Lard, Cheese and the Rewards of an Unhealthy Childhood

By Oscar Barajas, NewsTaco

I was a fat kid. I mean, fat. I was so fat; I would start to sweat if I stood still long enough. I would like to blame it on the scourge of places like Burger King or Kentucky Fried Chicken, but my parents rarely relied on fast food as a means for a nutritional strategy. In fact, I was almost a teenager when I first went to Burger King. However, my mom fried everything in lard. Her arms were scarred from burns she had suffered battling breakfast. My mother used lard like some people use cinnamon. I suspect that she would put tapioca pudding on lard and simply called it flan.

My parents would pacify my sister and me with hamburgers whenever we pulled off A’s in B’s in report cards or if we sat through Sunday service without incident. Needless to say, I performed for the promise of a Big Mac rather than academic achievement. I would ask my teacher for extra credit assignments, when I sensed that report cards were right around the corner. As far as church was concerned, I think my parents were setting my sister and me up for failure. There is no way you can hope for two kids to sit still in church without air conditioning. I would start off well enough. I would sing my hardest. I would shake hands with everyone two rows ahead and behind me. However, just as thoughts of those burgers began to cement in my head, my sister and I would start messing around with each other like making fart sounds during the hymns. This would cause my mother to take the law into her own hands and start pinching us and whispering the kind of threats where even God disassociates from you.

However, there was even a burger hierarchy. If I reached my potential, we would go celebrate it at McDonald’s, but if I merely tapped into my potential, we would go to the local burger shop. I was putting away Big Macs since I was four years old, but my heart and gut would always belong to those little holes in the wall where everyone knew your name but would still refer to you by the color of your shirt.

Things like pizza were always out of the question. My father had some sort of mistrust of pizza. He always saw it as an overglorified quesadilla with salty boloney on top. There was no way he was going to spend ten dollars on that. Besides, we lived in what the pizza place considered a neighborhood of ill repute. Their solution was that my family waited for them at the gas station located on the corner of my house. The only problem was that if you waited inside the gas station without buying anything, the man behind the counter would kick you out for loitering. However, if you were outside, there was a good chance one of the local neighborhood gang members would roll up on you and take your ten dollars or the freshly delivered pizza. It was a no win situation because my father would demand that I go back into the street and wrestle the gang member for either the pizza or the safe return of his money.

I never got any of the pizzas back that we lost, and it goes without mentioning that the money was lost, and in the end my mom would end up covering it all up with the consolation prize – beans. They always tasted like second place. They tasted like ashes in my mouth, but that could have just been the lard they were basted in.

[Photo by kodomut]

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