Popping jelly beans into my mouth one at a time, I am suddenly struck by the realization of how careful I've become. I am the product of nearly two and half decades of experience in the realms of life, love and the pursuit of happiness, and at this moment I am worlds away from the ruthless, careless child I once was.
However, being careful isn't always better. Just my eating habits alone prove that I've taken straight-laced to a new, not entirely enjoyable level.
One jelly bean at a time. One flavor at a time. Cherry. Then Lemon. Pina Colada. Two Oranges in a row. The Licorice I eat separately from the rest, many in succession. When, I wonder, was the last time I tested my taste buds by twisting them with the blending of many flavors?
It isn't just with jelly beans that I've become so very vanilla, either. At a steak house I enjoy my food by eating in a rigid revolution: bite of steak, bite of potatoes, bite of corn. On a really wild night, I'll mix the corn into the potatoes! People who know me well understand that I am a self-diagnosed texturephobe. But, as much as I wish that categorization were a joke, I find that I have grooved my way into an eating rut.
At Subway, only tuna. No lettuce, no relish, no nuthin'. The woman in the green hat always hesitates before she closes the sandwich, peering at me from behind the counter, probably grateful for the curved wall of Plexiglas between her and the anti-texture freak. And I have a "usual" at most of the restaurants Jon and I frequent. I needn't even ask for my bowl of teriyaki beef and rice at Shibuya; the guy knows me well. At Carl's Jr., it's the Famous Star, plain with cheese. Every. Single. Time.
My texturephobia has generated a long list of foods deemed unacceptable (worse, nasty) by and for me. Raisin bread, tapioca, Rocky Road ice cream, any normally fabulous pastry or dessert item that has been defiled by nuts or fruit bits, smoothies that aren't perfectly smooth, fruit preserves of any kind (jelly is fine, jam must be seedless). Man, do I sound high maintenance or what?
Here I must rat out my husband, though. Stop pitying him immediately. You might think I'm the problem child at the restaurant when we go out to eat. But Jonathan is just as picky. No tuna, no sushi, and definitely no pickles. Now, I agree with him on two of the three, but just understand that I'm not alone in my mania.
The good news: the other day I accidentally dipped my burger into ketchup and took a bite. I nearly fell off my chair. It was good. Flavorful, even. And so I made a breakthrough, though tiny.
That's why, today, I intentionally picked up three jelly beans, a Lime, a Cherry, and a Grape. Without too much dramatic hesitation (after all, I was sitting alone at my desk), I flipped all of them into my mouth at the same time. My tongue held them for a second, a self-defense reflex, but then pushed them between my molars.
With the first bite the flavors shot out and into my existence, the sharpness of the Lime dominating and jabbing at my gums. But then came the half-sour Cherry, easing from right to left, followed by the gritty-sweet Grape. I'd just eaten a fruit salad in a single bite and, what's most important, I lived through the experience!
From now on, while I may continue to wash saltine crackers down only with water, and while I may remain anti-tapioca, and while I may refuse to try anything new when being pressured by a group of my peers (i.e. Creme Brule), I have decided to improve myself in at least one small way. Nevermore shall I segregate my jelly beans merely by flavor. Rather, I will experiment with delightful flavor combinations, both those created and pre-approved by the Jelly Belly Bean People, and those I come up with myself.
And perhaps someday, I will find that this delicious interlude has withstood the test of time, and that it has infiltrated other arenas of my life. When I am able to write on chalk boards or swim out farther than knee-deep in the ocean, you'll know. Just don't point such things out to me when you see them. Might scare me into regression.