During my freshman year in high school, I had biology class first thing in the morning. By 8:00 a.m., we were discussing the mating habits of tse tse flies, inspecting pond scum, dissecting fetal pigs, and other bizarre activities that would have been difficult to stomach at any time of day, much less before my fried egg and toast had fully digested. Needless to say, I don’t remember a whole lot about biology due to the unreasonably early time slot it occupied and the fact that I was pretty grossed out for the duration.
Which is why I know so little about taste buds. The biology textbook probably included information about them, detailing their features and function. But apparently, I have retained zilch. And so I have no logical explanation as to why, as a little kid, I clamored for foods that today I would just rather not put in my mouth. Is it a case of childhood taste buds being underdeveloped until reaching their full maturation following adolescence? Or are they fully developed in childhood, and at a certain point begin to degenerate — leaving adults with absolutely no appetite for the delectable menu items to be found in school lunchboxes across the land? To which delectable menu items do I refer, you ask?
Wonder Bread. During my childhood, television commercials drilled into our heads Hostess’s slogan:”Wonder Bread — Builds Strong Bodies 12 Ways.” In every household I frequented, toast and sandwiches were made with these highly refined white slices. It was the staff of life. Nowadays, I will occasionally find myself in a situation where my options are either 1) to go hungry or 2) to eat something made with such bread. And every once in a while, I cave in and select option number two, which invariably refreshes my memory as to why I am convinced I will always be better off opting to go hungry, Good Housekeeping’s Seal of Approval notwithstanding. Oh wait — now I get it! It will make you Wonder where all the flavor and texture went!
Hostess Cupcakes and Twinkies. I didn’t get these treats very often, but when I did, Mom would cut them in half so everybody could have some. And, oh, how I loved, loved, loved scooping out their creamy filling with my finger. Once again, by late adolescence my passion for them had waned. It wasn’t until my children got old enough to beg for treats petulantly in the check-out aisle that these goodies reappeared on my radar. I must have caved in to the kids’ pressure at least once because I remember tasting them as an adult and being confounded as to what the big deal had been — all they seemed to offer was a weird texture and an unpleasant aftertaste. But the kids inhaled them.
Kool-Aid. This was a staple in our household. And, I might add, I drank it with gusto. Daily, throughout the summer months. Was its appeal the bright food coloring? Or the cool pitchers the Kool-Aid company marketed heavily, making me feel like we were missing out on all the fun because our family didn’t have one? By about age twelve or thirteen, I opted out of the Kool-Aid market, and can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve had any since then. Maybe I just became self-conscious about wearing the neon moustache it would invariably leave behind.
Necco Candy Wafers. These candies were especially coveted. One reason was because there were enough wafers in the package to last for several days, if one was careful. But the main reason I was crazy about them was because when you licked the powdery coating off they turned a much brighter shade of the individual color. That was so cool. (I admit I was very easily entertained.)
Several years ago, my sister and I were at a truck stop and spied the familiar waxed paper rolls of sweet deliciousness in the candy display. I kid you not, I was absolutely giddy at the prospect of having some beloved Necco’s once again, after all these years. A split second after handing my money to the cashier, that wrapper was off. We each got a wafer and licked it, then popped them in our mouths. And then simultaneously, our faces bore identical expressions that said, what on earth had we been thinking?!
I could go on, but then I’d violate the “…in Five” part of this blog’s commitment to keep things on the short and sweet side. (You caught that, right? …short and sweet …like Twinkies …or wafer candies …heh heh.) Meanwhile, you’ll find me searching for the answer to the riddle: have my taste buds evolved over the years or have they simply gone to pot and no longer appreciate the finer delicacies of childhood? Stay tuned.