Last month I got Baconated.
Six slices of bacon (count ’em!) wrapped their gooey tendrils around multiple beef patties smothered in 100 percent patriotic American cheese with nary a vegetable in sight, unless you count ketchup. This masterpiece disappeared into my mouth bite by glorious bite.
I had seen the ads: “You know you want it”; “It can smell your fear.” I liked the idea of a burger that could smell my fear, but not as much as I liked the taste of the Baconator. To someone who can name every item on Wendy’s Dollar Value Menu (try me), the Baconator is something like the Second Coming. While I was eating, one of the pieces of bacon fell out and, slippery as it was, my eager little fingers snatched it up and dangled it over my open mouth before ever so slowly …
“I just want to make sure you’re exercising.”
My mother had brought me to Wendy’s, paid for my Baconator, and then watched in horror as the fruit of her loins proceeded to commingle bacon and beef grease all over his hands and face. Halfway in, she started quizzing me on my dietary and exercise routines. Rather than engage her, I chose to punctuate each of her comments with a savory bite of fatstuffs.
“Why don’t you try swimming? Or I’ll buy you a bike! Could you just run in place for a few minutes every day?”
My last bite was so enthusiastic that a little droplet of grease arced through the air and plopped down on one of the mandarin orange wedges in her salad.
This conversation between my mother and me is not new, nor will it end anytime soon. All my life, she has advised me, and I have done the things that are ill-advised.
Once when I was a youngster, I ate a whole package of E.L. Fudge cookies in one sitting. I called them “Little Men Cookies” because they are shaped like the Keebler elves (Ernie, Elwood, Elmer and Fast Eddie), and I didn’t just eat them: I executed them. I held up each saccharine perpetrator and screamed at him, “Did you steal the fudge?”
The truth was always right in front of us. As judge, jury and executioner, I lectured him on his crime and why he had to die for it. Then I bit off his head, drowned him in my milk, or performed what I named the “death by bittles” where I nibbled away at his body with excruciating and delicious slowness. I supplied the appropriate whimpers, gurglings or tortured screams of pain for each method.
My mother ran in because she thought a home invader was murdering her children in her own kitchen. Instead, she found a stack of headless carcasses, swollen milky faces frozen in agony, and a fine dust of crumbly remains over an empty cookie package.
“The wages of sin are death, Mommy!” I howled: “There was a screaming and a gnashing of teeth!”
Next, my mother made the obvious mistake of buying me Ho Hos for dessert. “Damn that Ho was good!” “Mom, could you get me another Ho after dinner?” “Did you know that if you squeeze a Ho hard enough, white stuff comes out?”
But my mother is a shrewd woman and learned from her errors. For her coup de main, she found the one food I have never been able to sexualize or abuse: baby carrots.
They are pleasantly small, orange but not too orange, and disgustingly healthful. I tried to make jokes about eating babies, but the carrots just stared back at me, not amused but not wanting to be impolite, waiting demurely for the inevitable.
That battle was lost, but the war was not over. In the years since, I have done my best to continue the pursuit of gluttony. I ate things that I should have been paid to eat. I ate normal things in bizarrely large quantities. I scoffed at nutrition while my mother, family and friends did their best to thwart my plans.
That they have failed is, I think, not an altogether bad thing. Sometimes it’s important to eat something that is profane to multiple faiths and anyone with a sense of culinary decency. But it’s also important to listen to the people who tell you not to eat that Baconator. Without them, I would be 400 pounds and in jail.
The ones who care about you are the ones who cringe when you use a fry to mop up and ingest the grease left on your burger wrapper. Ignore them only occasionally.
Last semester while writing a final paper, I ate two packs of Double-Stuft Pink Filling Oreos. “The pink stuff! It’s like fuel!” I told my mother on the phone as I scrambled to connect late Eliot and early Brittany.
In response, my mother sent me a pack of Trail Mix with Bran so large it resembled a sack of lawn mulch not only in texture but also size. I extracted the M&Ms in it one by one, admiring the novelty of M&Ms covered in salt from the nuts, and threw the rest away.
Steven Kochevar may ask you if he can dip your toes in milk during intimate moments.