As I sit writing this I am eating one of my most recently acquired indulgent food habits, a chocolate peanut butter sandwich. It’s a snack that I’ve made for several years now, and one that has evolved with my changing kitchens. When I lived alone in a city apartment with a very small kitchen, I would “toast” one slice of bread covered with a handful of chocolate chips in a frying pan on my mouse-ridden stove. The other slice would get a traditional toasting and slathered with peanut butter and then the two halves would unite to form the beauty that is a chocolate peanut butter sandwich. Now I live in a house with a toaster oven, so making peanut butter chocolate sandwiches is a little easier, although for some reason the indulgence is less exciting.
In childhood my pursuit of indulgences lead me to the creation of several different dishes. Throughout my life the pattern has been to develop a habit of eating a certain food or dish, which I then decide in my mind on a regular basis that I “need.” I remember clearly a recipe for Fried Cookies from the book, Kids Are Natural Cooks, written in 1974 by “the Parents’ Nursery School.” I guess I wasn’t allowed, or couldn’t be bothered to use the oven because I remember these cookies being what seemed like a very reasonable solution to my need for a sweet indulgence. They sound gross and, if memory serves me correctly, they are. At other points in my childhood and adolescence I made chocolate mousse, or something like it. As a high school student, with no time for preparing food, I ate Hostess Cupcakes after practice many afternoons. As a young adult living in cities I discovered bakeries that I could reliably pass on my way home from work from which I could purchase chocolate chip muffins.
I struggle with where this sense of entitlement, or need for indulgent foods comes from. Having a child of my own has opened my eyes to the extent to which our culture supports it. With all the indulgent foods I’ve become attached to in my life, each time there has been that decision, “I need something indulgent.” At this time of year the culture of Halloween tells us that we, or at least our children, are entitled to candy and other sugary treats. My husband and I have tried to shelter our toddler from unnecessary sugar, and yet we feel the pull of society tempting us to allow her to begin indulging. Clearly the psychology of eating indulgent foods is extremely complicated, but I assume my personal experience with habits of indulging is not totally unique. I love sweet foods and am in no way intending to give them up. Rather, when I make the decision that I need something sweet or otherwise indulgent I’d like to be aware of why and what it’s doing for me. Each time I eat a chocolate peanut butter sandwich I want the experience to be not just a habit, but exciting and fun.