Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Genetics of Chocolate

My love affair with chocolate goes all the way back to the mid 70’s. My father likes to tell the story of how life was back in those old days. This is my dad talking:

“Well, back in those days we didn’t have much. I think I was earning twenty-five dollars a week working in the liquor department at the grocery store. After all the bills had been paid, all we’d have left is one or two bucks. I’d walk down to the corner Circle K and buy a candy bar for your mother and I to share. Not even our own candy bars, but one to share. I’d walk home with that candy bar and your mother and I would sit down to watch Johnny Carson. That was our nightly ritual, watching Johnny Carson. You’d have been in bed for hours by this time, and your mother and I would open that candy bar wrapper and before we had even eaten a piece we heard you from the back bedroom….. ‘I HEAR CHOCOLATE!’”

I know. There are many disturbing (and questionable) points in the story above. Like what was my dad doing working in a liquor department? Why wasn’t mom pulling her weight? Walking to Circle K and sharing a candy bar? How pathetic! I suppose he also walked uphill to the store both ways in the snow. And most importantly, why were they sneaking chocolate? Why weren’t they sharing their one weekly candy bar with their most beloved first daughter, who apparently led a deprived life?

Clearly there are no good answers here. But the part about my hearing chocolate really did happen. I knew early on that I’d have to fight tooth and nail to get my fair share of the dark deliciousness that my parents were intent on denying me. Like that healing mantra from Dr. Phil, “You can’t claim it, till you name it,” although I don’t think that outing my parent’s closet chocolate habit was what he was referring to.

But apparently I have passed this hyper-chocolate-awareness onto my children via genetics. Because my father also likes to tell this story:

“I remember when we were traveling through the Berkshires that time we came to visit you in Bellingham. I was driving your van and we had stopped at this little mountain store to gas up and stretch. Your kids were sound asleep in the back of the van, I’m talking they were out. So I bought a package of peanut M&M’s in the store, and even opened the bag in the store, so no kids would hear the ripping of paper. So I get back in the van and head out on the road, and I quietly palm your mother three M&M’s, I mean we hadn’t even eaten any yet, and from the back of the van your son says, ‘I think I smell something. Is someone eating chocolate?’ I couldn’t believe it! I swear, it was just like you when you were little!”

Can you see a pattern here? My father is once again trying to sneak delicious treats and not share with his grandchildren. Does chocolate taste that much better eaten on the sly? What’s the harm in setting aside three paltry rainbow colored M&M’s? Yes of course, my son has a super sensitive olfactory system. His hyper awareness obviously comes from me. I have chocolate-hearing like a bat, and my son can sniff out cocoa products like a blood hound. He’s lucky. It’s one of the better traits I passed on to him. He could have gotten my thighs.

Now my youngest daughter has started in on the sweets. She is now old enough to move chairs and she knows where we store the candy. On numerous occasions I have been downstairs only to hear what sounds like an elephant dragging a VW with snow tires across my kitchen floor. When I assess the situation, there is my two year old, standing on the counter unwrapping and shoveling in the candy as fast as her pudgy arms will allow.

Me: “What are you doing?”

Her: (mumbling with full mouth) “Nuffin.”

Me: “Are you eating candy?”

Her: Shakes her head no.

Me: “What’s in your mouth?”

Her: Clasps both hands over her mouth and shakes her head no.

Me: “Show me what’s in your mouth.”

Her: Opens her mouth and chocolate saliva comes pouring out. It’s rather gross and very un-chocolate like.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve repeated this scenario, in different rooms, with different chairs, and with different candy. She’s gotten to the point where she doesn’t even wait for me to ask her a question: when she sees me coming and she’s eating something she shouldn’t, her hands fly up to her mouth and stay there. Clearly I can’t see her mouth moving behind those hands. Her hands are hiding, hiding, hiding, that chewing motion. (Come to think of it, maybe my dad should have tried this tactic since his other ones didn’t work.)

Last week it seemed like every time I exhaled the girl was eating some kind of new treat found in some old drawer of her siblings. Out of frustration I started making her spit the candy into the trash—trying to instill some sort of follow through—as in, “I said no candy and I mean no candy so spit the candy out right now.” Mostly she complied. Probably because she knew where more candy was hidden.

Two days ago at approximately 9:00 a.m., while still in her pajamas, she comes flying into the kitchen holding a container of fruit flavored mints, runs over to the trash and starts spitting.

“Are you EATING CANDY AGAIN?” I ask, my voice slightly raised.

She shook her head no, and pointed to the trash.

I bent down, took the candy container out of her hand, and got in her little face and said, “Did you eat this candy?”

“No mama, I spit it in duh garbidge. Wook in my face.” And she grabbed my cheeks with her hands and pulled her open mouth to my eyeball so I could have a look.

Sho’ nuff, it was empty.

Apparently, the desire for chocolate (and candy) is a genetic trait passed down from generation to generation. My dad snuck it to me, excuse me, passed it to me, and I passed it to my kids. What? Do I ever sneak chocolate or eat candy without telling my kids? Hell yes I do. Those kids need more chocolate like a hole in the head. It’s just going to rot their teeth and turn their muscles to rubber. You have to learn the rules before you can break them, ladies and gentlemen. My kids are still in the learning phase and I’m in the breaking phase. I learned that from my father too, great man that he is.


Megan said...

Piper doesn't talk as you know and is extremely stubborn as you may not know and the other day, she threw the BIGGEST fit at the dinner table, refused to eat anything else and could only point and jibber jabber something, until finally, frustrated...I asked her to show me what she wanted and she walked me over to the pantry and pointed to the marshmallows. It isn't just your kids that have a sweet tooth. I think this goes back to the fact that mom and dad wouldn't let us eat sugary cereals.

Mary said...

Oh how the things that we hear and say come back to us so many years later....!

I might defend mom and I for seeking our little treasured moments together, cozing up to each other with Johnny Carson and our Heath bar or Peanut M & M's, but since you ahve been a parent now for many years, you can identify with our interest in not sharing. Since everything else we had was yours or for your use, it was a small, intimate, fun ritual that made both of us feel that we were special and that we "had it going"..... Even now, after almost 40 years of marriage, the early years when we had no money and rented a house, had 1 little girl- seem like some of the best years of our lives. Then we grew up, took more responsible jobs, had 2 more great daughters, and all of a sudden I am over 60, dealing with parents who have become my children to take care of (with the grateful help of Jeff and Dan)....

Thanks for the memories of you when you were 2-3 years old, and of my "Bug" when he was also very young....