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Acquiring Preferences

Once upon a time I ate a Yoplait yogurt every morning at work.

It was supposed to be good for me. My wife packed my lunch in those days, both to be economical and to provide healthy offerings. I worked at Onizuka AFB in Sunnyvale, CA, at the time. We didn't make much money and lunch offerings amounted to fast food, cafes and delis. I also often didn't have the time to go anywhere and eat. Our local all ranks club provided hot meals and sandwiches but I found the quality lacking.

She and I continued our routine after I retired and acquired civilian employment. She knows what I like and made a good sandwich, even when she didn't agree with my preferences. (Both mayo and mustard on a sandwich? And horseradish? Horseradish disgusts her.) Her name begins with a K so I called them K-wiches. She also makes a good k-sedilla.

One day, though, while eating my yogurt, I read the label and realized how much sugar was in my healthy offering. A change was required. 

I shifted to natural yogurt but I'd been weaned on sugar. That natural yogurt tasted horrific to me, no matter what fruits, spices and nuts I doctoring the flavors. 

Come forward to Passover Seder last Saturday night. Wine is being served. A friend, brought up on Manischewitz Wine in his household, brought a bottle of Manischewitz. 

I drank that when I was in my mid-teens. It was cheap and readily available, along with Mogan David (Mad Dog), Boones Farm, and Night Train, and beers like Pabst Blue Ribbon, Schlitz and Old Milwaukee. 

Other guests had brought wine, including a very nice Chilean Malbec with peppery hues. Yet, lured by youth's memories, I couldn't resist tasting the Manischewitz. First I smelled it.

It smelled sweet and grapey.

I tasted it. A shudder went through me.  Swwweeeeeeettt and grapey. 

Sadly I could drink it no more. 

Learning tastes will do that for you. Went through the same thing with beer. Living in Germany, I enjoyed some mighty fine beer. Then I visited America and my sister.  Twenty-five years ago, microbrews and ales were just beginning their incursion. Not many were around.

Sis was drinking something called IC Light, an Iron City Light. I remember Iron City. It was my grandfather's beer.

Maybe they'd changed it since Grandpa's day. It reminded me of the old Monty Python joke:

American beer is a lot like making love in a canoe. Fucking close to water.

I'd grown up drinking Rolling Rock and Miller, so I tried them. Lord, there wasn't any flavor. What was the point? I figured with that flavor, they could probably sell it in condensed package form, like Kool-Aid, and just add water. Hell, you don't even need water, just put a pinch between your gum and your cheek.

Don't get me started on Kool-Aid.

Wendy's and Taco Bell provide our town's fast food offerings. Remembering that I sometimes went to Taco Bell to eat years ago, my wife and I bought Taco Bell one night last month. 

We both had seven layer burritos and nachos supreme without meat. The flavors and textures appalled us. We used to eat this? Really? This was like eating almost tasteless flavored paste. 

It severely disappointed us and reminded me of my Wendy's lesson. One day last year, maybe two years ago, I passed the Wendy's and smelled the burgers. My stomach remembered that I used to eat there. I went in and ordered onion rings, a cheeseburger, and a vanilla shake (they don't call it a shake, but something else). I felt like a kid ordering that food.

I couldn't eat it. Most flavor in the onion rings and burger were salt and grease. The shake thing was creamy sugar. 

All this came back as I ate yogurt this morning.  It's a local organic yogurt and has no sugar. I add walnuts, blueberries, flax granola and cinnamon. My palate no longer noticed the missing sugar. In fact, it preferred it.

Still,sometimes when I'm in a store, I see the Yoplait. She smiles at me, a one time lover that has grown diffident, and then we turn away, each going in new directions.