Easter is nigh, and for hungry sacrileJews like me that can mean only one thing. THEY have arrived. They are the guerrilla warriors of spring, infiltrating our supermarkets and Easter baskets under cover of various Cadbury paraphernalia and that fake plastic shredded grass stuff, lying in wait for our late-night sweet teeth, ready to do battle against our pre-summer diets, but prepared to die honorably by explosion in a microwave. They are dangerous. They are devious. They are Peeps.
Okay, enough of that. Let me lay it down here. Whether or not Peeps are actually little squishy Rambos in pastels is a worthy question for debate — but a slightly more relevant question is, how can we even stand to eat them? I mean, I’m all for foods that are trippy, but shouldn’t a bunch of anthropomorphized marshmallows rolled in sugar be setting off some basic WTF reflexes? Our bodies can combat other foreign evils, like liquor and paint chips; you’d think they’d have the sense to distinguish between real food and tooth decay shaped like a bunny. How can we succumb to the Peepvasion year after year, knowing they will only make our eyeballs vibrate and turn our stomachs into big rock candy mountains?
My guess is that it all goes back to childhood, better known as that time in your life when you’ve got a cast-iron stomach, a metabolism that could power a Subaru and a wacko kiddie taste for some of the most revolting pseudo-foods on earth. Sometimes I really can’t believe what we put in our mouths at age 10, not just willingly but enthusiastically. Like Ring Pops, edible bling that both matched your outfit and made your teeth radioactive. Or Tang, which claimed to be “a kick in a glass” but was really more like a kick in the face, and probably caused a lot of ADHD misdiagnoses in its heyday. Or Spaghetti-O’s, which should have clued us in right away with their frightening slogan, “Uh-Oh, Spaghetti-O’s.” Now hold on one second. “Uh-oh” is appropriate for mistakes and unfortunate situations, e.g.: “Uh-oh, Timmy’s in the well and he can’t get out,” or “Uh-oh, I’m in Cuba and I can’t get out,” or “Uh-oh, I think we left our groceries/child/stash at the corner deli.” And of course, sometimes those mistakes and unfortunate situations are food-related (“Uh-oh, I just ate peanut butter/a fly/the car keys”). But if the “uh-oh” in question is “Uh-oh, the chemically manipulated pasta in this can is about to poison your kid,” the take-home message should probably be something like WARNING: DO NOT EAT.
Yet we did eat. We did more than eat: We actually enjoyed, and in the process trained our stomachs to brave some seriously freaky stuff. Presumably, these habits of (American) kidsumption have permanently affected our perspectives on taste, so that we can now shovel Peeps into our mouths without a peep of complaint.
This phenomenon is obviously bad news for our nutrition. In the end, though, I can propose no effective defense against the guerrilla Peeps. Pre-empting the Peepvasion would probably mean cutting off childhood access to the joys of the convenience store snack aisle — and while that might stave off obesity or diabetes, it would also preclude all the ho-hos of a Ho-Ho. Of course, it would be foolish to completely replace apples with Applejax — but as long as they eat their veggies and vitamins first, children should be able to unceremoniously enjoy whatever strikes their taste buds. The key is balance, not exclusion: If a happy childhood results in an adult weakness for Pixy Stix and Bagel Bites, then so be it.
And if you ever feel remorse about the nasty foods you grew up loving, stick a Peep in the microwave and take some sweet revenge. But beware: It has already called for backup.