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Early Life: The Consequences
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When too sick to read, one is thrown upon the final, most basic resource of all--ideas and memories.

When this happens around the time most people are making resolutions, one of the most common being to lose weight, thoughts and memories turn to early experiences with food.

I grew up poor. Not poor culturally, or in the life of the mind, but financially. For many years we subsisted on ADC (created in the 30's, before the food stamp program which started in the 60's), as my mother was too sick to work and my father refused to pay the child support ordered by the court.

As a consequence, the food we bought was (especially by today's standards) terrible. My mother and I went to the grocery story once a month when the check from the state came in and bought food. We couldn't afford the gas to shop every week, nor could we afford the high cost of fresh nutritious food.

When living on subsistence, once a month, fresh food is not an option. Nothing can go bad; nothing is wasted. We bought powdered milk, sweetened condensed milk, white bread, oh, I'm embarrassed to go on. Canned vegetables, canned fruit, frozen pot pies, macaroni and cheese from a box, potato chips, etc. This is the reason so many poor people are obese.

Mayonnaise or sweetened condensed milk on white bread....

Food was bought according to how long it would last--preferably all month or longer--and how cheap it was. Highly processed, high in fat and salt and sugar. I developed a taste for it and when I looked at a fresh green been I was revolted. It wasn't soggy and salty.

It's taken decades to re-train my taste so that now I prefer my foods au naturel. I'm no longer subject to my early food conditioning until holiday parties bring me face-to-face with my old nemesis: junk food.

I'm not sure one ever completely masters one's early tastes. I know that I have to be mindful whenever I eat out or go to a party that I am not seduced once more by a chip and dip platter.

What we eat meets one of the most primal instincts. Hard to make a resolution, harder still to keep it, when it butts heads against early basic conditioning.

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