Carrots breed lies. So do bread crusts, for that matter. I didn’t want to eat either one when I was a kid, but unfortunately for me, I lived in one of those homes where plates had to leave the dinner table clean and bare of the meal we’d been served against our choice or will. There were children starving in Africa, after all, and they would certainly appreciate the bland grilled chicken, steamed broccoli and carrots lumped on our plates. I offered to send mine to Africa, imagining some poor, African child opening a small brown cardboard box and staring blankly at Mother’s tasteless food. Or maybe he’d jump up and down for joy. I certainly didn’t when the same predictable meal was served night after night after night after my mother joined the Jenny Craig weight loss plan.
Mother wouldn’t let me follow through with mailing dinner across the Atlantic so I made do with the lot I was given, dousing the chicken with an abundant sprinkling of salt and pepper and slathering the broccoli with a pat of butter. But there was not much I could do with those short, orange sticks, depleted of flavor after sitting in the steamer for a while. I really hated eating them, just like bread crusts, but Mother told me carrots would give me perfect eyesight for my entire life and bread crusts would bestow me with sleek, shiny hair, and then she would force me to eat them before I could leave the table. Despite my disgruntled feelings about eating food I didn’t like, I actually believed her stories about perfect eyes and hair – she was the adult, after all, and she would know better than I what foods could make you pretty and perfect and which pieces of junk food were made from disgusting whale blubber and prunes. Thank goodness for those bits of fact to steer me away from gum and soda – otherwise, all their sugars might have rotted my brain before I was old enough to learn the truth.
The truth emerged during adolescence when surging hormones took my sleek, shiny blonde hair and transformed it into a thick mass of frizz which only behaved under a can of hairspray. No amount of bread crusts could undo the damage of puberty. Then a routine eye and ear exam at school landed me at the optometrist’s office getting fitted for glasses because I couldn’t read the bottom rows of letters without squinting my eyes real, real hard. All those carrots had been in vain. The starving child in Africa may have fared better than my unmanageable hair and disintegrating eyes; and still Mother continued to recite her lies, modifying the story to say carrots would keep my blurred vision from getting worse. I couldn’t win against the woman who claimed to know everything, yet I learned to take her words with a grain of salt – it may not have changed her grand delusions about how to acquire perfection, but it certainly made them easier to swallow. Just like chicken.
– Written by Miss A on July 24, 2012