Thursday, April 16, 2015

Chicken in a Biskit and Easy Cheese: A Memoir

A strange thing happened to me last night. It was snowy (in April? - boy, don't I know it), my husband was gone on a trip, the kids were asleep, and I was snacky. I wasn't interested in a bowl of cereal (having that for dinner - probably why I was snacky) and I opened several cupboards looking for that special something just right to satisfy my nightly craving.

If you assume my comfort food is Chocolate you are wrong. There are a few foods that come to mind, but none more so than Chicken In A Biskit with Easy Cheese!

Foo Man Choo and manly Van Dyke!
If I try to remember back to the first memories of this incredible snack food, I can’t. It was always there. I remember it in our small country home as a child, in our pantry when we moved as a teenager, and something I carried on to college. It is like an unofficial member of my family, watching me, keeping me company on sad days, giving me fuel when I didn’t want anything else. I’d draw designs with the cheese, make cheese stack sandwiches of three or four or twelve crackers at once. I also remember spraying the cheese on my face and pretending to be Hulk Hogan. Who knew how magical spray cheese could be?

I REMEMBER in tenth grade I decided to throw a party, nothing completely grand or anything, just a small gathering with new friends. It was the start of my sophomore year and my first taste of high school. I met new people from different schools and I loved this new atmosphere. So, I invited a few people to my house to play games and watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I had Shasta, Twizzlers, Doritos, and of course, Chicken In a Biskit with Easy Cheese. This is instant party food in my mind, knowing nothing different, but the Biskit had to be there. This was a defining moment within my high school experience, a template for several parties to come—no drinking shenanigans, just united friendships locked in experiences surrounded by junk food.

MY BROTHER Josh has a talent for “Cheese Art”. Chicken In a Biskit crackers are shaped like little picture frames or postage stamps. Josh would often ask, “Okay, what do you want me to make?” And I would say something like, “The Mona Lisa.” Within a few small sprays of the cheese, Josh would create – and I kid you not – an amazing replica of the classic portrait for my eating pleasure. He liked the challenge. Among some of the brilliant works of art were Sunday on the Island of Le Grande Jatte, Sunflowers, American Gothic, Whistler’s Mother, Picasso’s cubist period, the Scream, and Michelangelo's Finger of God and then of course, the cutest Batman I’d ever seen - always my favorite. I know this is a talent that he has kept up over the years. He’d make me The Last Supper if I asked.

This blue box with the goofy chicken accompanied with a can of processed spray cheese were the first foods I bought after I was married, in celebration of my new life; when we bought our house I immediately found a home in the cupboard perfect for crackers and cheese; when I was pregnant I could sit and eat a whole box; I'd load up when my husband would leave town for work; and it always accompanies all of our family camping trips.

I KNOW... I'm placing a lot of importance in a lightly dusted cracker and processed cheese.

IN FEBRUARY my husband found out they were terminating his job. This was COMPLETELY unexpected. We had some low moments trying to figure out what direction our life would lead. We've been scrimping living on my measly income and haven't thought of extravagances like canned cheese - it's up to $4. So when I looked in my cupboard last night contemplating what to eat, if anything, in the small corner sat the goofy chicken and the orange lid. It was then when I thought about how something so insignificant like crackers and cheese can make me smile and remind me of thousands of memories that define who I am, who I have become, and where I am going.


I know there are several snack foods if we think about it, that have come and gone from our lives. And seeing them or tasting something like them brings us to the time and place of the first taste; Ironport, Apple Slice, Zanys, Tato Skins, Strawberry Shortcake cereal, Punkies,.. Memories get trapped in our senses, smells, tastes, things beyond our sight.  Because my staple is still here I've simply forgotten the basic wonder that came with it.

So I ask you now, reach back and find those memories tucked away in your corner grocery. Seek to remember who you were and what made you happy. Those memories still exist – go find them!

And never be afraid to wear a mustache made of cheese!