It started when Caleb and I were just kids—boys, really. It was a rainy day; not being able to run around shoot imaginary enemies outside because of rain (or inside for the sake of parental sanity), and having burned straight through our allotted computer game time, we were bored. As everyone knows, in young males boredom often leads to hunger. So we started snacking. It was innocent enough to start with: cheddar cheese, carrots, and apples, but over the next couple years we sought out stronger and stronger flavors. We tried out smoked cheeses and cold, uncooked hotdogs straight from the fridge, then before we knew it we’ were eating tortilla chips with volcano grade salsa, and stolen ginger snaps.
I’ll never forget the day I realized how bad it had gotten: when I finally realized things had gone too far. I was sitting at the bar in the kitchen eating my way through a huge bag of Mission corn chips. I was eating them straight: no salsa, no queso, not even a glass of water. Just munch, munch, munch. One chip after another in an endless line of white that could never leave me satisfied for long. It wasn’t the log in my own eye that made me see the light, though. I saw that day what snacking had done to my friend, my brother. While I munched through the chips he rummaged through the kitchen looking for something better, harder. I saw his face light up when he found it.
“You want some spinach?” he asked me. He pulled a tin can of spinach from the cupboard. I didn’t even know you could get spinach in a can. It was strange enough that for once I wasn’t interested—in fact, I was slightly put off my munchies. It didn’t stop there, though. He grabbed a can opener and proceeded to dump the dark green slime into a bowl; it landed with a wet splat.
“You eat that?” I asked in disbelief.
He reached into another cabinet and pulled out a bottle of white vinegar and dumped a cup’s worth on top. He swilled it around in the bowl and stuck a fork in it. Looking up at me with a gleam in his eye, he told me, “It’s really good stuff man. You should try it! You’ll like it.”
I was disturbed by how the fervor in his eyes contrasted with the easy way in which he’d prepared the extreme and intensely flavored dish. I looked at the bowl in his hands and I knew I’d gone far enough: THAT was not for me. “No thanks, man. I’m good,” I said, not daring to meet his eyes again.
“Suit yourself,” he said in a flippant tone, and he took his bowl of acidic green goo into the dining room to enjoy it away from my obvious unease.
I set the bag of chips on the counter and wondered what had become of us. How had it come to this? If he so easily ate rotten spinach soaked in vinegar what was next? Where would it end?
I still don’t know.