Easy Cheese

This post is probably going to subject me to more ridicule than yesterday’s cheesy Statesman letter (“photo gives us hope…”good gracious…) But I press on anyway.

I accidentally became a slacker mom Monday. I am in charge of snacks for Elizabeth’s preschool class this week, and when I got home yesterday from picking her up, the teacher had surreptitiously slid me a note among Eliza’s feather collages and finger paintings reminding me of my error.

This morning I practically careened to the grocery store to pick up finger foods and get them to her class even though she does not attend on Tuesdays. Back when I signed up for snack time, I had visions of cute hand-made food toys. Now I had to rush just to get something for the kiddos to shove down their gullets.

I remembered a few years ago making a candy train. The base was a pack of gum, the engine compartment involved two “Now and Later” candies, and a kiss made a smoke stack with the little paper curling up. The wheels were circles of peppermint.

I was not allowed to use sweets for the snack, so I dashed about the grocery store, trying to come up with the components of the choo choo without involving allergy foods like peanut butter and anything sugary. As I stocked up on blocks of cheese and pretzel sticks and wheel-shaped dried cherries, I wondered how I would hold the concoction together. The pretzel sticks might break the cheese apart, and I could not fall back on the mainstays of peanut butter or frosting as edible glue.

Then, beckoning at the end of the aisle, glittered the shiny white rows of Easy Cheese. I held up a can, compared artificial flavors. I avoided looking at sodium or fat. Or ingredients.

It’s sticky. It’s squeezable. It would work.

In middle school I had an addiction to Easy Cheese. Not so bad I would squirt it directly in my mouth, but I could pile it so high on a single cracker that the threat of it toppling was well assured. I didn’t have much access to it, as my parents wouldn’t buy it. But if I went to a party (I come from a long line of gatherings involving Ritz crackers and Easy Cheese) I never strayed far from the siren call of a long lovely flow of yellow cheese product.

My Easy Cheese obsession was abruptly halted at a party in my early 20s. Some friends hosted a Halloween gathering in their double-wide trailer and served, naturally, my favorite pressurized snack. I was sitting at the bar when a drunk guy grabbed the can, pushed the nozzle, and fed the family’s dog a hard dose of Easy Cheese. The dog licked the nozzle and whined for more. The man laughed and set the can back on the counter with the food.

My stomach heaved. I snagged the can along with the others and dumped them into the trash, washing the dog slobber off my hands afterward. I imagine dogs licking it, people licking it. I couldn’t take it anymore. Never again.

But today, it seemed the solution. I bought it, vowing NOT to eat the stuff, although the sweet little yellow top screamed, “Open me!”

I spent a good half hour working with pretzels and cheese and cherries to get it to work. I did not have to use the Easy Cheese. I could even, I thought, throw it out without breaking the seal.

But something was missing. Smoke. I imagined the little curl of yellow spreading upward from the cheese cube engine. I couldn’t resist. I popped the top and pressed my finger on the slender white nozzle. It sputtered at first, showering a splatter of yellow on the counter. Still strong, I wiped it with a sponge. I shaped a little twist of smoke, but it fell off the side. Without thinking, I cleared it off the train with my finger.

Oh, a finger full of Easy Cheese. What to do? I eyed the sink, the faucet could wash away my temptation.

But no girl with my history could resist for long. I licked the finger, the salty sharp cheese flavor flooding my senses. And I, sadly, was lost.

We’ll see if the can makes it to the end of the day. It’s hidden, but I know exactly where to find it.

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