imagined what was actually about to happen…

As I turned to see the approaching stalker, I almost immediately realized that my preconceived notions were probably for naught. The kind-looking gentleman who walked towards me was an older man who spoke with a thick accent from somewhere in the Middle East. Without any proper introductions or much ado, the elderly man spoke to me with generosity and conviction, “Hello, would you like some bread?”

“Bread?” I thought. Did I just hear correctly? Did he just ask me if I wanted some bread? Is that like some new convalescent street lingo for the new synthetic drug hitting the assisted living streets? Elders these days, ya know?

I was unsure of how to answer him, but answered, “Umm, I’m okay, thanks.”

But he insisted, “I have lots of bread. Would you like some free bread? You come and see. You can have some bread as long as you need it and will use it.”

I kept thinking, “Man, I just want to get my free air fix and get out of here; not stand around in a parking lot in the Florida heat and discuss the finer details of starch and carbohydrates with a stranger.” I asked, “What bread? Where is it?”

“Oh, I have all kinds of bread. And donuts too! You like donuts? I have them here in my trunk. I am trying to give out this bread to people.”

Bread and donuts in the trunk. None of this sounds weird or sketchy at all. I figured, maybe if I just accept his offer for this mysterious bread I can get out of here. So, I replied, “Okay. Sure, thank you. I’ll take a look.”

I walked over with the gent to the back of his car, and when he opened up the trunk I had to do a double-take because I was so confused and surprised by what I saw. I know he told me he had bread in his trunk, but I mean, this guy had BREAD in his trunk. Like overflowing. Bread and pastries and, yes, donuts. Just so much gluten. It was like a movie where some gangsters open up a trunk and it’s full of money or drugs or a body. Except it was fluffy baked dough and smelled delicious. Very surreal experience. I was slightly afraid to ask but couldn’t help myself. “Oh wow, that’s a lot of bread. Umm… where did this all come from?”

“Oh, it’s from the bakery down the street. You know the bakery there around the corner. I’m retired now, and so I volunteer at a bunch of places. I volunteer at the bakery sometimes. They had too much bread, and they asked me if I could take it and give it away to people, so I came here.”

Now things were beginning to make sense. Naturally, a Wawa gas station parking lot is the most obvious choice for handing out free baked goods that are on the precipice of expiration.

I gratefully accepted his offer, and I selected a loaf of artisan bread. Then he picked up a box of donuts and also handed those to me, asking me if I wanted anything else. I explained that this was more than enough and thanked him profusely.

Only at a Wawa. Making dreams come true.

The moral of the story: It is the small, random acts of kindness from strangers that makes the world a better place, as well as a New Year’s keto diet resolution ruined.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to explain this story to my wife and convince her that I’m not going to poison our family with bread laced with unknown substances…

When Your “Favorite” Food Is Not What You Expected

Please enjoy this recent conversation between my wife and brother-in-law:

“Did Ella make lasagna at some point?”

“Yes. Andrew too.”

“Ok, well Gracie heard about this [lasagna luau party] or remembered it or something and she has been talking about wanting lasagna [literally every day for a week] because [she says] it’s her ‘favorite food’ and she ‘loves it,’ so we finally went to a restaurant where she could have some and she was so excited, and I was like [because we were thoroughly baffled by the whole scenario], ‘Gracie, do you know what lasagna is?” And she was like, “No, what is it?” And we put it [the lasagna] on her plate, and we’re like “Here’s your lasagna,” and she’s like “Where is it?” And I point to it, and she’s very confused [and disgusted] and says, “I don’t like it.”

Another perfect mealtime.

Even More Recent Rantings of a Flabbergasted Father

Yo, come at me bro…

What’s the deal with pickles?

Is there a kid who doesn’t love pickles? Seriously, why do kids like pickles so much? It would seem that the flavor would be too weird or intense, but no, given the opportunity they’ll devour an entire jar of fermented cucumbers. Is it because of all the pickles that women crave during pregnancy like some pre-birth, umbilical nourishment nostalgia? I don’t quite understand it, but at least it can make me feel better as a parent that I totally feed my children plenty of healthy “vegetables.”

How does the food even get there?

As I’ve mentioned before, my son has a natural talent and penchant for eating. He would score top marks on any appetizer aptitude test. And boy, can he shovel some macaroni like it’s going out of style; like he’s buying up subprime mortgages pre-2008; or like he’s collecting beanie babies and Pokémon cards before the nineties bubble popped. And yet, for as much food that he stuffs down his gullet, just as much ends up everywhere else. On the floor, walls, and ceiling. How does it even get up there? It’s behind his ears, up his nose, in his belly button, and down his pants. Cleaning up after mealtime, every time, feels like being held for detention to clean up the cafeteria after being unjustly blamed for starting that food fight—again.

Why do babies sleep with their butts up in the sky?

How is that even comfortable? Babies sleep like they are subconsciously practicing some ancient, Egyptian cat-yoga. Their derrieres in the air like some radio tower sending signals of flatulent grievances, or a lighthouse guiding salted, sea-weary sailors, or a flag, a proud, high-flying flag of glory to which we honor with an anthem of many fine, French horns. Can you imagine if adults still slept that way?

Why do kids ask for food they’re not going to eat?

I know it, they know it, we all know they’re not going to eat it. So why did I make another sandwich when I knew they weren’t going to eat it? Okay, so this one isn’t really a complaint or even a legitimate question. I know why. It’s so that I can have a reasonable excuse to eat a PB&J sandwich with a stringy cheese stick and a juice box.

Because this is the true secret to thriving in parenting: I always buy the 6-piece chicken nugget kids’ meal even when I know they won’t eat them all, so that I can have the leftovers.

Naturally Gifted

(Like Father, Like Son)

As an incredibly blessed parent, I try not to brag. I don’t want to be one of those parents who vicariously lives through their children, attempting in vain to supplant past failures, and overly boasts of their accomplishments as if they were their own. (Did I use enough ambiguous antecedents in that last sentence? I’m sure you can figure out who the unclear pronouns refer to. I’m not going to spend time rewriting sentences for clarity when that’s not what this is about. Do you realize how much time I could waste just going on and on and on about every little word and sentence. I could take at least some 87 words talking about it. Look, I’m just not going to overthink these blog posts. Okay? Hmm, maybe I should…)

Anyways, as I was saying before being rudely interrupted by the grammar sheriff, as a proud father, I try not to brag. But my son, soon to be one, is gifted at eating. Quite remarkable acutally.

It’s like we didn’t even have to teach him. He just figured it all out with almost no direction. Finger foods? Check. Fruit pouches with little slurp spouts? Check. Sippy cups? Check. Beverages with straws—obviously the decomposable, plant-based, non-marine-life-harrasing kind? Check. He just gets it.

But of course, greatest strength, greatest weakness.

With his prodigious penchant for food consumption also comes a few unsavory habits (see what I did there? “unsavory”). We’re currently trying to wean our kiddo off these shady lifestyle choices:

Eating leftovers.

By leftovers, I mean the food that has fallen off the table and onto the floor. Some people have a dog. We have a baby. He’s like a weird, squishy little vacuum cleaner. One of his favorite after-dinner pastimes is to try and crawl under the table and sample the variety platter of crumbs and collateral. When eating in his highchair, he often eats one, and then throws one down on the floor. I believe this is all part of his master plan to have readily accessible, self-selected hors d’oeuvres for later.

Eating dirt.

It’s not that he necessarily “loves” the taste of dirt and sand, but they’re also not really good deterrents either. The other day when we went to the beach, he tried a generous handful of sand, and then made the face of confused trepidation that you would expect. So, he was good, he wasn’t going to just eat more sand for the kicks and giggles of it. But then it was also the day he first tried potato chips. I personally have a weakness for those crispy, golden, fried spuds of nirvana myself. Perhaps it’s genetic. Either way, if a chip were to fall in the sand, he would do a quick cost-risk-benefit analysis and then determine that the right course of action was to push through and munch on. The chip was totally worth a little garnishment of sand.

Eating garbage.

By garbage, I mean basically anything and everything he can get his grimy, little paws on. Paper of all assortments and colors. Sticks, mulch, and grass. Carpet fibers. His sister’s polyester princess dress frills. Seriously little dude, you gotta stop doing that. Sometimes, opening up his diaper is like unwrapping one of those dollar store mystery bags. We’re really trying to set realistic goals for our children. Keep it simple ya know: try to stop eating random trash. We’re totally setting them up for success!

Eating people.

There’s always that one kid at the preschool who’s a biter. Look, we’ve really made some progress here so don’t worry too, too much. I’m sure by the time our son is ready for school he’s not going to want to gnaw on your offspring. But just in case, I’d send your child with some extra snacks. Think the “Sandlot” movie when the kids need to try and bribe the guard dog with a tasty beef treat. Did something like that happen in that movie? I don’t know; sounds about right.

Scars are there to remind us of the love.

Something Savory to Save the World

Hmm… what do I want for lunch…?

Ten months—our little guy has hit double digits (well, technically in four days, but I’m writing this now so whatever for technicalities)! Somehow, by the grace of God we’ve kept him breathing. And now that he’s crawling around the house even more, he is that much more like a puppy making little yelps, trying to eat off the floor, and drooling everywhere. He drools. A lot. He leaves a trail of drool everywhere he goes like some kind of abnormally large slimy slug in diapers. He’s a regular old honky tonky wonky donkey jibber jabber jocky slobber wockey.

You know what gets me drooling? Dunkin’ Donuts snackin’ bacon. I wish I could meet the employee that pitched selling a bag of nothing but bacon to the executive team. He or she is a genius and one of my heroes. That is what it means to make a difference in the world, and I want their autograph. Because the egg, cheese, and bread are really just garnishments and excuses to have more bacon on something. A bag of bacon is simply cutting out the middleman. It’s the most prudent and economical thing to do.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to state that I have a fondness for and close relationship with bacon. I grew up with bacon, and bacon has always been there through the highs and lows of life. Bacon is my spirit animal.

Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I just imagine that I’m being swaddled within a luxurious bacon weave quilt, nestling between the folds of salty grease and squishy fat, reminiscent of a warm hug and smooch from my great-aunt Bertha. Like licorice meat candy, it takes me to the gentler times of childhood as nostalgia washes over me with its equally crunchy and chewy gristle texture.

Bacon reminds me that there is still beauty and goodness in the world despite all the craziness happening. Bacon transcends culture, borders, and politics. In fact, I’m pretty sure the reason our son drools so much is simply that he is salivating over the future day when he can finally enjoy the simple pleasures of eating sodium-cured strips of pork belly and fatty back cuts.

Soon, my son. Soon.

Words are Weird: Fruit

Can you find the hidden treat?

A frenzied reflection on particular English words with absolutely no regard for history, etymology, or context.

Some health-conscious people recommend eating fruit for dessert to satisfy one’s sweet tooth rather than cake or ice cream. Well, I have news for those people. Fruit is not dessert. And it doesn’t satisfy my voracious sweet tooth.

Sure, fruit can be sweet, and it’s certainly more nutritious than that Twinkie or McFlurry, but let’s not kid ourselves here: it’s not dessert. Being good for you almost defeats the purpose of dessert in my opinion. Dessert is meant to help teach us about the brevity of life—I’m just one fried Oreo away from a heart attack, and that’s what makes life worth living. Life, like dessert, is meant to be savored. I’m not discouraging you from eating fruit. You should do it. Because you know we do need fiber to get rid of all the crap in our lives, both literally and figuratively.

But some fruits are just plain weird. And our names for them are weird. Let’s consider a few select examples.

The new kid on the block says, “Hi, I’m Grapefruit.” Confounded, the kid down the street replies, “No, I’m Grape… and I’m a fruit.” Seriously, who is grapefruit trying to fool? You know it’s not a good sign if you have to put the word fruit in your name. It’s like your overcompensating: “No, seriously, I’m a fruit, I promise! I know I taste like a sour wet rag, but I’m actually really healthy for you. I probably cure cancer or something.” And grape? What part of that nuclear-powered, enlarged, abomination of a citrus fruit communicates grape? Again, this was just grapefruit trying to fool and mislead people into accidently eating it.

Does anyone even like Cantaloupe? It’s like the Smarties of fruit. I have no idea how they stay in business. You know how you know that a fruit is pretty much useless? When a restaurant offers you a complimentary side of fruit salad, and it’s basically 90% cantaloupe. Hey, I wanted mixed fruit; not a bowl of this queasy orange-colored packing foam. The actual fruit rind itself looks hideous. Makes me think of some kind of extra-terrestrial spider egg. Just the worst. Don’t even get me started on that name. It’s gibberish. Sounds like I’m getting a can of antelope meat.

But you know what? Who cares what I think? If you like grapefruit and cantaloupe, then good for you. Don’t let me judge your fruity pebble fancies. Some people even eat fruitcake as if that’s supposed to make any sense. Pretty sure there’s no fruit in there, and it just makes the cake less of a cake. It’s that whole trying-to-convince-people-that-fruit-is-a-dessert thing again. Make dessert great again. But you do you. Be the wild, terrifying frugivore you want to be. Life is short. Make the most of it.

Also, apparently strawberries (no straw?) aren’t really berries (at least in the botanical sense). But watermelons are. Also, also bananas and pineapples don’t grow on trees; they’re more of an herb or grass. And there’s definitely no apple to a pineapple. I should know because I once tried to go bobbing for pineapples… and I’ll just let your imagination fill in the rest of what happened.

Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day

Noodle Polish

We tried out a new Japanese restaurant this past week. Perhaps I should say faux American-Japanese because we all know it’s not really what they eat in Japan. In fact, one time when we had a foreign exchange student from Japan visiting he really wanted to go to an American-Japanese restaurant because he couldn’t get that kind of food back home. But that’s another story.

This story. This story is about the creative depths of a toddler that transcend all logic and known knowledge about the universe and reality.

As we finished our teriyaki chicken and soba noodles, our pint-sized person was displaying some particularly peculiar behavior. She selected a pristine and perfect noodle of choice, and she delicately dipped the noddle into teriyaki sauce. Then she methodically and artfully began to paint her nails with the gluten string and black goo. And I thought I had years before I had to worry about my rebellious teenage daughter with her black nail polish, gothic “nobody-understands-me” phase.

Yes, after completing her meal, our toddler had decided to treat herself to a little spa day right there in her highchair. I was equally bewildered by her creativity, mesmerized by her skill, and proud of her proclivity to repurpose and recycle. Reduce that carbon footprint y’all.

I was also curious as to whether we could start a business and market this new product. They make edible arrangements and even edible underwear. So why not edible nail polish? Especially for young kids—they always be chewing on their germ-infested fingers anyways.

So, as you get ready for the day, ready to face the world and its judgments, don’t be afraid to be yourself. Express yourself girlfriend! Boyfriends too! Let your imagination empower you to stand against challenges with courage and creativity. You do you because what the world needs is more people who are actual real people and not the fabricated façades that we manufacture in response to social media, pop culture, and peer pressure. In other words, don’t pretend to be Japanese chicken when you’re really from Salisbury, Maryland. Is the chicken local? How local? Can I get some basic background information and family history? Were they a graduate of Purdue Perdue U?

This world is but a canvas to our imagination. – Henry David Thoreau

The Most Important Meal?

Sometimes I think about food. Okay, so oftentimes I think about food. Anyways, sometimes I wonder to myself, “How did we get away with this? Fried dough for breakfast?” It’s called a doughnut, but I really don’t think there are any nuts in it. You might be nuts to think it’s a nutritious way to start your day. Come on, it’s basically dessert. I might as well eat ice cream. Sometimes I do.

But usually, I don’t eat breakfast at all. I know they say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But seriously, who is “they” anyway? I’ll tell you who: the sugar industry—BIG Sugar. I’m pretty much convinced that pastry and cereal companies invented breakfast. The cereal cartel. Oh yes, yes, breakfast is so important, that’s why we gorge ourselves on sweet glazed carb puffs and high fructose corn syrup flakes.

Breakfast is obviously important. That must be why I always want to take a nap after eating it. I thought it was supposed to give you energy, but it always feels like it required maximum effort just to consume it. Let’s just consider a few other “breakfast” items:

Biscuits and gravy. Let’s take this bleached, refined cinder block and pour the remnants of the grease trap on top. What in the world is gravy? Can we really consider this food? I imagine that gravy is the gelatinous innards of the Pillsbury Doughboy. Like if you stabbed the Doughboy in the gut, then gooey, gummy guts and viscous viscera would pour out. But hey, if you like a little extra jelly in your belly then that’s fine. Go for it.

Pancakes and waffles. More fried batter. At a carnival, they call it funnel cake. Maybe we just want to pretend that every day is our birthday. Deep down inside, we’re singing that comforting, nostalgic tune to ourselves, reassuring ourselves that “I deserve this. It was a long, tiresome night of sleeping.”

French toast. No, just no. Just because you dipped that Texas toast into an egg doesn’t mean that it’s now all sophisticated and healthy. That’s like dipping an apple into caramel or chocolate at the fair and pretending like it’s not basically candy now. Or putting a bowtie on a strip of bacon and calling it hors d’oeuvre. Also, French. That’s like taking a cowboy’s hat away and giving him a beret instead. Just wrong.

Other assorted pastries. Hey, you know what would be really great with all these carb cakes? What if we filled them with like 10,000 calories worth of jam, frosting, and custard? It all turns to cement in your stomach five minutes later.

The only thing that makes breakfast more indulgent is eating it in bed. That’s the American dream. Breakfast is so important for starting your day that you shouldn’t even get out of bed until you’ve eaten. Also, that way I just go ahead and take my post-breakfast nap with minimal exertion. Man, getting a good start to the day is hard work. But you know what “they” say: the early bird gets the worm. That’s disgusting. I don’t want a worm. Give me a dozen more doughnuts, hold the nuts.

So, however you choose to start your day, I do recommend taking some time to breathe and reflect. Meditate. Pray. Fill your mind and soul before you fill your gut. You may just find it to be the most important part of your day.

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve Gotta Foodie Feeling About This

We had some friends from out of town visit with us this past week, and it was awesome. It was awesome because our friends are awesome. But it was also awesome because when people visit it means that we eat out at all the best spots. Hi, my name if Finley, and I have a very intense, emotional relationship with food.

When friends and family are around, what do we do? We eat. And we usually eat way more than what’s normally socially acceptable. It’s like we’re making up for lost time or something. Most activities revolve around eating. As soon as people arrive, we start making plans for eating. If there’s a time we’re sitting around just doing nothing (probably, because we’re at the dining table having just finished eating) then someone usually recommends getting something to eat. And we always have to have dessert—even though we typically don’t have dessert—after every meal. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

Anyways, one evening we went out for dinner at a local favorite bar-b-que spot. The next morning, I woke up with a meat hangover. To counteract the effects, we then went to an artesian bakery for breakfast. You know, because breakfast is supposedly the most important meal of the day (according to breakfast cereal companies that advertise sugar-infused, syrup-coated wood chips for children).

Yes, breakfast is so important for eating all the right foods: like cake. That’s why we eat things like fried flat sweet dough (pancakes) and bald cupcakes pretending to be healthy by calling themselves muffins. And if you’re less pretentious, you just go ahead and eat birthday cake for breakfast because, yolo, right? (Actually, I believe Jim Gaffigan has a whole spiel on this if you want to look him up.)

After the pork belly bloat, then came the carb coma. All in all, it was a rather delightful time with our friends.

But after meals like these, things do tend to get a little fuzzy… like a self-administered anesthesia to help me sleep my troubles away.

However, I may not remember everything I ate this weekend because I passed out sometime between bread pudding and third dessert, but I do remember the way it made me feel. At first, euphoria and delight, followed by guilt and indigestion. I realize that after eating ten pounds of food, my body literally weighs more, but still, it feels like moving requires the effort of a competitive weightlifting event. It’s like my insides have turned into a waterbed filled with cement and cotton balls.

So, the point is: as in food, such is life. Remember that the way you live your life has a meaningful impact on others. So be kind. Do good. What’s the point in being mean, hateful, and angry? Life’s way too short for that nonsense. Treat others the way you want to be treated. I want to be treated to a tasty ice cream treat. Please buy me some ice cream. Let’s all just try to be decent human beings. Don’t be hideous.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

– Maya Angelou