I'm normally a pretty healthy eater, mixing fruits, veggies and whole grains in with the poor college-student staples. I eat only lean meats and try not to over-salt when I'm cooking. I drink 64 ounces of aqua a day, not including the water in Miller Lite. Richard Simmons would be proud.
But this time of year wreaks havoc on my diet. I'm not sure if it's the frigid weather, four hours of daily sunlight or thick, concealing layers of clothing that trigger my dietary demise, but it's as predictable and certain as Cher's next farewell tour. For the next six weeks, I will consume some of the most ghastly food on the planet. Trash I tell you, every last bit.
These dark days begin with something I should have grown out of years ago: Peanut Butter Captain Crunch. I know Peanut Butter Crunch is composed of nothing but high-fructose corn syrup and broken dreams, but buying the family-size box always seems like a good idea at the time. There are many things you and the Cap'n can make happen, but a balanced breakfast is not one of them.
About 30 to 40 minutes later I indulge in the first of many snacks, usually Welch's grape soda and Funyuns. Grape soda contains 6,000 percent of your daily-recommended sugar and makes your teeth hurt just looking at it. What's not to love? Funyuns combine two of my absolute favorite things, onions and fun, into one crispy, delectable package. Some days, I throw in a package of BBQ Corn Nuts to create the ultimate trashy-food trifecta.
By lunchtime, I'm ready for some real food, which usually means venturing out of my cave. Charley's on State Street is typically my destination because they serve the best cheese fries in the entire Madison area. They call them gourmet fries"" and offer four different combinations, but they're not fooling anyone. There is nothing gourmet about hot, greasy fries smothered in processed cheese sauce and real bacon bits. I wish they would accept these fries for what they really are and give them a more appropriate name like ""Britney Fries"" or ""NASCAR Fries.""
Most days, I continue up State so I can stop at Taco Bell and buy some refried beans. Refried beans tend to look like sewage and taste like chalk, but as soon as we turn the clocks back I just can't get enough. It's like eating heartbreak with a spoon.
For afternoon snacks I rely on my good friend Little Debbie. Cosmic Brownies are my trashy food of choice this time of year. They may have the density and gravitational pull of a small planet and come studded with small bits of brightly colored gravel, but, by God, are they delicious. It is as though some hugely obese person wearing plastic wrap pants accidentally sat on an entire pan of brownies, condensing it into a single, scrumptious treat. Maybe Debbie's not so little after all.
Dinner equals McDonald's double cheeseburgers. The king of the dollar menu may contain D-grade meat and uncomfortably soggy pickles, but I just can't get enough. I like to wash these down with a few PBRs and maybe a couple episodes of COPS. I'm not ashamed of my love of Pabs because, you'll notice, it did receive a blue ribbon in 1885. I'm not even sure it qualifies for trashy status with that kind of distinction.
I'm never sure how long this phase will last, but judging by this latest cold spell, Charley's better buy some extra cheese sauce. It's gonna be a long winter.
- Do you overindulge in PBRs and COPS during the holidays? Tell Caroline about it. E-Mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.