But then, it changed -- and food was most definitely NOT my friend. Being a pudgy kid, I resolved, as a teenager, to never have that problem, again. I’d sooner starve than gain back the weight I lost when I was fifteen -- over 40 pounds in six months, it was. I thought I was doing pretty great. Sure, I couldn’t focus, couldn’t shake the headaches, needed to sleep a lot. My stomach hurt, too. I filled myself with diet sodas (like my favorite, TAB), broths, tomato juices, sauerkraut juice, coffee and tea with skim milk and Sweet ‘n’ Low. I allowed myself 600 calories a day, if that, and no meat at all. This was my vegetarian period. Speaking of which, around this time, I stopped getting my period.
I’d go into Richer’s bakery at the Marathon Parkway service road to the Long Island Expressway with my dad on Sunday mornings, when he’d buy a box of bakery treats for mom, Carrie, and me, I came face to face with the enemy: velvety cheesecakes topped with strawberries, blueberries or cherries; sumptuous Charlotte Russe with the little turbaned tops, maraschino cherry-kissed; German chocolate, glazed bundt, banana-maple walnut cakes; inch-thick black and white butter cookie disks, five inches in diameter; pastel-iced petit-fours, seven-layer Viennese tortes ten inches high, twelve inches across. Displayed there also, in the bakery case, were blueberry muffins done to a moist, tawny, sugar-dusted magnificence, and one-serving strawberry shortcakes so compelling to the eye that the tastebuds of even the most devoted of aesthetes could but groan with desire.
My favorite treat, though, were the Richer’s bran muffins, baked with molasses and extra amounts of plump black raisins. They were square in shape, about three inches in diameter. I allowed myself this treat once a week -- and it substituted as a meal. These muffins could easily be cut into small, bite-sized pieces and slowly eaten, in solitude. I’d start by cutting the muffin in half. Then, I’d make three cuts across the top, and another three cuts the other way so that I’d wind up with 18 delicious little bites of the most decadent bran muffins, ever. Some Sundays, when I was really hungry, I’d make four intersecting cuts across the top, making me a total of 32 little bites.
Then I’d chew, slowly, washing it down with a large iced coffee with Cremora and Sweet ‘n’ Low. I’d read sections of The Sunday New York Times, in my basement room, secretly snacking on my prize -- that amazing molasses raisin bran muffin from Richer’s. I was leery of anybody watching me eat because I thought they were making fun of me, talking about me. . . eating seemed revolting to me while I actually did revel in the occasional guilty pleasure.
It was easy, weighing 85 pounds, having one’s “cake” and eating it, too. . . if only my damned head didn’t hurt so much!