Friday, December 24, 2010

My Pop Tart Confession

Over the last several weeks, I've made several mentions of Pop Tarts on this blog, Twitter and Facebook. The pastry has been referred to enough times that you'd be led to believe that the frosting covered, fake fruit filled, diabetes inducing pastry snack often finds itself consumed by my always moving mouth. You may envision me constantly gorging on Pop Tarts in a palace completely constructed out of Pop Tarts, while being served Pop Tarts by butlers who are actually mutated Pop Tarts (who I gnaw on when they're distracted by the threatening toaster). You may believe that I live in Pop Tarts heaven, and when I am not writing, I allow the (claiming to be for) breakfast treats to march right into my mouth hole.

The truth is actually the exact opposite. My home is constructed of non Pop Tart ingredients like brick, plaster and woods (none of which have fruit filling). The closest thing I have to butlers are my pets, which actually take food away from me rather than serve it to me (I almost never gnaw on them). As for the gorging of Pop Tarts, I can't even remember the last time I've even had a nibble of a Pop Tart. It definitely was before I got married, and likely it was even a few years before that. My Pop Tart munching days are something from the past.

"But why?!?", I hear you shouting to the heavens. Why has it been so long since I've let that devilish, mass produced pastry access to my tongue and teeth. Part of it is due to the fact there is far too many foods above it on the eating priority list. The other reason, is something I will admit for the very first time. Fear. Yes, fear. I am afraid of the pastry known as the Pop Tart.

I recognize for the most part a Pop Tart is fairly harmless. It almost never pillages and ransacks a village, it never encourages your son to smoke dope, and you don't need to worry about it stealing your collectible Swatches. When compared to many other things in this world, it is a relatively harmless object. Normally, there is no reason to be afraid of a Pop Tart. But I am. Here is why.

My first Pop Tart experience was probably around the late 80s. It was likely after weeks of begging my mother to allow the entrance of those frosted, kind of like fruit filled wonders of humanity. At the time, you couldn't watch a cartoon that did not endorse the awesomeness and pure power of Pop Tarts. I constantly chanted the mantra of the Pop Tart, until my mother relented and allowed the pastry to take up residence in our home. I remember my first intimate experience with the Pop Tart, and how I gently warmed it up in the toaster. It rewarded me with pure, warm, strawberry jam like goodness. It was an explosion of sugary wonder that danced on my tongue, and filled my body with the joys that only a high sugar intake can induce. It was pure magic. It was magic that would constantly return to me over the 90s, as Pop Tarts were sporadically purchased over the decade. It transitioned from the naughty breakfast snack into the midnight watching wrestling snack. Over time I started realizing Pop Tarts were not their own food group, and so it was best to eat them in limited doses. But eat them, I still did (even if it was not a daily ritual of fake fruit mouth explosions). As the 2000s jumped into my life, so did things like post secondary education and rent. So, Pop Tarts started becoming a limited pleasure, and it became more of a long distance relationship. It was probably around 2005ish that I had my last play date with Pop Tarts. It has been over the proceeding years that I started to fear them.

But if I had such a passionate 90s love affair with them, why do I fear them now? What did they do that was so wrong? Well, this is an honest case of it not being them but me in this relationship break up. The best way to explain it is to recount two other previous food love affairs that I once had.

KFC. I never once mistook KFC chicken as fine dining or the epitome of chicken excellence. I did enjoy eating it at picnics or the few times my parents would order it for dinner. I knew the chicken itself wasn't all that spectacular, but the skin was where I believe the magic to exist. There was no other chicken that I remember that tasted quite like the deep fried goodness of KFC. I remember it being a magic journey of special herbs and spices. I remember biting in and being rewarded with a rush of oily but still delicious flavour attacks. My childhood and teen years weren't filled with a lot of KFC experiences, but it was enough that I grew attached with the unhealthy lure of the greasy and fried skin.

Then I moved to Cambridge, and KFC became my neighbour. I could look out my window and see the Colonel smiling back at me. I'd come home from class or work, and the apartment would be bathed in the smell of fried chicken. This was during the time that KFC offered up a 'Toonie Tuesday' deal, which meant for only two bucks I could get a few pieces of chicken and fries. I took advantage of that deal on a few occasions, and even though I am pretty sure that chicken was the pieces that lost the battle to get into the dinner buckets, it still provided the tasty grease explosions I was hankering for. Then I ended up working at the restaurant, which meant I brought home a lot of unsold pieces of chicken or employee discounted buckets. My roommates and I feasted on the oily carcass that was KFC chicken. Life was good, and maybe slightly artery clogging.

I eventually moved away from Cambridge and lived in a town that was rather far away from any KFC. I then ended up dating Emily, who was not one that embraced the idea of ravaging the pieces of KFC chicken on a regular basis. Actually, she usually made gagging noises when the restaurant was even mentioned. Needless to say, I went a while without any deep, fried, oily chicken skins.

It was my mother's family Christmas that I was confronted with the notorious KFC bucket again. Emily immediately read my attentions, and told me to shield myself from the alluring KFC bucket and the Colonel who was proudly plastered on it. She said there was much better food at the table, and the chicken was not only unhealthy but did not taste good. I knew the chicken was dry and sub par, but it was the skin that my stomach was yearning for. So, I did what every man does when advised about unhealthy food by his loved one, I verbally agreed with her and then proceeded to take two pieces. She proceeded to slap my hand, but I still got away with the chicken.

I was now ready for paradise. I was ready for the grease angels to sing glorious praises in my mouth, and was prepared for a taste party to commence. I bit in, and immediately felt the oil gush out. And it was gross. I didn't like it at all. 20 years of positive KFC memories quickly jumped down the proverbial toilet. Somehow, my years away from KFC and habit of eating actually good food, caused my taste buds to turn against the greasy skin of Colonel Sander's pride and joy. It was a disheartening experience. There was no dancing within my mouth, but the skin did vile full frontal assault on my taste buds. Not only did I want to gag, but my childhood and college years have been eternally stained by the trickery performed by KFC. I'll never get those years back.

In high school, there was a specific item that I ate lots of. I mean, LOTS. Pizza Pops. Oh, glorious and delicious, cheese burns the roof of your mouth, Pizza Pops. At first, it was a Saturday lunch, because at that stage in my life, my mom stopped making my lunches. It was an easy and quick thing to eat on the days I wasn't at school and needed to save valuable time for Sega Genesis playing. Then, it started becoming my after school ritual. The piping hot and almost scalding cheese would prance into my mouth and do unbelievable damage, but do it in such a way that I felt the world was truly a better place. The Pizza Pop experience was so delightful that for a minute I knew that cancer would be cured and flux capacitors would be created. It was beyond magic or spirituality. It was a Pizza Pop heaven. I fully embraced the taste journey it took me on. My stomach and taste buds would disco dance all day with joy after their encounter with the power of the Pizza Pop. Life could never be better than my intimate time with Pillsbury's answer to obesity.

Pizza Pops aren't cheap. It stopped being a staple when I entered into the empty wallet years of post secondary and rent paying. There was the occasional Pizza Pop affair, but they started becoming almost as rare as the white tiger. I still remembered the mouth glory that I experienced, but the actual taste experience was only a happy memory. And much like KFC, Pizza Pops weren't really on the "let us eat them until we explode" food list when I began my relationship with Emily. We never sat down over candle light and enjoyed us a romantic meal of Pizza Pops. I am not entirely sure if Emily has ever even ate Pizza Pops. So, my absence from Pizza Pops continued, but my feelings never wavered. I constantly dreamed about encountering them once again.

Last year, Pizza Pops were on sale at Shopper's Drug Mart. So, a fellow employee and I thought it was a genius idea to split a box for lunch one day. I remember preparing myself for the cheese burning heaven that I was about to enter. I thought about taking a bite and having the cheese and pepperoni rush into my mouth and cause the junk food gods rain blessings upon me. Those blessings were meant to be Pizza Pops.

Except that isn't what happened. It was overly doughy. The cheese tasted really fake. The pepperoni would have been far too small for pixies. It was not heaven. It was more like the Star War Prequels; it got me overly excited but ended up only burning me and eye ball punching my childhood. I could hear Emily's voice going on about how it was unhealthy and didn't taste very good. My spirits had been crushed again. Another fond memory turned into nothing but a cruel joke. I started really detesting my taste buds, which have clearly started getting sophisticated without my permission.

This is why I fear Pop Tarts. I don't want to go 0 for 3. I don't want another pleasant junk food memory to be shattered and then reanimated into a nightmare. I want to love Pop Tarts. I want to believe there was one overly expensive and unhealthy vice that actually tasted delicious. It is my last hope. And I don't want it to fail me. So, I've cowered away from it, and allowed my memories to fill that current craving.

But one day, I'll give it a shot. One day, I'll give it a chance to redeem my childhood junk food memories. Oh Pop Tarts, I have faith. You can remain triumphant, when the others have failed. But not today. I am just not ready for the psychological toll to be levied upon me, just yet.

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