Ben Oostdam story # 316


This story deals with the various cravings and indulgences I experienced since my early childhood. I surmise that milk was the first and - most likely - also the last on the list, provided it's at least somewhat creamy or 'fat.'
Next, I recall bananas, peanuts and oranges, some of the few imports available in Holland in the crisis years of the 1930's. Oranges typically were sold by vociferous Jewish street vendors, peanuts by silent Chinese.
Chocolat, toffees and licorice were relative luxuries, and I enjoyed asking my mother for a penny to go and buy a paper tout bag with "powdered salmiac" - you would tear of a little from the point, but would suck the tout paper and all, otherwise it tasted too strong.
The only sin in my youth was skipping Sunday school and instead, spending the nickel supposed to have gone into the model Minahassa Church collection on a "zure bom" - a large pickled "augurk". Of course, my father found out about it and asked what I had done with the nickel. "I bought a "zure bommetje" was my reply. "Did you like it?" "No, it tasted terrible!" "Well, maybe that will teach you a lesson !?...
In 1939, my mother served some smoked Vienna sausages at one of her bridge parties. I thought they were terrific, and tried to persuade her to buy some more cans, but at 27 cents (the US Dollar was about 4 Dutch guilders, I think, so the can cost about $ 0.04...) she considered that too expensive an indulgence.
Later in WWII when we were rationed to 1/2 loaf of bread and nothing more - no oranges, bananas, meat, milk - and everyone had his or her specific "craving", mine was for smoked sausages. I never understood the craving of my niece Liek, who was going to buy a pound of ...butter and eat that in the (then off'limit") Soester dunes.
What we had to do is go to the farmers and smuggle milk, wheat, butter and meat past German sentries. We traded all my toys, my father's stamp collection and my mother's jewelry and linens for food, so I will never forget the look of surprise on the face of my nephew Mack when my Mom topped off an all to rare dinner of home made boiled bread with sugarbeet jam bringing in a bowl of white whatever, and he exclaimed:"Slagroom!" (Whipped Cream!) - and dug into it. To his dismay however, it was "Hang up", some homemade type of yoghurt strained through a dishcloth.
I recall chewing up a lead soldier during a Sunday sermon in the very severe winter, 1944, ("Global warming" then was not fashionable,'cause the Ice Ages were returning!) and a large piece of glass as an experiment. After the war, which tought me to save and keep everything for the rest of my life, it took a few years of adjustment: a lot of stuff was still rationed or just not (yet) available. I was going to Grammar School at that time and had successive bouts of crushing pounds of rock candy everyday for weeks or months, followed by crushes on various sizes of sugar cubes, then on any available types of nuts, and finally ounces of various licorice from double salt to laurier - which lasted "in moderation" haha, to this very day. I hate to think what this did at various and all times to my teeth, my stomach, and my blood pressure . . .
Two other happenings stand out in my memory of the late 1940's: in both cases I had been sick in bed for days and fasting. I broke my fast in one case by gulping up a time of sweet condensed milk I craved - got as sick as a dog and lost any desire for condensed milk for decades. The other time it was a tray of "kroepoek" (fried shrimp cookies from Indonesia) which did me in.
Now a quicky fast forward to one other incident in my life when I overate: South African lobster we caught by the barrel one day in Affenrucken and boiled by the barrel, too. LINK

At the Naval Academy (1950/2), my only and rather moderate lusts (eating-wise) were for "cocos-macaronen" and hard boiled eggs. The major craving at that stage of my life was for a good night's sleep! No, let's be honest, I also fully intended to save 10,000 guilders one day and single handedly sail around the World - so much for women!
In the Bank course I took from 1952/4, I only craved each of the 12 peanut butter sandwiches which I asked my Mother to pack for me every day (I often left on my bike as early as 05:00 and returned shortly before midnight). In the weekends,however, I craved sailing and translating Homer with my first girlfriend.
Working in the Bank in Thailand (1954/7), I spent all my free time (not much) on exploring that fine country by scooter first, and jeep later. I also broke my Dutch engagement and discovered many splendored things, graduating from Thai and Chinese girlfriends to English and even American, but I am just too discrete to reveal more. Although I liked Asiatic food and even ate monkeys, snakes and insects,eating was not a vice, and I looked, frankly, emaciated when I got home to Holland for a few weeks in 1957. But I did drink gallons of Thai ice-coffee and "namenou sai seven up sai nam keng" (lemonade with seven-up and ice)
At McGill, 1957/60, I took up smoking a pipe and an occasional cigar. Other cravings were hitchhiking and photography and planning expeditions.
At Scripps (1960/3), SCUBA diving became my major spare time as well as professional activity, interspersed with partying and exploring deserts and divorcees, very abundant in that neighborhood. In terms of eating, I recall tenderizing and frying hundreds of abalones I caught, mainly bare-handed. On our Hawaiian beaches sojourn, my buddy Herb Veeh introduced me to avocadoes - which I still like a lot. In South Africa (1963/5) I not only overdid it on lobster, but also discovered "samosas" and ....snails, or rather, escargot. In a real binge, I ate snails every day when we slowly wended our way from Capetown to Holland in Fall 1965 and ended up during the winter in the snail eater's paradise: Switzerland, where one can buy snails in the shell stuffed with butter and herbs at any butcher's.

The rest of my life, 40 years living in Millersville, PA, was relatively free of major cravings. Except of course that I became a workaholic setting up The Marine Science Consortium on which I spent more than hundred hours a week for 7 years. During sabbaticals and leaves of absence in Kuwait, I took up shawermas and iced fruit drinks, while in Trinidad I got a thing for drinking glasses of dime-size mangrove oysters killed in spice laden icewater. And let's not forget coconuts! I love them and was tickled pink when they finally appeared in our PA supermarkets as late as 2006! As to drinking, I also took up drinking a dozen maltas a day on Trinidad fieldtrips and cruises, because a malta malta is not only a drink but also equivalent to a sandwich in stomach-thinking. Imagine my surprise to find out that most folks in PA, except Hispanics, do not even know that malta is produced in PA and exported to te Caribbean.... I and my grandchildren are some of the few WASP exceptions in PA enjoying malta.
Lately, I have taking more than just a liking for such seafood as blue crabs and oysters. I try oysters in every country (except Holland where they are too expensive for a thrifty Dutchman) and fancy myself somewhat of an expert on the creature. Recall that there should be a monument for the first man (or woman) to slurp up a live oyster: what courage (or starving despair) led to that? In terms of marine chemistry, one purifies a solution by filtering it and then throwing the filter out. Instead, the oyster ravener (if that word exists yet?) eats the "dirty" filter; in the old days, oysters filtered the entire Chesapeake Bay body of water in a few days. The few settlers around sent cartloads of canned oysters inland, and I think that many people ate several dozens of oysters at a sitting. The result proving the reputation of oysters is apparent: very few oysters are left in the Bay while the US population has grown beyond recognition...
Enough of this new writing craving (story # 315) . . .let's go on to the next topic and leave cravings to the soon-to-be-mothers! And let's dispense with my irritating craving for perfection and do away with editing everything: just put it on the Internet and be done with it! (the links can come later, they are only embellishments)...
BLO fecit 20071015 - stories