Thoughts Akimbo

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Craving that little white jar of goo

There was one in every class. I think Ralphie Wiggins was the one in Bart Simpson’s class.

The kid who ate paste.

Maybe it was even YOU who succumbed to the creamy, minty gooiness of what we used to call “library paste.” The safe, break-proof jar had that neat little stick hanging down from the lid, the better to gob it out and onto any number of art projects.

This was before that cow, Elmer, invented the white glue that came in a bottle. Library paste didn’t really stick very well but, to some people, it smelled divine—and a few thought it tasted pretty great, too.

Why does everything smell so good to a kid? I used to enjoy cigar smoke and gasoline and skunk. Some people still wax poetic about mimeograph ink (If you’re under 40 you won’t recognize that reference).

And so many people think Play-Doh smells good, it’s being marketed as a cologne now. (Go to Demeterfragrance.com if you’ve gotta have some.)

Crayons, which many children want to eat – especially the red ones – are made of wax and beef tallow. So those actually are half food. That’s why dogs will eat crayons.

In dogs, this trait is known as “being a Labrador puppy.” But, in humans, doctors have a technical name for it: pica, a disorder that makes people want to eat nonfood things. How do I know this? I’m a pica survivor.

During my first pregnancy, I didn’t crave ice cream or anything nutritious. I wanted to eat Ivory Soap.

For nine months, it was all I could do to keep the bar out of my mouth. The obstetrician thought it might be caused by some mineral deficiency, and gave me more calcium. I promised not to eat the soap.

But I did carry Ivory Soap around in my pocket, for occasional booster-sniffs, right up until I went into labor. Then, after my son was born, I realized the craving had vanished, instantly and totally.

The bar of soap in my pocket made me feel a little silly at that point.

But according to family lore, that wasn’t my first pica experience. When I was 2, I surprised my mother by taking a refreshing swig out of a can of paint thinner.

Doctors said my life was saved by a protective layer of baby oil, which apparently I’d also been sipping. They found buttons and cigarette butts in my stomach, too.

It was like when they are dissecting a murderous alligator, except I don’t think they found any dog ID tags.

And now, looking back, I think my little omnivorous adventure happened because my parents had told me NOT to eat my library paste.

If you were the kid who ate paste, or wanted to, try this recipe. You can paste pretzels together with it, or just eat it “straight up.”

Bon (-ding material) appetit!

Edible School Paste

Makes about a cup of “paste.” Adapted from Kidnetic.com, a Web site produced by the International Food Information Council.

One 15-oz. can white cannellini beans

1 small clove garlic

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/4 tsp. salt

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup cold water

Drain and rinse beans. To blender, add beans, sliced garlic, oil, salt, lemon juice and water. Blend on low speed 15 seconds or until combined.

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