It's my birthday tomorrow, and as birthdays do, it's gotten me to think about all the time that's gone by and how I have changed throughout the years. One topic that came up was food. Now, I'm married to a vegan – which isn't as awful as you'd think, provided said vegan knows how to cook really well, as my wife does – and although I still eat meat on occasion, she has influenced my diet somewhat. However, even without her influence, I can't imagine I'd be consuming any of the foodstuffs listed below, some of which I adored when I was a kid.
- Pickles. Aside from the odd cornichon, I've never liked pickled things. However, when I was young I would eat sliced dill pickles – only sliced; I avoided whole pickles and spears like the plague – in my sandwiches, chopped up in tuna fish, even straight out of the jar. I'd rather eat hair than pickles now. [2013 update: I am eating pickles again.]
- Bologna. I couldn't even wait to put those big pink slices of processed Oscar Meyer meat on a sandwich: I freely ate cold bologna right out of the package. These days, while I can still understand the allure of the mildly smoky taste, the meat itself – who knows what parts of the pig are used? – grosses me out.
- Uncooked hot dogs. Just like bologna, when I was in a snacky mood I'd open up the fridge and take out a nice cold hot dog. Bun and condiments not required. As an adult, I still love hot dogs – again, the ingredients in the meat are a bit sketchy, but those Smart Dogs (made of tofu) are so much like the real thing that I miss nothing. However, note that I only eat these faux wieners cooked.
- Round steak. Okay, I didn't like round steak. In fact, I loathed it. But it was the '70s, and moms frequently made meals out of it. This may sicken some, but I recall round steak being so rubbery that I would inadvertently wind up chewing it like gum. Not for pleasure, but because it was just too damn difficult to swallow.
- Sour cream and onion potato chips. I still worship the potato chip. That will never change. But as an adolescent, I'd eat so many Granny Goose brand sour cream and onion chips that I'd get sick. This happened one too many times and turned me off the flavor entirely. Something similar happened with barbecue potato chips.
- Slim Jims. In my early teens, I enjoyed many packaged meat snacks. I got a taste for them, strangely enough, while I was recovering from a bad concussion at 13. I'd lost my appetite for many days, and when I got it back I was craving lots of dry, salty snacks, including beef jerky and Slim Jims. Though I don't eat beef jerky today, I could if I wanted to. But Slim Jims? I remember squeezing them to watch the orange fat come out of the top. Revolting. I stopped eating them when I read what they were made out of: beef lips.
- Shake 'n' Bake. Do they still make Shake 'n' Bake? It was popular in the '70s; you'd put this seasoned breading mix in a plastic bag with a raw pork chop, then, well, shook it and baked it. What's weird is that I ate Shake 'n' Bake on its own, out of the box, with a moistened finger, like most kids did with powdered Kool Aid. Is anybody still reading? Have I repulsed you all?
- Fudge. I can point to one specific incident that made me stop eating fudge forever. It happened in early 1990 while I was on winter break from CalArts. I was up in San Jose hanging out with friends. I'd skipped dinner and was hungry, so my "dinner" that night consisted of two cans of Coke and a ton of homemade mint and butterscotch fudge, made by a friend's roommate. We then went to see Born on the Fourth of July where we sat in nearly the front row. I became horribly ill. As it turned out, I'd come down with the stomach flu that night. But I still associate fudge with nausea and won't go near it.
- Orange soda. Sunkist, Fanta, it doesn't matter; the sickly sweet orange soda of my youth was never a favorite, and today it completely repels me. I can't think of orange soda without envisioning a warm, flat, half-empty can of it sitting in the sand at the beach, with yellowjackets buzzing around the opening. In short, yuck. But mind you, I still enjoy a nice Orangina.