Sunday, March 04, 2007

Eating. Pirate's booty. (and other snacks).

When I was a kid lunch meant tuna-fish or turkey sandwiches on whole-wheat bread, maybe with sprouts if I remembered to toss them in the cart at the supermarket. If I were lucky, my mother would have bought a flat of mixed snacks from Costco - a sort of variety pack of potato chips, Doritos (original flavor and Cool Ranch), Fritos, or Cheetos. Now too many years have passed and I cannot remember which was my favorite (probably the Cool Ranch Doritos, which I have not eaten since those schoolyard days), but I remember the thrill of tearing open the slippery plastic pouch, hear it give that little exhale of air as it came open along the crimped seam, diving into the salty crunchiness of its contents, eating the intact chips at the top of the pile, pouring the last crumbs straight into my open, waiting mouth.

Later I bought my lunch at the school cafeteria and I would snag a bag of Sun Chips from the wire rack next to the cash register, those square, ruffled chips that had the color and texture of shredded wheat. They were supposed to be healthier than potato or corn chips, and I ate them as I drank lemon-lime Shasta, in defiance of the parental embargo on soda at home. (In an attempt to ease my conscience, I would buy an apple or a navel orange, or perhaps a banana, as well). Or perhaps I would buy a bag of pretzels, which I never would have at home.

Now I sometimes bring sandwiches to work for lunch, only now they are made with crusty artisanal loaves from Le Panier or Macrina or the Columbia City Bakery; I buy smoked turkey or ham from the deli counter at Whole Foods, or I make egg salad with a little fresh dill. I buy those Kettle chips that emerge wrinkly and irregularly shaped from the bag, unlike the Lay's chips of my childhood, and I pack them in plastic boxes so they don't get crushed. I am always looking for a new snack to pack along with my sandwich and yogurt and fruit, and then I spy a towering display of Pirate's Booty.

Any blog written by the parent of a small child (usually toddler-size) involves at least one story regarding the aforementioned child and a constant supply of Pirate's Booty, which often finds itself packed into every crevice of the family car. Bonus points given if there is also a dog, which, as the parent notes, is an excellent cleaner-upper of any spilled Pirate's Booty. But I had never tried it, even though they have it at Jamba Juice. I didn't know what it was, but there it was, at Whole Foods, enticingly arranged so as to catch my eye, and on sale, to boot, so I threw a bag into my cart. At the register, a small boy (two or three, I would guess) noticed the bag on top of the pile of groceries and said in a loud voice (surprising in one so small, or perhaps not, since the smaller the child, the louder the voice), "LOOK! Daddy! She has PIRATE'S BOOTY!" I am pretty sure I giggled all the way to the car.

Not having a child or a dog to clean up the mess, I manage not to open the Pirate's Booty in the car. But when I arrive home, I dive into the crunch of corn-and-rice puffs that taste of cheese. I am reminded a little of the Cheetos of my childhood, those crunchy squiggles covered in orange powder that sticks to everything it touches. It is a little like falling into the past, without the orange powder, a feeling both strange and wonderful at once. But I think I will wait until I have a small person in my cart yelling "MORE BOOTY!!!!" before I buy it again.

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