By Shaindle Schmuckler / firstname.lastname@example.org
Cherries are fattening, as are bananas, grapes and pears. Pure sugar!
This hypothesis, although not scientific, was a mantra in a home with parents who believe we should be thin — not skinny, but not fat. Definitely not so thin people might think we are sick, G-d forbid.
Thin people are taller (my daughter No. 3 believed this; perhaps she still does). Thin people are smarter, more likable. Thin people look better in clothes. Fat is lazy. Feh, ah gruhber maidel (Poo, a fat girl)! Said with great disdain in describing some young lady.
I was a skinny little kid. I did not eat much. I just was not interested in food. I can’t even imagine not being interested in food. If I were to have a conversation with my younger self, I would have to say, “Wake up, young Shaindle, and smell the coffee, the kugel, a fresh bagel, the chocolate.”
By the time I was 5 or 6, my mom thought, “Enough already. We are going to a doctor.” Skin and bones, that’s what I was.
My dad, on the other hand, trotted me around like a charm on a bracelet. (No, he did not actually wear a charm bracelet.) He insisted that everywhere he took me, people said, “Hymie, you have such a beautiful little girl.” He would kvell (be proud) each time. He insisted he had to hold my hand extra-tight, for fear someone would steal me away (such was my beauty).
I don’t remember the visit to the doctor, whose office was off the Grand Concourse, but he definitely sided with my mom. Smart doctors know better than to disagree with a mommy when it comes to her babies.
I was in for a huge surprise. I was going to have my tonsils taken out. This seemed to be a popular method of getting children to eat; after all, who needs tonsils?
I had no clue what tonsils were; however, I feel certain I was happy to hear this diagnosis, given I was guaranteed as much ice cream as I wanted after the tonsils were removed. I have a memory moment of sitting on the bottom of a bunk-style bed and being given chocolate ice cream, which I ate so slowly that it dripped on the white gown in which I was draped.
And there you have it.
That’s when all my troubles began. Soon after the tonsils were exorcised from my body, I had an a-ha moment and realized food was delicious. I had been missing out on so much life had to offer. What a silly little girl I had been.
Everything was hunky-dory until I hit seventh grade. Mind you, I was never a gruhber maidel; however, the chocolate chip cookies, bagels and other assorted items began to take up residence on my body. I was no longer just skin and bones.
It was about this time in my young life that I was informed cherries, grapes, bananas and various other fruits were no longer on my go-to list of things I loved to eat. Candy and other foods developed by the devil himself were hidden away in the “white cabinet.”
Hiding the forbidden food only made it more enticing. I became adept at pilfering just enough sweets from the white cabinet so as not to make it obvious that anything was missing. Sometimes, I picked the wrong moment to pilfer.
A lifelong struggle was launched.
Now don’t go feeling sorry for me. I managed to have lots of friends. I was usually one of the first to be chosen for various team sports. I danced, performed in school plays, was captain of cheerleaders, and let us not forget boys. None of this erased the little devil sitting on my shoulder and whispering sweet nothings in my ears: Look at those beautiful red cherries, he would whisper; just one more cookie, sweetie; oh, please feed me one more Baby Ruth. Pure evil.
And yet I married.
I could not, however, bring myself to purchase certain fruits. We enjoyed a happy marriage, becoming parents and grandparents in spite of those cherries. Then one day I had an epiphany. I now had a dear friend I could turn to for information. My friend Google showed me the light by revealing just how healthy these foods are. I held my proverbial breath and brought all these delicious, nutritious fruits home. Everyone, and I mean everyone — there are 20 in my family — loved the fruit.
I am now a fruit salad maven. If you haven’t tried Israeli cut fruit salad, including cherries after you remove the pits and fat-free plain yogurt, sweetened with cherry-flavored Crystal Light and a sprinkle of granola, you don’t know what you are missing.
We women must be diligent in keeping words like gruhber maidel from being used to describe another female. Oops, am I sounding a bit like I am on a soapbox? Perhaps I am.