Why Candy Tastes Better When It’s Free (or Stolen From Your Kids)

NOTE: This is a reposting of a piece I wrote a few years ago. Consider it a public service announcement on how to steal candy from children…

There is only one thing that tastes better than free candy. And that is candy you steal from your children. Candy you take out of your child’s Halloween stash somehow tastes sweeter, lasts longer, and seems less caloric than candy begotten from other means. I rationalize stealing my kids candy in two ways:

1. I think of it as a luxury tax. I bought the costume. I took them around from house to house. And I will most certainly have to deal with the consequences of their massive bellyaches once they’ve snarfed down eleven pounds of candy in half an hour. The way I see it, I deserve a percentage of net sales.

2. I tell myself I’m doing it for them. No responsible parent would allow their children to eat triple their body weight in sugar, would they?. By dipping into their supply, I am actually protecting them. I am being a good parent. I am acting righteously. (Refer to earlier post on How to Feel Righteous Everyday: A Cheater’s Guide).

But beware: Once children reach the age of four (or possibly a precocious three) they will protect their candy with their lives. If you are going to be successful in your quest, you must have a game plan. You must shut out all thoughts of selflessness and altruism. You must come prepared for battle. Here are a few bits of advice to help you along the way:

  • When they dump their candy out on the floor to bask in its gluttonous glory, take note of any doubles and triples. Start with these items first. The earlier you can extract them, the better.
  • Never, ever make the mistake of asking or worse, saying something like, “Let’s see, what do we have here…” This causes instant foodstress in kids and puts them on the defensive. You want them unaware.
  • Tell them you have to check the candy for razor blades or other forms of tampering. The only way to know for sure is to test it out yourself. That’ll buy you at least a couple of pieces – but won’t work forever. Most kids I know would rather risk being poisoned than give away their Halloween candy.
  • You can always pull the classic, “Look over there! Is that The Great Pumpkin?” and while their sweet little heads are turned, you swipe a bag of M&Ms or a Payday (if you roll with peanuts).
  • Don’t be greedy. Never take the King Size Twix or the cute little homemade marshmallow pops the Martha-wanna-be down the street gave out. You’ll get busted for sure. Stick to the common stuff – your Hershey’s mini’s, your individually wrapped licorice, your Tootsie rolls, etc.
  • Obviously, when they are at school and/or asleep, you have free reign to pillage at will. But be aware that some children take inventory and will know when something goes missing. You will pay the price in shame if you get caught. And possibly in actual candy as well. I’ll admit I had to do some re-stocking during the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup binge of ’08.
  • Kids fear the unknown food. Play upon their natural pickiness. You can pull out the lesser-known Skor bar and say, “You don’t like this, do you?” and before they even know what hit them you’re enjoying that rich toffee goodness.

Best of luck in your efforts tonight… Happy hunting and Happy Halloween!

 

 

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Forbidden Fructose

When I was a kid, my mother didn’t keep junk food in the house. No chips, no cookies, and certainly no sugary cereal. She always had an abundance of fresh fruit, and two little dishes in the fridge– one with carrots and the other celery.  In sharp contrast, our neighbors had every Hostess, Entenmann’s, and Frito Lay product on the market. While my mom made sandwiches on scant Pepperidge Farm Very Thin bread, Mrs. Shapiro laid their PB&J’s betwixt slices of pillowy soft Wonder bread. Our house was the Realm of Righteousness and Fiber; and the Shapiro’s were the Sultans of Snacks -their pantry a golden palace of processed deliciousness.

Obviously, our houses represented two vastly different approaches to teaching kids about food. One in which parents pushed healthy choices and offered very limited access to junk food in a well-meaning, albeit tightly controlled, way. The other, in which parents took a more hands-off approach and allowed their kids to decide for themselves what they wanted eat. Nowadays, it seems most people I know favor option 1 – the approach my mother took – with the thought that if we teach our kids to love the taste of healthy food while they are young and impressionable, they won’t want or need to eat junk food as they grow up.

Right. Because as kids get older, they always do what their parents say.

Deciding which approach to take may have less to do with the actual food choices, and more with human nature. People love forbidden fruit. More than actual fruit in most cases. So once something is off-limits, it becomes all the more desirable. You’d better believe that every chance we got, my sister and I were knee-deep in the Shapiro’s white flour, store-bought, deep-fried, sugar-laden pantry. And the payoff was not only the junk food, but also the rush that came from doing something rebellious. (This is what passed for rebellion among the elementary school set in Highland Park, circa 1985.)

On the other hand, the Shapiro kids, who had constant access to whatever food a kid could want, didn’t really abuse the privilege. They didn’t binge. They didn’t sit with their face in the powdered donuts all day or suck down pixie sticks like addicts. They’d eat when they were hungry and then stop. And while they didn’t exactly rush to our house for after school snacks, they’d often accept (and even solicit) invitations to dinner for one of my mom’s well-balanced meals.

This begs the question: which approach is better? Do I think my mom’s strict policies encouraged me to have a lifelong love of healthy food choices? No, not exactly. Did Mrs. Shapiro’s lax attitude lead her children down a path of hedonistic gluttony? Not as far as I can tell. In the end, I think people develop their own relationship with food based on personal levels of appetite, vanity, priorities, self-image and, of course, metabolism. But those things (aside from metabolism) are undoubtedly influenced by what our parents modeled for us during our childhood. Notice I said influenced. And influence can work for or against.

Our country obviously has a very serious problem with obesity, often beginning in childhood, and I don’t mean to minimize the importance of giving kids access to wholesome foods. But there are plenty of parents I know who micromanage their healthy kids’ intake of carbs, sugars, and fats every day. I think that sort of behavior can lead to its own brand of extremism and resultant health problems.

As is the case in most things, moderation is probably the path to salvation. It may not be sexy, but it makes good sense. Even Cookie Monster is on board with it now. He teaches kids that cookies are a “sometimes food.” I like that terminology. Maybe if I had grown up thinking of candy, chips, and cookies as “sometimes foods” as opposed to “forbidden foods,” I wouldn’t feel like I was getting away with something every time I eat them now. Because, let me tell you, for a rule-following gal like me, that feeling is almost more delicious than the food itself.


Reduced Fat Pringles: We are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together.

I remember when we broke up

The first time

Saying this is it, I’ve had enough

‘Cause, like,

I bought you thinking that you’d last a month

Then I

Snarfed you

In one

Night.

(What?)

 

Then I heard you beckon from the store,

Baby,

I love you and I swear you’ll stay a four!

Trust me.

Remember how I ate you in a day?

I say,

I hate you

we break up,

Pms hits,

I love you.

 

Oooooooh-oooh-oooh-oooh-ooh

We called it off again last night

But oooooooh-oooh-oooh-oooh-ooh

This time I’m telling you, I’m telling you

We are never ever ever getting back together

We are never ever ever getting back together

You go straight to my hips,

Straight to my ass,

muffin top!

So we are never ever ever ever getting back together

Like, ever…



 

I’m really gonna miss your salty taste

And me,

gorging and then feeling so disgraced

And then,

You drop down to a dollar ninety-nine,

If I promise I’ll buy two cans at the same time.

 

Ooooooh-oooh-oooh-oooh-ooh

You called to me again tonight

But ooooooh-oooh-oooh-oooh-ooh

this time I’m telling you, I’m telling you

We are never ever ever getting back together

We are never ever ever getting back together

You make me feel so full,

I lose control,

I pig out!

So we are never ever ever ever getting back together

.

 

I used to think,

that we,

were forever ever

And I used to say

never say never

 

Huh, you sit in my pantry all crispy and delicious

And i’m like,

 i’m just,

I mean this is exhausting, you know?


 

Ooooooh-oooh-oooh-oooh-ooh

We called it off again last night

But ooooooh-oooh-oooh-oooh-ooh this time

I’m telling you, I’m telling you

We are never ever ever getting back together

We are never ever ever getting back together

You are not a real food

You are fake food

You just suck!

So we are never ever ever ever getting back together!


Top 10 Responses I’d Most Like to Give (but don’t) to the Question, “What’s for Dinner?”

The way I figure it, the 887 gajillion calories I took in on Thanksgiving have rendered the act of eating since that day-if not completely useless, then compulsory at best. I am fine with this. I have the memories of sweet potato pie and smoked turkey to keep me feeling satisfied and full. This is not the case for my children, who apparently practiced more moderation at the holiday table and still expect to be fed. Like every day. I’m not going to lie, it’s getting kind of old.

My kids, like many benevolent dictators the worldwide, love to ask the question, “What’s for dinner?” When they were younger, they used to ask me this as they sat down at the table. Fine. The answer was easy at that point. Then, as they got a little older the question popped up at about 4pm. Ok, that was reasonable. Dinner was in their very near future, and they wanted to prime their tummies.  But gradually they started asking earlier in the day – like noonish -which was a bit of problem because at noon, I’m thinking about lunch or still full from breakfast, and usually don’t have a clue about dinner yet.

My lack of dinner-planning-zeal apparently triggered some sort of food-stress in my children, especially my daughter, because now she asks me “What’s for dinner?” first thing in the morning. And sometimes, as I am putting her to bed the night before.

This raises my blood pressure. It brings out the sarcastic, un-Mommy-like side of me that usually only comes out on girls-nights or when someone over achieves via Pinterest. I’m not particularly proud of this, but there it is.

So each night as I tuck my kids into bed, a mere few hours after eating that evening’s dinner, and they ask me, “What’s for dinner tomorrow, Mommy?” I dream of saying something snarky. Or covering their sweet little mouths with duct tape. Most of the time, I don’t. But here are my Top 10 Responses I’d Most Like to Give to the Question, “What’s for Dinner?”

10. Haggis. Go look it up.

9. Why don’t you tell me?

8. Your face.

7. What? I can’t hear you. What? I can’t hear you. (Keep repeating.)

6. You’ll get nothing and like it.

5. Ask your father.

4. No habla ingles.

3. Who can think about dinner at a time like this?! (And run screaming from the room.)

2. That’s what she said.

And the #1 thing I’d like to say when my kids ask me, “What’s for dinner?”

1. Who are you and why do you keep calling me Mommy?

Anyone else have any good ones? I’m taking suggestions… (for comments, but I’ll take dinner ideas too.)


How ‘Bout Them Apples?

I thought I knew everything about my husband. Until today.

This morning while we sat at our island eating breakfast (kitchen, not tropical), my husband revealed something about himself that nothing in our 17-year history could have prepared me for. And he said it like it was no big deal, like I should have expected – even approved of – his commentary.

It turns out that I most certainly did not approve, and to put an exclamation point on it, I’m going to reveal his dirty little secret here. On the Internet. Where it will never go away. And because I think it will be most dramatic this way, I’m going to do it via a live-action dialogue sequence.

Brace yourself: The following material may be a bit shocking. Those with faint constitutions may want to close your browsers now…

Me: I took a chance and bought these new cherries at the store yesterday.

Husband: Oh yeah?

Me: Yeah. It was a bit of a risk because I’ve never had this kind before– but they were like $3 less per pound, so I decided to go for it.

Husband: That’s good. (pause) Why didn’t you try one first?

Me: Couldn’t. They were in a sealed bag.

Husband: Oh, I would have just opened the bag and taken one.

Me: What?

Husband: Yeah, totally. I do it all the time.

Me: You do?

Husband: Yeah. I’ve been burned too many times with bad fruit. I always test it first now. Trust me.

Me: Wait – what? You test fruit? In the grocery store?

Husband: Yeah. All the time. Like if I’m thinking about buying one of those big bags of apples, I’ll just open the bag and eat one. You know, to make sure they’re good.

Me: Wait… you’re telling me you open sealed bags of fruit and eat, like, an entire apple, orange, or nectarine – right there on the spot?

Husband: Yeah, all the time.

Me: That’s horrifying.

Husband: No it isn’t. It’s practical.  Fruit is expensive and I want to make sure it’s going to taste good before I buy it.

Me: That’s unsanitary. Plus, it’s kind of stealing.

Husband: No it isn’t.

Me: Yeah, it is.

Husband: No it isn’t. They know people do it. They expect it. Trust me. I do it all the time.

Me: But you’re eating something without paying for it.

Husband: Not really.

Me: Yes, really.

Husband: No, it’s fine. They expect people to do it. Trust me.

Tense silence while I try to integrate this new information.

Me: Ok. So forgetting about the stealing for a minute, your method doesn’t even make sense. Just because one apple in the bag doesn’t taste good, it doesn’t mean they all will be bad.

Husband: Yeah it does.

Me: No it doesn’t.

Husband: Yeah it does. Trust me.

Me: No – it so doesn’t. There’s a whole cliché based on how wrong that assumption is. You know, One bad apple…?

Husband: Yeah, that expression proves my point.: One bad apple spoils the bunch or bushel or whatever.

Me: Hm. Well… maybe that’s how the expression started, but I think the real point of it is what a shame it is for one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch. You shouldn’t throw away the whole bunch because of one bad apple.

Husband: Yeah you should. Trust me. I do it all the time.

So here’s the takeaway: My husband, who has bungee jumped off a cliff in Australia, raced cars on the Nuerburgring in Germany, skied double black diamonds, and married a temperamental Jewish girl from Chicago and brought her to live in a small town in Missouri, is apparently so risk-averse when it comes to fruit that he will break social conventions and basically steal from our local grocery store to avoid… what? A sour taste in his mouth? (This is the same man buys the $18 box of sour patch watermelons every time we go to the movies.)

I think what surprised me most about Jimmy’s feelings on fruit-buying, was his attitude of entitlement. Like he is owed a decent piece of fruit or something. Good or bad, it took the farmer every bit as long to grow the fruit, and the grocer just as much overhead to sell the fruit. Aside from bruises or obvious mold or something, you can’t tell how a piece of fruit is going to taste before you eat it. Therefore the only method of determining if the fruit is worthy of purchase, takes the option to buy it off the table. Because by then it is already in your stomach.

Call me I’m old-fashioned, but I think certain things in life come with inherent risk. Buying fruit is one of them. Marriage is another for that matter, along with putting your face under at a water park and eating sushi in the Midwest. You pays your money, you takes your chances. There are no guarantees in this life and if you want to be 100% sure your fruit is going to taste perfectly sweet, you’d better buy it out of a can and be prepared to eat all the sugar and preservatives they add to make it that way. Unlike my husband, I am not a risk-taker by nature, but I believe there are certain things in life worth the gamble. Appalling fruit-buying behavior aside, my husband was one of them. A good nectarine is another.

And you can trust me on that.

What do you think? Are you a fruit-tester?


Why Candy Tastes Better When It’s Free (or Stolen From Your Kids)

There is only one thing that tastes better than free candy. And that is free candy you steal from your children. Candy you take out of your child’s Halloween stash somehow tastes sweeter, lasts longer, and seems less caloric than candy begotten from other means. I rationalize stealing my kids candy in two ways:

1. I think of it as a luxury tax. I bought the costume. I took them around from house to house. And I will most certainly have to deal with the consequences of their massive bellyaches once they’ve snarfed down eleven pounds of candy in half an hour. The way I see it, I deserve a percentage of net sales.

2. I tell myself I’m doing it for them. No responsible parent would allow their children to eat triple their body weight in sugar, would they?. By dipping into their supply, I am actually protecting them. I am being a good parent. I am acting righteously. (Refer to earlier post on How to Feel Righteous Everyday: A Cheater’s Guide).

But beware: Once children reach the age of four (or possibly a precocious three) they will protect their candy with their lives. If you are going to be successful in your quest, you must have a game plan. You must shut out all thoughts of selflessness and altruism. You must come prepared for battle. Here are a few bits of advice to help you along the way:

  • When they dump their candy out on the floor to bask in its gluttonous glory, take note of any doubles and triples. Start with these items first. The earlier you can extract them, the better.
  • Never, ever make the mistake of asking or worse, saying something like, “Let’s see, what do we have here…” This causes instant foodstress in kids and puts them on the defensive. You want them unaware.
  • Tell them you have to check the candy for razor blades or other forms of tampering. The only way to know for sure is to test it out yourself. That’ll buy you at least a couple of pieces – but won’t work forever. Most kids I know would rather risk being poisoned than give away their Halloween candy.
  • You can always pull the classic, “Look over there! Is that The Great Pumpkin?” and while their sweet little heads are turned, you swipe a bag of M&Ms or a Payday (if you roll with peanuts).
  • Don’t be greedy. Never take the King Size Twix or the cute little homemade marshmallow pops the Martha-wanna-be down the street gave out. You’ll get busted for sure. Stick to the common stuff – your Hershey’s mini’s, your individually wrapped licorice, your Tootsie rolls, etc.
  • Obviously, when they are at school and/or asleep, you have free reign to pillage at will. But be aware that some children take inventory and will know when something goes missing. You will pay the price in shame if you get caught. And possibly in actual candy as well. I’ll admit I had to do some re-stocking during the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup binge of ’08.
  • Kids fear the unknown food. Play upon their natural pickiness. You can pull out the lesser-known Skor bar and say, “You don’t like this, do you?” and before they even know what hit them you’re enjoying that rich toffee goodness.

Best of luck in your efforts tonight… Happy hunting and Happy Halloween!

 

 


Why Coffee is the Vampire of Hot Drinks.

I have a bit of a love-hate thing going on with coffee. On an unrelated note, I also have a bit of a love-hate thing going on with vampires. But as nothing is completely unrelated when you are searching for a topic about which to write, I allowed these two seemingly random facts to commingle in my thoughts and came up with what I am certain is a fairly brilliant conclusion (or at least more brilliant than my alternative topic of: What I Ate For Lunch Today). And that conclusion is that coffee is the vampire of hot drinks.

To help you understand my shiny new hypothesis, let me first explain my feelings on both the subjects in question. My love-hate for coffee is fairly straight-forward: Love the smell, hate the taste. The only kind of coffee I can stomach is one to which obscene amounts of chocolate and/or milk & sugar have been added, giving it the taste of coffee ice cream. Which, incidentally, I think delivers much more accurately on the promises made by its smell.

As for my love-hate with vampires, well, on that score, I defer to the immortal words of Joan Jett: I hate myself for loving them. Disclaimer: As will become painfully obvious in the paragraphs to follow, almost everything I know about vampires I learned from reading Twilight and Charlaine Harris’s Sookie books.

Here is my rationale for why coffee and vampires are kindred spirits of the night.

Coffee and Vampires Both…

1.    Are Masters of Seduction.

Vampires take the form of ultra-beautiful, witty, sexy, and charming creatures- all to entice and draw their prey near. But they have nothing on coffee when it comes to seduction. The smell of freshly brewed coffee is intoxicating in its own right. It is at once strong and sweet, swarthy and verdant, rich and luscious.  Now, I hate the taste of coffee like poison, but that smell gets me every time. I always think that this time it’s gonna be different -better – this time the taste will match that heavenly smell. I pour myself a cup, like a moth to a flame, only to be bitten by the nasty dark liquid within. It’s a cruel, soul-sucking letdown. And who else delivers cruel, soul-sucking punishments? Yep. You guessed it. Vampires.

2.    Have Serious Bite.

I know that some of you reading this will disagree, but for me taking a sip of black coffee is like having my tongue scrapped with a metal instrument dipped in a combination of rubbing alcohol and pure vanilla extract. Bitter in the extreme. And while I can’t be 100% certain, I truly believe that being bitten by a vampire would be a more pleasant experience. At least Sookie seems to enjoy it.

3.    Have Celebrity Status.

Coffee and vampires have been around forever, but only relatively recently have both been elevated to legendary pop culture status. These days, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a designer coffee shop or a vampire book/movie/tv show/dvd/poster/t-shirt/anything-else-that-can-be-screen-printed-with-Robert-Pattinson’s-face-on-it.

4.    Seek Metamorphosis.

Both coffee and vampires strive to make converts out of their victims. Vampires feed off people’s life-force in order to add them to their blood-thirsty ranks. Coffee companies have a similar goal. Read the above sentence again, replacing ‘Vampires’ with ‘coffee companies,’ ‘life-force’ with ‘hard-earned money,’ and  ‘blood’ with ‘macchiato.’ I think you will see the undeniable symmetry.

5.    Keep You Up All Night.

Self-explanatory. (And don’t try to talk to me about decaf. I’m pretty sure “decaf” is a sham. I’ve always secretly believed that the word decaffeinated must be an anagram in some ancient language for “See you at 3am, sucker.”)

6.    Leave You Feeling Drained.

While I’ve never personally been sucked dry by an unholy creature of the night, I can only imagine the feeling is similar to what I feel like about two and a half hours post venti mocha latte: Drained, tired, irritable… and much to my dismay, hungry for more.