About ten years ago, my new boss and older friend charged into my office with a look of confrontation. He slammed a small report on my desk. “Sign this!” It was an order, not a suggestion. I shrugged, nodded my head and began reading the document. “Don’t READ it! Just sign it!” I was a bit flummoxed. “Why not proof it?” His face was a little red and he was somewhat perturbed. A master poker player, it took years of study to gather a tell on his emotions, but I could. I pressed a bit. “Is there something wrong with it?” I turned it upside down and pretended to study it. I’d already seen a few typos and corrections that needed to be made. He looked at me in consternation. “I’m asking you to sign it, not read it. I’ve worked on that THING (He spat the word out like it made him sick) for days and I want it gone.”
I signed it. Nothing happened. The world didn’t end, we didn’t get sued, nobody bombed us again and all went back to normal. But that thing bugged the hell out of me.
I have a serious weakness. Despite all my worry over what to feed my family and what to eat myself in order to promote good health and a positive lifestyle as free from the system of doctors, pills, processed food, supplements, subsidies and everything else that compromises us on a daily basis, I like Skittles.
Especially the sour ones.
I like the rainbow. I can taste it. Sometimes, to my wife’s astonishment, I crave them. I consume them in secret. I hide them. Then I fret that they are there and wonder when I should eat them. A walking textbook example of an addiction. To a hard shell candy. I admit it.
Until today. My son and I were running errands, playing around in the yard and basically just enjoying this surprisingly beautiful November day. As was my custom, I picked up a box of Skittles.
I readied myself for the explosion of sourness on my taste buds. I may have been salivating a bit. I’m not sure. I did make sure that Nolan was asleep in his car seat and so would not witness his Dad succumbing to temptation like Samson with a stripper. I didn’t want to wake up bald, powerless, blind and chained to a post.
On a whim, I flipped the box over. I read the ingredients.
What the snowball? Each package says that there are 160 calories per serving. It is marked on the front of the box. That’s not bad, right? Not bad. I suppose, if you are ok with eating nine different food dyes, corn syrup, hydrogenated palm kernel oil (what the hell is that?), corn starch, tapioca dextrin, sodium citrates, wax and citric acid.
Let’s dig deeper. What is a serving? The back says that each serving is one-quarter of a cup and there are 2.5 servings per box. Some quick math gives me 400 calories per box Holy shit. That’s more than a hamburger. For fun, I measured the contents of the box. By volume, which is what the serving size implies in units, it’s volumetric. So, I poured them into the handy OBO measuring cup from http://www.doughmesstic.com. Susan is a great source for kitchen tools and samples to work with. She gave me this after a visit to my station in the kitchen where she discovered that I didn’t have a measuring cup.
This is where things started to get even weirder. Much like my old boss with his report, I was starting to wish I hadn’t read the damn ingredient list. Now I just wanted to throw it away. Yes, the picture is fuzzy, like those “Mysterious Mythical Creature” photographs. Why is Bessie always out of focus? By my measurement, and like Tony Stark, my math is always right, there was less than a half a cup in the whole box. There should have been 3/4 of a cup. Was there still 400 calories in the box?
Now, the challenge: What to do with it Some ideas bounced around in my head. Throwing it outside and measuring in years how long it would take to break down in a natural environment was one of them. But I was still hungry. So I melted them. I was expecting a sticky syrup, and my challenge was to make a sweet and sour chicken dish.
Melting didn’t take long at all. I added enough water to cover in the measuring cup, then placed it over low heat. In about 15 minutes, the strange chemical combination was actually boiling! That was disturbing, espcpecially given that it was over low heat. I pressed on in the name of science. I poured it back into the nifty measuring cup by OBO, which allows you to read measurements sideways (How cool is that!) and let it stand for two hours. It was still a liquid. I feel like Alice.
So, I placed the goo in the fridge and waited on it to cool. After an hour, it was still a liquid. I tasted it. it didn’t even coat the spoon and it did NOT taste like sour skittles. In any way. I tasted like cereal milk that didn’t have any milk. I most certainly did not want to feed this concoction to my family, and I no longer wanted to eat it myself. My strange addiction, gone.
I poured the thing down the drain for someone else to deal with. Much like my report that I signed so long ago. Sometimes, it’s best not to know. But, knowledge is power, right? Would the knowing affect the eater? Probably not.
I know this: I’ll never eating that shit again.
Next up Who knows? I promised a chicken stock post on Friday, and I shall deliver. Let’s see how my strange new world effects my story telling tomorrow.