Monday, August 20, 2012

When Did Salt and Vinegar Chips Become Delicious?

When I was a child I took a bite of a salt and vinegar potato chip. It was, quite simply, the most disgusting thing I've ever eaten. I couldn't understand why grown-ups liked these things, and I chalked it up to the fact that adults were weird and that any time one of them encouraged me to try something new, something they liked, then I was to run away as fast as I could.

After all, if there was one thing being a child taught me, it's that adults lie. A lot. You go to the dentist or doctor, and they tell you it won't hurt a bit. They drag you to the ballet and tell you it will be fun. And, of course, they tell you to try it, you might like it. As kids, we developed a very good sense of when adults are lying to them, and the more they wanted us to do something, the more we knew they were lying to us. Especially about the fact that salt and vinegar chips counted as potato chips.

Then we grow up and realize two things. One, lying to children is incredibly useful to get them to do something they won't want to do. And two, the foods you hated as a child aren't so terrible as an adult. Now you find that you like vegetables like Brussels sprouts. You realize that pizza doesn't just have to have lots of cheese and unhealthy meats. And, if you're like me, you wonder when they started making salt and vinegar chips delicious.

It really was a revelation when I tried a bag again as an adult. I'm not sure why I did it, because the memory of that disgusting chip never left me. Even the same salt and vinegar just brought to mind a mad scientist pouring green liquid into a vial with a cartoon skull and crossbones. For whatever reason, I decided to give it another shot And then I polished off the entire bag. How did that happen?

Yes, I am aware of what the science says. As we get older, our tastes literally change, and what was once disgusting becomes delicious. This could be to changes in the buds themselves or due to environmental factors. It can also be hormonal, as seen in pregnant women who suddenly have the weirdest cravings. This is a perfectly normal process, says science.

But there's more to it than that. As we get older, we start to see the world differently. Opinions we held so fervently aren't that important to us anymore. Black and white certainties are tinges with grey. We might have begun on one end of the ideological spectrum but now are on the other end.

This process can be scary when you realize that you don't see the world like you used to. South Park did a great episode on that very process, when Stan woke up one day and everything in his world looked like crap. (And since this is South Park, I'm being literal.) The things that used to bring you joy don't anymore. What you always said you'd never give up lie forgotten at the bottom of an ever-growing pile. You look at yourself one day and ask, "Who am I? Who is this person?"

Here's the good news, those of you who decided to finish reading this before tearing your clothes and wailing about how you're getting old. Just because some tastes do change doesn't mean you have to actively surrender yourself to the process. It doesn't mean that you are subject to the whims of biology, that you must give up everything you liked when you were younger for the sole reason that you are suddenly more mature.

What I realized was this. Yes, I now like salt and vinegar potato ships, but that's still a potato chip, meaning my love of junk food is still intact, just slightly modified. I still like the regular flavor that I ate handfuls of as a child., but now I can mix it up. Now I have even more flavors I can enjoy.

The same is true with everything else. I still love reading, just as much now as when I was younger, but now I have a wider appreciation of books and literature. That means more worlds are open to me, and it doesn't mean I have to give up reading the genres I loved back then. Same thing holds true for television. Again, some of the shows I loved back then still hold up (which is why I now have them on DVD) but that doesn't mean these new shows aren't just as compelling.

Just because certain aspects of myself are changing, it doesn't mean that everything has to change. These new tastes just add to my life's experience, and I can still remain true to myself while experiencing more of what this world has to offer. While my periphery is always in a constant state of change, my core remains strong. In the end, I'm still the same person I always was, I just have more options to express and enjoy myself.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a hankering for some chips.

 More of my Musings

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