In Everything Came in a Big Pot (link), I wrote about dinners at our crazy house while growing up on Prytania. At one point, I think 7 of us were teenagers, and boy, can teenagers ever eat!
When Kim was out of town not too long ago, I ordered a sixteen inch pizza the way I like it and decided to gorge/treat myself. My favorite way is the same way I’d order my hometown pizza, Milillo’s; sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms and extra cheese! I ate 3/4ths of it and could have kept going but felt I’d had enough debauchery for one night. I’ve always been able to eat a lot without gaining a lot of weight, (my wife just loves that, especially when she’s dieting). These days when I overeat, I go easier the next day and I also try to make sure that I’m keeping up with my aerobic exercises, (like my 14 mile bike rides).
For this week’s story, I thought I’d document my favorite teenager binge eating moments. Since I already mentioned Milillo’s pizza, maybe I should start there. Man, I just love that pizza.
Here’s the story sidebar this week. When I write these, I almost always remember something related to the topic, something I’d long forgotten about. Once when sitting inside Milillo’s, waiting for my pizza, I noticed that one of the employees at the register was ringing up zeroes anytime she took the money. I recognized most of the family members and knew this was not family – she was stealing from the old man. My self preservation took over I guess because my first thought was – what if this place goes out of business due to no profits, where do I get my pizza? I’d have to drive clear across town to Chester’s (another awesome hometown pizza joint). I had a rapport with the old man so I told him what I’d seen there the previous week. I told him I wasn’t accusing someone of stealing, but if he sees a lot of zeroes on his register slips when this person worked, he might want to check it out. He was very grateful to me, he looked concerned over this report, but he shook my hand and gave me a big thanks.
Anyway, back to pizza eating. One night at Kim’s house when we were dating, her dad joked about how much I could eat. He offered to pay for a whole sixteen inch Milillo’s pizza if I could eat the whole thing by myself. You’re on, Mel! Pizzas were ordered and Kim and I went to pick them up. Once we returned, the game was on. No one had to massage my belly or give me a pep talk – the pizza was conquered with plenty of room to spare for root beers to wash it down with! Everyone couldn’t believe it, (everyone except Kim that is).
That pizza was no match because, you see, I’ve had lots of practice. Heck, where I grew up, we played ball all day so a kid’s got to ingest a lot of calories to fuel all the running we did in the Prytania neighborhood. One of the favorite concoctions was Bologna salad. My mom introduced me to this and I wrote about binge eating this with my buddy Joe in this story (link). I still have an old school hand crank grinder that I will pop out of the cabinet once or twice per year just so I can make up a batch and relive old memories of sitting down and eating my through 5 or 6 sandwiches in one sitting.
My mom should have known what to expect with teens when I began asking for two dollars for lunch. One dollar would buy a hot plate lunch at school, but it just was not enough for me on most days so I’d ask for an extra buck and yes, I would load up my lunch tray with two lunches. I know this sounds gross to some of you, but I really grew to love those things our high school pitched up as hamburgers. They really were packed with soy, but I just loved those soy burgers. The other fake food our cafeteria served up was a dessert they called “brownies”. I’m positive those brownies had soy or some other cheap filler in them, but they too were delicious and if I wasn’t loading up on two lunches, I loaded up on those brownies. (There was no Napoleon Dynamite tot-stuffing into my pockets – the brownies were always devoured).
Speaking of those soy burgers, I have always loved the taste of mustard. Plus, I’m a ‘messy food’ guy, meaning I love my sauces and condiments. I quite often get the ‘how can you taste your food’ comment. I’ll tell you – I love the combinations of all the flavors in my mouth. So yes you steak lovers, I like my steak with Aunt Jane’s and A-1 Sauce (sorry to disappoint you). Someone at a lunch table one day sarcastically remarked, “like a little mustard with your soy burger?” To that, one of the kids that day, (I think it was a guy named Jimmy Hurst), replied – that’s nothing, he could eat a whole jar, couldn’t you Rob?
I said, yeah I guess. And at that, the game was on. Three or four boys at the table were like, no way, no one can eat a jar of mustard, they’d get sick. Jimmy was like, oh yeah? Let’s bet. And so, I was to win $10 if I could put away a cup of mustard. We didn’t have a jar, so the bet was against a milk carton being filled up with mustard and my eating it all. He went back to the lunch line and begged one of the kid workers to go fill up the milk carton with mustard and sure enough, he came back to the table with a full carton of mustard, one of those little half pint cartons,
And yes, spoonful by spoonful, much to the dismay of the table, I put that carton of mustard away and no, I did not get sick later – $10 went into my hands. Had those kids known that one of my quick go-to snacks at home was to heat up leftover sausage patties and then cover them in mustard, (sounds delicious, doesn’t it), they likely wouldn’t have bet on the wrong side that day. I will say though that my afternoon classes had after tastes of mustard burps and I overheard several kids saying how they had a craving for an A&W foot long with mustard, (ah, the power of subliminal messaging).
Another food I used to gorge myself on and still enjoy today is a whole can of Campbell’s Mushroom Soup. I like to crush up a whole bunch of saltine crackers in a big Jethro Bodine bowl and then pour the soup in over the crackers for an occasional lunch. These days I buy a small can of mushrooms and add it to the soup because the canned soup just does not have the mushroom content that it once had when I was a kid. (I mentioned this on Campbell’s Facebook page and they sent me some coupons….I guess this is their way of apologizing for the years of disappointment).
Even with my mustard eating coupe at lunchtime though, I still could not even attempt to claim the high school gross eating contest because that prize would belong to a red headed kid named Jerry Flick. A reported goof-off class clown like myself, I personally witnessed his swallowing a live goldfish in between classes, (for money of course). On another occasion, a large crowd was gathered around the glass doors outside the main office, in between classes. Two guys were shouting out to all the onlookers to throw their money forward as Jerry was going to attempt to swallow another goldfish. This one was at least three times the size of the one I’d seen him previously easily devour. It was perhaps the size of a small kid’s hand, (I’m glad no small kids were around that day). As the clock ticked off the seconds and it became aware that they’d gotten all the cash they were going to get, Jerry tried to get the fish down. I watched it go into his mouth, tail fin flapping outside of his lips, Jerry trying desperately to get him down. He gave it two attempts, but had to admit defeat – the fish was just too large to swallow. It was a good show though.
Binge eating like a hungry hog left alone in a corn storage bin did not end in high school. I already shared the story about feasting on delicious Dixie hamburgers while working at the foundry, but the coup de grace had to be my very first day of work at Taco Bell. After getting hired, I was told by Bob the Assistant Mgr that I could eat as much as I wanted, as often as I wanted.
Wh,wh,what?? Did you just say eat anytime and everything?
He did, he said eat all you can (stand).
I ate 6, (count ’em, 6), beef burritos my first day of work! I’m sorry, is this a place of business or teenager heaven? Is our goal to make money here or to feed the hungry?
Taco Bell was great! I’m sure they do things a little differently today, but back then we had free reign to make our own concoctions. My favorite was a beef burrito with lots of cheese, green sauce and black olives. Often I’d double tortilla it so I could load it up with more beef and cheese. Today I still have to get my fix every once in awhile. I make taco meat using one of the store bought taco seasoning packets and add Herdez green sauce with plenty of shredded sharp cheese. It’s pretty close to what I remember. Note that I don’t eat six of them though.
Today I don’t run and play as much as when I was a teenager so naturally I cannot eat like I used to unless I want to blow up like a balloon. I’d have to get a spokesman job for a submarine sandwich shop. I hate kiddie porn, so it just wouldn’t work. With that said though, I cannot keep ice cream in the house. No way – I go through one of those (fake) half gallons of ice cream in two nights. I might have to bike an extra 15 miles to work it off, but getting the ice cream down is no challenge, even today. By the way, what’s up with the fake half gallon, did they think we wouldn’t notice?
If I sat here and thought about it more, I’m certain I could come up with a few more gluttonous examples but I will leave you with this thought. The last bite is always the best, no matter what delicious food you’re eating, right? Who out there can give away their last bite and feel satisfied? Not me, the last bite is always best. This story is not my last bite – I plan to keep them coming as long as my memory holds out.