I live in Hong Kong now, but I came of age in ‘90s North America: land of the free… refills, super-sized fries, and microwaveable meals. My fast food-filled childhood really shaped my relationship with edible goods over the years. For the longest time, I thought I hated cheese — until I finally realized that Kraft Singles didn’t really count. We kids used to pop Gushers, cheese string, Fruit by the Foot and other high-fat-sugar-laden treats like cavities and diabetes didn’t exist. It was a glorious time.
I always assumed that I grew up relatively unscathed, but against the current backdrop of organic, gluten-free movements, sometimes I wonder if our parents’ generation didn’t fuck us up for life. Like, did anyone back in those days ever calculate how many chemicals and preservatives were in a Del Monte (Vitasoy for my HK-based brethren) juice box or Kool-Aid packet (think Rubena)? Or how much saturated fat went into a box of Pop Tarts or Pizza Pockets? Did anybody even care?
Re-evaluating my childhood through the lens of health-conscious 2015: it’s horrifying, the shit we were fed back then. I’m surprised I’ve turned out to be a functioning adult, to be honest. Today’s parents know all about the evils of processed goods and refined sugars. The more rigid amongst them only feed their children locally grown pesticide-free fruits and in-season veggies. As anal and joyless as that sounds, I’m probably going to be one of those parents, when the time comes. But it’s refreshing to see that society is finally collectively frowning upon frosted cereals as nutritionally balanced breakfasts, or instant noodles and TV dinners as acceptable meal options.
In the meantime, I have to admit I’m that aunty who loads her nieces, nephews and friends’ kids with Jelly Bellies and exotic Japanese pastries every chance I get. It’s messed up, but part of me wants to make sure these young’uns experience that immense, all-is-fine-with-the-world pleasure I myself felt when ripping into a cream-filled Twinkie, or the high I got off of the addictive fumes of grape-flavored bubble tape. Those memories stay with you forever — for better or worse.