I remember it well: Hopping once, then twice, stretching to reach the seat of my canary-yellow bike. I would pedal across the main highway through town and continue four blocks to the grocery store. Four long, windy blocks of complete independence. If I remembered my combination, (Once. It only happened once.) I would lock my bike after leaning it in front of their cart return.
Upon entering the store, I pushed the squeaky adults-only cart down every aisle; once, then twice. Every packaged item that wasn’t in our home cupboard was worthy of my attention: Hunt’s Snack Pack puddings, Korker’s Corn Twists, (crunchy, pre-Tostito snacking) and Mug-O-Lunch, the INSTANT “beef” noodle can- of- goodness; only ten minutes to boil the water, four minutes to cook and two seconds to sear the inside of your mouth. With a newly acquired paper route, I had at least fifty dollars each month burning a hole in my macramé purse and I wanted to try every single item.
By far the best test of my newfound monetary independence and expanding culinary pallete was the Food Stick. Described sumptuously as, a “non-frozen, balanced energy snack in rod form containing nutritionally balanced amounts of carbohydrate, fat and protein,” it was the equivalent of today’s fruit leather, if it came in rod-form without the fruit or any discernable taste. It tasted like…chewy. Astronauts ate them, we were told. Food Sticks came in three boxes: vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. While they were three distinctly different colors, they shared one taste.
Imagining myself someday eating them on the moon colony, I savored each one. No canned vegetables or boiled meat in the moon kitchen. If we played our cards right, we would probably evolve beyond real food altogether. Just food sticks and other tubed items.
If I was feeling saucy, I would take the long way home – six blocks; my leftover food sticks tucked away in my pockets. It was so much more than box of artificial ingredients. It was the first chewy taste of freedom.