american cheese was the holy grail of my childhood.
but to my Italian mom it was all but the food of barbarians. we always had provolone and aging parmiggiano. in retrospect i appreciate her protection from that mystery substance, but at the time its forbidden status just increased its appeal.
eventually i persuaded her to buy the offensive item. self satisfied, 8-year-old me got the cheese from the fridge and regarded the creamy white, too thick slices of god-knows-what on waxed deli paper. then i had a brilliant idea.
instead of peeling back one slice, as one does in modern society, why not bite into the entire stack, so every piece would have the outline of my teeth?
logic was not my childhood strong suit. i recall wanting to see how it would look. or maybe i thought that was how the barbarians did it.
it’s safe to say there was no clear end game. the entire incident should be filed under the rubric “dumb stuff kids do.”
and why did i get cocky and risk everything? alas, we may never learn the answer. plus, my verdict disappointed: not as good as individual slices.
i re-wrapped the cheese and returned it to the fridge. what on earth was i thinking, they’ll never know? uh, yeah they will.
it wasn’t long before my mom discovered the cheese—probably when she went to make my lunch for the following day—and called my dad and me into the kitchen for a public hearing.
my mom presented the cheese, and the three of us stood there, staring at the perfectly, impossibly, white squares and their missing, 8-year-old-mouth-sized bite.
“do you know what this means?” my mother asked. was it rhetorical? wasn’t it? i never knew for sure. “it means you’re going to have to eat the rest of this!”
that’s my punishment? forcing me to eat a pound of American cheese by myself? awesome. i’ll deprive my parents of shitty dairy products they find disgusting any day. plus, now there’s a nifty, scalloped-teeth design on every slice!
my long-winded point: how are you unintentionally rewarding bad behavior? how can you stop?