Did you read that with Tom Hanks’s perfect, slow, southern drawl? Such a good actor!! Maybe you even prefaced it with “mama always said…”
It’s just such a classic line. We’ve all heard it. We all know it. I think most of us agree that it is true.
You never know what you’re gonna get.
This Christmas season, my office was spoiled rotten with chocolates. SPOILED, I tell you! Completely rotten. It was so delicious.
One of the boxes was particularly fascinating. It came from Vosges Haut-Chocolat (fancy pants chocolates!) and had some of the most unique (that’s the nice way of saying weird) truffle flavors I had ever encountered– things I never would have even dreamed up! But man, did they ever WORK.
I didn’t sample them all, of course. Some were simply too unique and I was too chicken to try it. And sometimes I just couldn’t justify taking another lactaid. (And I remembered right away how important it is to take a lactaid with chocolate. Lactase?! Lactase?! Why have you forsaken me?!)
(Are you Catholic?… Yes, I did just replace the phrase “My God” with “Lactase” in a classic Easter-time responsorial psalm… probably blasphemy. I’m kind of known for that around here.)
Sometimes I just remembered that the box wasn’t entirely for me and the respect I have for my colleagues (where respect = fear of judgement) prevented me from eating any more.
Regardless, those that I did try, even the really weird ones, were absolutely phenomenal. So amazing that I even emailed my Aunt Susan and Uncle Ed to apologize for my previously very cavalier attitude toward good chocolate. I had laughed at Ed’s use of the word divine, which sounds super serious with a Scottish accent, but now I get it. And I owed them an apology.
So if life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get…
I posit that PEOPLE are like this divine box of chocolates. Even the weird ones just seem to WORK. For someone, at least.
I did not expect to looooove a dark chocolate truffle sprinkled with paprika. But I did.
And there are a whole lot of people that I would consider dark chocolate truffles sprinkled with paprika or creamy plum-powder caramels covered in milk chocolate and sprinkled with pink Himalayan sea salt (oddly specific, right? so delicious though– who comes up with these things?!)… odd, intriguing, unique… amazing.
Of course, not every taste suits every palate, but when I saw all of those descriptions laid out before me on the fancy truffle map (I love those guides to the box!), I could certainly appreciate the uniqueness and interest of every last one.
It was easy to do when it was chocolate.
I want it to be easier to do with people, too.
Even a box of Russell Stover can taste amazing. A delicious molasses chew for me, a chocolate covered cherry for my Seth. A truffle for everyone and for everyone a truffle!!
I think the trick is appreciating it for what it is– a unique combination. Something different. Maybe it’s not your taste, but it’s still special and delicious to someone. I may not get why you love it, but that doesn’t make you love it any less.
And in the above paragraph, the “it” can be a chocolate or a person. Same, same.
My friend Jess once told me that my palate was likely to change as I got older. I wanted to believe her, but honestly didn’t… I’ve just had such strong aversions to certain textures and flavors and tastes and smells my whole life. I couldn’t imagine anything else.
Yet here I am today, eating zucchini and adding (pureed) onions to my soup. (Yes, I just pretend that I’m my own toddler and get myself to eat healthy things by hiding them. Works quite well, actually.) These aren’t just baby steps– these things are enormous for me!
The fancy truffles, and my attraction to all sorts of different folks, are my grown up palate. The one Jess promised me several years ago. The chocolate is delicious. And the people? All of their unique and unexpected qualities– absolutely the best!
Life… you know? Sometimes it can be so hard to write! Let’s be friends on Facebook, then you’ll know I’m still around. And we can virtually hang out– how fun! (Rachel Stankowski, search for me and I promise to accept you… except if you thank me for “excepting” you, I will probably unfriend you. Grammar.)
I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m “back,” but I am here today. So let’s talk about the letter N.
Since I told you before about my childhood obsession with frosting, it probably won’t surprise you that as an adult with a more refined palate (ha!), my attentions turned instead to Nutella.
Mmmmm… Nutella. It’s delicious on everything and anything, but most delicious on nothing but a spoon. (Or your finger, in a pinch. I’m not going to lie though, I’ll even lick it off the foil covering when I open up a new jar.)
And yet, Nutella does not feel quite the same way about me. In fact, it hates me.
The hate grew gradually, over time, but that whole “made with skim milk” claim right on the front of the jar has most certainly become a big warning label for me.
Made with milk = contains lactose. And I just can’t do it.
Back in my binge eating days (you know, like yesterday, except when those days also included lactose) Nutella was basically my go to substance for the drowning of feelings and rapid intake of calories.
While I was on Weight Watchers,* I even calculated that a full jar of Nutella constituted 24 points (FYI: that was on the “old” points system, so don’t go eating a jar of Nutella and recording it as such if you participate currently)… and I’d save up the extras and work out to “afford” to eat at least half a jar. Because what better to spend 12 points on?!
The extremes to which I would go. I wonder if I can help you to understand…
I would save up my WW points all week and on the day furthest from my weekly meeting, I would have everything all planned out. I’d bring a spoon to school with me, even if I didn’t need one, just so that I’d have it ready in my lunch bag. On the way home, I’d swing by the Safeway on Shady Grove Rd in Rockville and I’d park halfway between the Safeway and the Krispy Kreme because not a lot of other cars parked there. I’d run in, purchase my jar of Nutella and a couple other healthy cover foods, and then head back to the car where I would absolutely DIG IN. When I got back to the apartment, I would pull into a spot close to the grill area near the parking lot, where a cleverly placed garbage can allowed me to dispose of the evidence, and then I’d head up the four flights of stairs to my apartment– moaning and groaning all the way because, let me tell you, there’s just no eating a whole jar of Nutella (or even half!) without basically destroying your insides. Try it when you’re lactose-intolerant and it’s even more catastrophic.
And yet, I did it. Time after time after time. In company, I would eat the Nutella on animal crackers or some other suitable vehicle. But man, as soon as I was alone, or at least unobserved, I would eat it as though I hadn’t eaten in weeks and wouldn’t again for weeks more.
Binge trigger? Maybe. But as the title suggests, I prefer to think of Nutella as a nectar of Satan. Ridiculously tempting and easy to acquire, but just waiting to destroy me from the inside out.
Nutella’s not nearly as tempting to me today as it was before I used up all the lactase my body had to offer. (Lactase is the enzyme that breaks down the milk sugar lactose. Not making lactase is what makes a person intolerant to lactose. The more you know.) These days, lactaid (or as Target brand likes to call it: dairy digestive supplement) doesn’t even help much and I voluntarily avoid things like cheese, chocolate, and baked goods simply because I know what I’m in for if I eat them… and it’s not good.
They say an elephant never forgets. And for the most part, I believe that to be true. Things that have stung emotionally are basically impossible for me to forget. Things that sting physiologically, on the other hand? Those, I forget pretty readily. So I do it to myself again and again with, not so much the Nutella, but other tempting nectars that present themselves… things like alfredo sauce (seriously, lactaid does not work in that instance and I need to stop!), cheese curds (Wisconsiiiin!!! WHY?!?!?!), and hot chocolate (because it’s NOT just chocolate, sugar, and water, FYI).
Lactose isn’t the be all, end all though. I told you that my hands went totally crazy while I was in Arizona and that hadn’t happened since I had the piggy pigs (swine flu) and started getting rashes all the dang time while I was in grad school. At that time, I stopped eating gluten and that seemed to help quite a bit. But the doctor (MD, gastroenterology) told me the gluten thing was all in my head, so I ate it again. And then my hands… and my stomach… and whatever. I am a mess! But, I am also a doctor. Not a physician, but close enough right? And I know how I’m feeling better than anyone else.
Recently, another doctor of the same variety as me (i.e. PhD rather than MD, also her name is Rachel, too, except she’s French** (awesome!) so it’s pronounced Ruh-shell, you know, the pretty way) sent me an interesting article she saw in the Oprah magazine about dietary changes for intestinal disorders and the battle to get to a place that’s healthy, or at least pain- and bathroom emergency-free, in the absence of hard evidence and in the face of everyone in MD-style medicine calling you crazy. It was my story, exactly, except much worse. And it was so validating. Especially because Rachel sent it, and because Rachel likes Oprah’s magazine like I do, and I kind of worship Rachel as one of the most brilliant and thoughtful people I know… so….
So, at this point, I avoid lactose and gluten. When I do, my stomach is (relatively) calm and my hands remain human-sized. Perhaps this food avoidance is addressing something that is merely psychosomatic, but if that’s the case… it’s working!
And here’s some super good news: several varieties of store bought frosting are both lactose AND gluten free. Bring it on, Satan!
*I would like to be clear here that this was while I was on Weight Watchers the most recent time, back in 2010-2011, when I wanted to lose weight before getting married. At the time, I weighed approximately 165 lbs, which is, on my 5’10” – 5’11” frame, perfectly healthy and, dare I say, even somewhat THIN! And yet, Weight Watchers happily took my money and let me participate in full. I even lost some weight! Because anyone can lose weight if they restrict what they eat to a great enough extent and exercise (cardio plus weights!) for a mere 1 – 2 hours per day. Easy peasy, right? But let’s be honest here, WW doesn’t care, they’re getting paid, that’s good enough. And that’s why they let me join for the first time when I was still in elementary school. Nothing better for a little girl… who now eats Nutella by the jar. (Except not really because it’s chock-full of lactose and it would destroy me, but you get my point.)
**I’m sure you’re familiar with the bacteria E. coli, short for Escherichia coli, yes? Well, my friend Rachel (the French way) says it so ridiculously beautifully that because of that pronunciation and the movie Amelie (have you seen it?! SO good!) I would consider myself a Francophile. Science is just better with in French-accented English. It’s true. Also, one time, Rachel complimented my dexterity (with tiny little dishes full of Chlamydia— good reason to be careful!) and it made me feel so ridiculously happy that it’s one of those things that this elephant will never forget.