This is a story about me lying to my father.
Well, more like hiding the truth. And wasting food.
You see, when I was but a smaller Ian Brooks, less muscular, more blonde, and slightly more likely to be wearing Superman underwear (only slightly, nowadays it’s more Batman), I used to get a packed lunch every day for school. I wasn’t rich like most kids in my upper-middle-class yuppie suburb, so I couldnt afford the school’s Pizza Fridays with chocolate milk. Which meant for several years I carried around the classic thermos/lunchbox combo made of indestructible space-age plastics. I ditched the thermos early when I discovered an enduring romance with various juices in small cardboard boxes, Squeeze-Its, and various juice-like liquids in stand-up pouches. My lunchbox was lavender-colored and depicted the Looney Toons, with Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote being my favorites because I felt a strange kinship to a protagonist who’s sole power was the ability to run away from all its problems. And I liked Wile E. Coyote because he got blowed up a lot.
Inside the Looney Toons-emblazoned lunchbox would usually be three items: a Nestle Crunch bar (which I no longer enjoy, though at the time they would press each one with a different NBA team logo and I was always hoping to get the Charlotte Hornets because I liked their mascot, but alas, the giant cartoony insect always eluded me), a pack of Handi-Snacks, and a peanut butter and honey sandwich, all plump and oozing down the sides.
I loved peanut butter and honey sandwiches. I loved them. It was my dad who put my lunch together every day and he didnt get up early to make a peanut butter and honey sandwich carefully sealed in a baggie out of some random caprice, he did it because I begged him for one every night. I was young and didnt realize at the time that peanut butter was basically a miracle food designed by the gods to go with virtually anything you ate, all I knew was that it was magical when combined with bee vomit. MAGIC. I’m talking sticky smooth delicious magic spells in my mouth. I loved it and devoured it every day for several years with delight and satisfaction that there was some good in the world, Mr. Frodo, and that it was worth fighting for. Peanut butter and honey was that to me.
But people change. I changed. After several years, I grew tired of the soggy bread that had been waiting to swim in my tummy for several hours until lunchtime each day. Eventually I would open up my Looney Toons lunchbox and dread the sight of the crystallized honey, instead reaching for my chocolate Crunch bar to see which NBA team greeted me that day (the San Antonio Spurs AGAIN? Fucking ceee-rist, Nestle, NOBODY CARES). The problem was, I never told my dad I stopped eating them. For some reason, I had the vision of my perfect father figure toiling away each morning, groggy but happy in that fact that he could supply for his firstborn son the sustenance he requested. As a child, I honestly thought that maybe these peanut butter and honey sandwiches were a source of pride for him, that he stood back and admired each one before wrapping it up, noting the precise diagonal cuts, the lack of spillage on all sides, the mathematically immaculate peanut butter to honey ratio. With amazing past-vision, I can see now that he probably would have been happier to sleep in the extra ten minutes each morning, but it was several months of nauseously looking at that soiled sandwich at lunch each day and then noticing everybody around me enjoying their Pizza Friday. Could I be a kid who had pizza for lunch, I’d ask myself, and the Universe? Could I be one of the Chosen Few who was allowed to imbibe chocolate milk from the miniature cartons? I saw all these things around me and grew covetous. My Looney Toons lunchbox and sad, unwanted sandwich soon became a grim reminder of my station in life. We werent as singularly wealthy as the other families in town, and so little Ian Brooks could not have pizza and chocolate milk for lunch.
So I started begging my parents for $5 each day so I could buy my lunch. I didnt think about peanut butter and honey sandwiches for a very long time, though I had that vague sensation in the back of my heart that I had somehow let my father down by refusing his kind gesture of mashed peanut paste. Many years passed in this way, and I ate a varied many thing during my lunch hours at school. That at one time winning combination of savory delights did not once enter my tummy in all that time, and I never looked back.
Then, a few years ago, I had a craving.
I had been working as the Manager of a small office supply store, when they abruptly ceased all operations one night while I was at a KMFDM concert, and I awoke the next morning unemployed. After a short three-week stint working as seasonal help for UPS during Christmas, I applied for Unemployment pay and seeing as how I had been receiving a fairly substantial salary as Manager, I was allocated the top tier of free government money, which covered every single one of my bills and basically not a penny more. So I spent a year unemployed in my apartment, all my major expenses paid and none to go out and do anything fun or you know, enjoy life. It was a fairly surreal time of my life, but during this time I was forced to look for less expensive dining options. I dont know if it was a connection to that poorer time in my life, but there it was in my head one night, a perfect vision of a dancing peanut butter and honey sandwich, enticing me with its gooey perspirations. I had to have one. I went out and bought the materials. And I had one. It was glorious. It was the taste of childhood. All those years of neglecting my one true love, what had I been thinking? I had thought there might be something better for me out in that big, wide world of lunches and I had come back broken and defeated.
But peanut butter and honey had always been there, waiting for me. It knew I would come back. And because it gave me my space and the chance to explore other lunches, it made our bond all the stronger. I continue to make them pretty regularly to this very day.
I still haven’t told my dad the truth though.