When I was very young, I had a strange and, in retrospect, potentially dangerous little habit. If I saw food on the ground – the sidewalk, for example – I had a tendency to pick it up and eat it. Most kids try eating dirt at least once. And then grass. They quickly learn that both taste pretty awful and move on to more appropriate foodstuffs.
I wasn’t like most kids.
I remember mixing dirt with water and noticing that it looked a lot like what Mom got when she made brownies or a chocolate cake. She always let me taste the batter and lick whatever was left on the beaters of the mixer once she had poured the mix into the pans.
I knew from experience that brownie and cake batter tasted delicious. Since dirt mixed with water looked similar, perhaps it tasted good, too. It didn’t. At all. It was nasty! I remember how incredibly disappointed and cheated I felt.
Grass didn’t taste very good, either. Then again, I was never much of a vegetable eater, so I felt less betrayed by that discovery.
What I did like, though, were cookies!
One day, I spotted an Oreo cookie lying on the sidewalk. The ants had gotten to it first. They had already established a trail between the cookie and their hole and were out in full force, streaming back and forth, slowly dismantling the cookie, crumb by tiny crumb.
I stared at that Oreo cookie and couldn’t stand the thought of it going to “waste.” Of course, it didn’t occur to me that it wasn’t being wasted, at all, since the ants were using it as a food source to feed their colony.
I wanted that cookie as a food source to feed my belly!
The ants had to go, as my impromptu snack did not include the extra protein. I crouched down low and blew off as many of them as I could. Then I picked up the cookie and turned it around, blowing off some more. I brushed off the dirt – as well as any remaining ants – with my finger, popped the Oreo cookie into my mouth and chewed.
Because of my prior gastronomic experiences, it wasn’t difficult to identify the two flavors that were battling for supremacy inside my mouth: Stale Oreo cookie and dirt.
The mixture was quite appalling, but evidently not appalling enough to cause me to spit it out. I continued to chew, and then I swallowed, giving it a taste rating of 1.5 on a 10-point scale.
It did not make me ill, and I ate my full portions for dinner that night. It was going to take more than some dirt and a few ants to keep me down!
If Mom only knew…