THE TEN STRANGEST THINGS I USED TO EAT AS A KID

Food, to me, is one of the great pleasures in life. When I really like a food, MAN ON MAN, I like it. I savor, I swoon, I make every last morsel last the longest I can, which invariably leaves me the last at the table, flirting with a creamy Brie or juicy mango slice. So, since I'm a big fan of food, I do remember a lot about the things I liked especially when I was little and growing up in Wisconsin, and I thought I'd share (or confess) some of the weirder things I used to consume, with recipes if you'd like to indulge. Please to enjoy!



1. CANNIBAL SANDWICHES

You need: Cocktail rye bread, raw lean ground beef, sliced raw onion, salt, pepper

This was my favorite treat for years and years, and my dad's favorite. It is also fairly insane, as eating raw beef is a bad idea. Oh, but it was SO GOOD! The key, my mom said, was buying the best fresh custom-ground sirloin and consuming it immediately, and pouring on so much salt and pepper that your blood pressure would explode your vessels.

Do I still eat this?: No. I am not insane. But I sure do miss them.



2. MIRACLE WHIP SANDWICHES

You need: Two slices of Wonder Bread, Miracle Whip Salad Dressing

Slather on the Miracle Whip onto the squooshiest white bread you can find; consume. I liked these because they were fast.

Do I still eat this?: No. I now like fiber and flavor in my bread, and buy actual mayo.



3. "REESE'S CUP" SANDWICHES

You need: 2 slices Wonder Bread, Skippy Chunky peanut butter, Hershey's Chocolate Syrup

We never had candy around the house, so the day I improvised this calorie-fest to approximate a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup I figured I was a straight-up genius. The Hershey's gave it kind of a bitter, processed flavor, but WHO CARES? CANDY SANDWICH!

Do I still eat this?: No. I'd weigh 5000 pounds by now and would be forced to have a reality show.



4. CANNED MAC & CHEESE + COTTAGE CHEESE

You need: 1 can Franco-American Macaroni and Cheese, 1/2 cup cottage cheese

You're lucky I couldn't find a photo of this mixture, because it looks like puke. The choice of this particular canned mac n' cheese was crucial, with its pale yellow fat long noodles, which were unnaturally slippery, in a salty, weird cheesy sauce. The addition of the cottage cheese boosted the salty cheesiness to another level. This was comfort food for me, but it grosses absolutely everyone else out.

Do I still eat this?: About once a year. JUDGE ME, I DON'T CARE!



5. COLD SAUERKRAUT BOWL

You need: leftover cooked refrigerated sauerkraut with caraway seeds

If my mom had cooked pork roast or chops during the week, you can be sure she served sauerkraut with it, and if there were leftovers, they were MINE. This was one of my favorite Saturday day morning cartoon-watching snacks, complete with sauerkraut juice that I'd lap up from the bottom of the bowl. This also grossed out everyone, especially my friends who might be sleeping over. I did not care.

Do I still eat this?: I still love sauerkraut (and caraway seeds are VITAL), but the big cold bowl of it is beyond what I can process in my dotage.



6. FRIZZLEBURGERS

You need: 1 lb. hamburger, 1 medium onion, chopped, several dashes Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, hamburger buns or rye bread

This was my mom's recipe, and one of my dad's favorite lunches. You'd cook the hamburger down into well-done crumbles that resembled tiny carbon rocks, with translucent, extremely-caramelized onions, dashes of Lee & Perrins, and plenty of salt and pepper. Served loose on a bun or rye, it was tasty as heck, ya.

Do I still eat this?: Yes! And the kids love it, too.



7. BUTTER + PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICHES

You need: Wonder Bread, Skippy Chunky peanut butter, salted butter

In my house, all sandwiches came with butter. ALL. So I didn't realize this was kinda weird until I was an adult. But, I must say, the addition of the butter to the peanut butter highlights the salt and fat in a most-pleasing way,

Do I still eat this?: No, it seems indulgent. But I remember it with taste fondness.



8. MARASCHINO CHERRY JUICE 

You need: a jar of maraschino cherries

This got me in trouble a lot. We always had a jar of maraschino cherries in the fridge for my dad's cocktails, and we were verboten to eat them, which was awful because they were DELICIOUS. It was all I knew of cherries until I got to be around 10 and had a real cherry, which of course I thought was sour and hideous in comparison to this over-sweetened probably-toxic fruit thing. Anyway, I rationalized that, OK, if I couldn't eat the cherries, I could drink the juice from the jar, right?

Do I still eat this?: That would be really bizarre. No.



9. COLD HOT DOG SANDWICHES

You need: cold cooked hot dogs, sliced into bite-sized circles, butter, 2 slices Wonder Bread

This sandwich was like a more-satisfying version of the classic baloney-on-white sandwich. Yes, the hot dog circles would sometimes fall out of the sandwich as you tried to eat it, but it was a challenge I was up to.

Do I still eat this?: I haven't had one in decades, but would like to revisit it once.



10. ZOTZ

You need: Zotz candy

Zotz! I hope you have experienced Zotz in your lifetime, people. It was created in Italy in the late '60s, and remains my favorite candy because IT IS FUNNY. Food + humor = YES. You start out sucking on the fruity hard candy shell, right? Then you get bored and bite into it. THEN A GIANT SOUR FOAM IS RELEASED AND SLAMS YOUR MOUTH! HA HA! Oh, I love it so. I used to trade hoarded Halloween chocolate for these if my friends had some.

Do I still eat this?: In my 40s, I took the Zotz Challenge on a dare, and stuffed as many Zotz into my mouth as I could and then chewed. The resultant explosion blew out of my mouth while I laughed myself into tears. So, there's your answer.

This lady is trying just one Zot for the first time. HA HA! Strange for some people, is just strange.

JOHN LENNON, INSTANT KARMA, & ME

John Lennon would have been 75 years old today. As I get on further in years and have had the privilege to observe human beings up close and personal over many decades, I've come to the conclusion that our innate personalities remain fairly stable throughout our lives. Life throws crap at you, you change and grow, but you still are who you are. So taking that theory into account, I think John Lennon would have remained John Lennon, his essential qualities of intelligence, musical and artistic talent, and quick wit intact. His lesser qualities, of course, would have also remained. There's no excusing some of Lennon's past behaviors, particularly notable in his earlier years, and particularly cruel and heartless towards his first wife, Cynthia, and son Julian. If you have the ability to act in this manner, you will never lose it, but perhaps might gain the wisdom, compassion, and self-control to be able to mute it.

There have been some high-profile articles written this year detailing Lennon's personal failures and horrible behaviors, but any serious fan of Lennon and The Beatles knew it all already. It was clickbait for millennials who rather rake a famous dead man over the coals on the internet than look at change over time. For as many rotten things as Lennon may have done, we were able to see that he eventually became aware of the pain he had caused, and was determined to try to be a better human being. As it would be for anyone even without the extreme situation of being one of the world's most powerful people, the process was and would have continued to be challenging for him. When you are used to thinking and behaving in ways that you come to believe are unacceptable, you have to rewrite your internal playbook page by agonizing page. For Lennon, for all of us, the process of becoming a person of integrity and accountability takes a full lifetime.

Lennon was robbed of this opportunity at age 40, but I think we knew where he was going. I can't think of a more vocal male feminist in the early '70s, when rock gods were still using and abusing women as their natural right. His devotion to his young son Sean and renewal of his relationship with Julian was heartening. Lennon's true passion was activism for world peace, and perhaps it was in part a broad expression of his own internal struggle, looking for sanity, kindness, and reconciliation. He didn't offer any excuses for what he did in the past. He just started making the changes, fighting against some pretty solid demons, but trying anyway. This is what I want to remember about him -- that he became cognizant, and began the journey of becoming better. You are who you are, and part of John Lennon's character was his fierce will. I have no doubt at all that he would have kept at it, and on his 75th birthday would have had much to celebrate.

A few days ago, I decided I wanted to learn how to play Lennon's "Instant Karma" on the piano. I do not play the piano, but I too have some determination in my character. I sat down and figured out the chords, very slowly and with many frustrating mistakes. My left hand ached from trying to do the octave spread needed throughout the song, and had to bag it. I'd sit down for awhile, work on it, then walk away, so many other things to attend to. Two lines from the song kept running through my head on these days:
Why on earth are we here?
           Surely not to live in pain and fear 

Well, I guess I'd answer the question like this: we are here to understand, embrace, and then conquer pain and fear, and not let it take away any of our goodness, our happiness, or our abilities to contribute well to the world. Fly your freak flag proudly, be nice, work hard, and then work harder. Repeat as long as you can.

My highly inelegant hammering away at "Instant Karma" won't win any ribbons, but it made me feel happy, and glad that I had a chance to think about this extremely-relevant song today, and how much I love people for who they are, flaws included.

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Instant Karma's gonna get you, 
Gonna knock you right on the head, 
You better get yourself together, 
Pretty soon you're gonna be dead, 
What in the world you thinking of, 
Laughing in the face of love, 
What on earth you tryin' to do, 
It's up to you, yeah you. 

Instant Karma's gonna get you, 
Gonna look you right in the face, 
Better get yourself together darlin', 
Join the human race, 
How in the world you gonna see, 
Laughin' at fools like me, 
Who on earth d'you think you are, 
A super star, 
Well, right you are. 

Well we all shine on, 
Like the moon and the stars and the sun, 
Well we all shine on, 
Ev'ryone come on. 

Instant Karma's gonna get you, 
Gonna knock you off your feet, 
Better recognize your brothers, 
Ev'ryone you meet, 
Why in the world are we here, 
Surely not to live in pain and fear, 
Why on earth are you there, 
When you're ev'rywhere, 
Come and get your share. 

Well we all shine on, 
Like the moon and the stars and the sun, 
Yeah we all shine on, 
Come on and on and on on on, 
Yeah yeah, alright, uh huh, ah-. 

Well we all shine on, 
Like the moon and the stars and the sun, 
Yeah we all shine on, 
On and on and on on and on. 

Well we all shine on, 
Like the moon and the stars and the sun. 
Well we all shine on, 
Like the moon and the stars and the sun. 
Well we all shine on, 
Like the moon and the stars and the sun. 
Yeah we all shine on, 
Like the moon and the stars and the sun.