Monday, March 26, 2007

Eat Your Crusts

Bub eats his sandwiches from the outside in, biting his way through the crusts and winding up with a wodgy mass of bread and peanut butter smushed between his fingers. His paternal grandparents beam on him when he does this, thrilled at this evidence of the dominance of their genes. I myself am an inveterate crust-leaver, with crusts being only the thin edge of my picky wedge: I don’t eat cauliflower or soybeans or brussels sprouts or angel-food cake, not even the "thank-you helping" that my husband was raised to choke down.

Bub is, in fact, more my son than anyone wants to acknowledge (including me): he subsists on a diet of macaroni-and-cheese and grilled-cheese sandwiches, with an occasional banana or baby carrot (which he treats more as souvenir than food item, clutching it fondly as I tuck him into bed and awakening in the night demanding, "Mama, where’s carrot? Don’t forget about the carrot!"). Let’s just say his food attitudes leave something to be desired. But in regard to eating his crusts, he’s a champ.

My own grandmother would, I’m sure, be equally thrilled if she could look down from heaven upon his crust-eating practices. Like many of her generation, she disapproved of crust-leaving as a violation of the principle of Thrift. It’s not that the crusts have significant monetary value: if I can be satisfied with a lunch consisting of merely the middle of my sandwich, then there is no real cash incentive to choke down a few crusts. It’s the habit that is questionable. The crusts I throw out today may morph into an entire plate of pasta tomorrow. Before long, I may find myself tossing away whole packages of chicken just because they’re a day or two past their expiry (to say nothing of the fact that I purchased boneless skinless chicken breasts in the first place!). Eating crusts is part of a larger commitment to stretching every meal, every penny, as far as it will go. Not eating one’s crusts is symptomatic of a larger laziness.

Unlike my grandmother, my mother is not an especially thrifty woman, but she too has endeavoured in vain to break me of my crust-leaving habit. This may originally have been based on the idea that crusts have nutritional value. She wouldn’t promise, as my grandmother did, that eating my crusts would give me curly hair, but still, she seemed to consider them nutritionally important (following the general principle that the least tasty part of any food is where all the vitamins are kept). All that changed once she found out about the cancer-causing properties of oxidation (and crusts, after all, are nothing but oxidized bread); since then, I’ve heard few lectures from her on the subject.

Still, she is disturbed, I think, by the psychological implications of crust-leaving. Crusts, after all, do not taste all that bad. To be sure, they aren’t as good as the inside of the sandwich, and there is occasionally a lamentably low jam-to-bread ratio – but on the whole they taste just fine. Eating one’s crusts involves an acknowledgement that in order to enjoy the delectable fillings of life, we need to make our way through the boring parts, the not-quite-as-tasty parts, the parts we tolerate rather than enjoy. Crust-eating prepares us for life, teaches us to take the good with the bad. (There’s a reason that we use ingestion metaphors, like "suck it up," for the act of tolerating adverse circumstances.)

Personally, I think my aversion to crusts has to do not so much with taste as with function. Crusts are the holders of the sandwich; to eat them would be like crunching down a popsicle stick or swallowing a chocolate-bar wrapper. I’ve never been able to make that switch, half-way through the sandwich, from holding the crust to taking bites out of it. It’s just plain wrong.

But that is not to say that my mother and grandmother were mistaken about the pernicious effects of crust-leaving. As it turns out, I can be something of a spendthrift and a shirker. I try to wiggle my way out of the hard parts of life, rather than relishing my own stoicism in facing them. And when in grade eight I finally decided I wanted curly hair, I went out and got a spiral perm, leaving my crusts on the plate.

Let's make this simple. Here is your hair on crusts:


Here is your hair on a bad 1985 spiral perm:

41 comments:

V-Grrrl said...

Look in my Photo Album on my site and you will see my naturally, curly auburn hair. I never knew this was my reward for being a crust eater.

That said, I must confess that since moving to Europe, things have changed. Here I regularly encounter tough crusts with ATTITUDE. They're like Bouncers trying to keep me from enjoying myself and having a good time at the bakery. Sometimes I chew them out, but when they really piss me off, I just pull a knife on them and muscle my way in. : )

Sober Briquette said...

Thinking of the crust as a "handle" might help me get over the crust leavers in my life. (Not my kids, of course (wink, wink), but oh, that neighbor girl who vexes me in so many ways? She is a crust leaver.)

I think it's fine if person leaves food because it is too much to eat or it is inedible, but because I couldn't see what's so unpalatable about crusts, it escalates to a power struggle. And I still fall for those just about every time.

Aliki2006 said...

I had a similar bad spiral perm.

My daughter loves her crusts. One day I mechanically started cutting them off (why? My son won't even touch sandwiches. Why did I assume she wouldn't want the crusts?) and she reprimanded me immediately: "No Mama! I want the crusts!"

bubandpie said...

Cutting off the crusts is just wrong. That's like leaving the sandwich with no handles.

Karen said...

As I read this I was tearing off bits of my cinnamon toast for little bear here - what part does he get? I always give him the crusts cause there is less butter, sugar and cinnamon and he's only just about to be one. I've never felt guilty about this habit til now...ahhhh, extra mommy guilt with a side of toast crusts for me! (only to say the truth, it's also the part of my toast that I mind sharing the least.)

cinnamon gurl said...

I'm a crust eater, and I have the curls to prove it.

I also have that attitude of get through the boring/nasty stuff to get to the good stuff.

I always eat the crusts first, because I leave the best for last. I strategize when eating sandwiches, deciding which bite will hold the most variety of fillings and best filling to bed ratio so I have a nice taste lingering in my mouth when the sandwich is done. This approach to pizza though has been stressing me out recently.

Mouse said...

You beat me to it, Cin. I generally eat the crusts first, saving the parts of the sandwich with the optimal combination of fillings for last.

Scooter hasn't yet figured out that he might treat crusts differently than the rest of the sandwich. And he actually eats more pizza crust than any other part of the pie.

kgirl said...

only you could equate crusts with perms with the pyschological implications of thrift/indulgence.

and, not to make your grandmother balk, but i just bought chicken with the bones and skin, and they are languishing in my freezer, because i have not a clue as to what to do with them.

Beck said...

I eat my crusts sometimes, which is why I have slightly wavy hair, of course.
I am fairly frugal with my grocery shopping - three kids, one income - and so I guess I resemble more my grandmother's generation that my mother's convience food loving generation. An interesting thought.

Andrea said...

Where is my curly hair? I always eat the crusts, and no curls!

I've been robbed.

Anonymous said...

My perm was immortalized in my senior pictures!

Science for Kids

theflyingmum said...

Bread crusts have never bothered me. Bread is bread. Pie crusts, however...

slouching mom said...

I must give you props for your disquisition on crusts. From crusts to ingestion metaphors like 'suck it up'...

You do know how to think!

I like that in a person.

Mad Hatter said...

I prefer the crusts.

Gasp.

Yup, give me the end crust on a loaf of bread, slathered in butter, and dipped in homemade vegetable soup (made, of course with every available vegetable and a stock reduced from boiling the onion and garlic skins). To me that is heaven.

Because I derive such pleasure from crust eating, I have been cursed with the straightest hair in the universe.

Now I need to think of a rhetorical construct that will allow me to upload my disasterous teenage home perm.

Jenifer G. said...

I am not sure I can be convinced to post my bad perm photos. I generally eat the crusts. I am not impressed by them nor do I dislike them; kind of indifferent really. The only time I might leave them is if I am jeopardy of not finishing my sandwich the crusts will surely be left behind so I can finish the insides. Otherwise, I think of it as my duty to finish them.

Pizza on the other hand I almost always leave the crust behind.

McDonalds makes round grilled cheese sandwiches and my youngest still manages to invent a crust out of this bread. She will leave a ring of bread behind. Just to make her point I guess.

bubandpie said...

Mad - Ah, a breakthrough in crust-hair research - you only get the curly hair if you don't enjoy the crusts but eat them anyway.

metro mama said...

I don't like pizza crusts (unless they're stuffed with cheese) but I do like the end piece of a baguette.

Cakes seems to prefer the tough and stale bits.

toyfoto said...

I can't believe how much I love this post ... about crusts.

It's even better than the age-old question about toilet paper (sheet up or sheet under) because it has so many hidden meanings.

My husband is all about getting the kid to eat the crusts as well as the no-thank-you portion (which, I should mention I hate. Why can't we all say NO, I really don't like that and I'd rather not waste it and lie to you saying it was acceptable or even delicious?).

I feel as if this just adds to our age of enlightenment somehow.

Jaelithe said...

My son won't eat the crusts on his sandwiches, so I make myself eat them. Even though I don't like crusts by themselves. Even though I know all about the cancer-causing oxidized chemicals, etc. Because I can't bear to waste the food. In fact just before reading this, I ate the crusts I had just cut off of Isaac's grilled cheese sandwich; I would not allow myself to start eating my own lunch until I ate them.

My lunch, by the way, is leftover pizza, which I am eating, not because I want it, but because if I left it in the fridge another day it would probably go bad. My husband refuses to eat leftovers, so I always try to eat all of them myself.

(I think I have a complex).

(Ah, if only my son would eat macaroni and cheese! Now THAT would be something.)

Jaelithe said...

P.S. My hair is straight as a pin, which is not fair.

Emmie (Better Make It A Double) said...

I was raised to believe that you have to eat the crust because it's the healthiest part. No Wonderbread for us either, we had thick Dutch brown bread with little bits in it, the kind that reeks of bakery yeast when you open the bag. Bread was basically a food group in our house, considered essential to good health and virtue. It only recently dawned on me that the belief that the crusts are somehow "healthiest" is a ridiculous idea. The crusts are made of the same stuff as the rest of the sandwich, just drier and with perhaps a little more carbon. Realizing that made me wonder how old I'd be before I let go of all of the obvious fictions of my childhood. I still eat the crusts, though, and so far, my boys do too. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease a few years back, and can now only have gluten-free bread. It tastes like the whole piece is the crust, but I did lose 15 pounds effortlessly, finally get and stay pregnant, and now feel a thousand times better. So much for the manna of my youth...

Emmie (Better Make It A Double) said...

Oh, and I have very curly hair that is getting curlier all the time. Hmmmmm....

NotSoSage said...

My sister (curse her!) told me that eating my crusts would make my hair grow curly and I believed her! And it didn't work...Dead. Straight. Hair.

Then again she told me that you got pneumonia from eating paper, too...I wondered why my dad (who was afflicted with pneumonia at least once a year) would keep eating paper at his age.

NotSoSage said...

Ooh...but I had a wicked spiral perm. I still lust after that hair. I wish I could find a photo and/or had a scanner.

lildb said...

I hate crust, but I'm loathe to confess as much.

oh. wait. uh. heh?

Kyla said...

Who knew there were so many layers to the crust/no crust debate!

BubTar doesn't eat crust. But he doesn't think of it as a holder, either. He likes it removed before the plate is put before him. I comply, because its no big deal to me! He's eating, and that is good enough for me.

cinnamon gurl said...

Oh jeez... paging Dr. Freud. Can you tell I haven't slept well for two nights straight? I was talking about the filling to BREAD ratio, not the filling to BED ratio.

Kimberly said...

I was emotionally traumatized by the whole crusts = curly conspiracy. Who woulda thought Great-Granny had it in her to lie to me like that.

You'd like after 25 years I could let it go, but I'm still pouting.

Mimi said...

I always fight to get the crusty bits from the breadmaker bread -- but then I pretty much dip them in butter. So not much privation or thrift there at all. My Pappy wouldn't eat the crusts on pie ... and neither will my sister. I find that very odd, because pie crusts are undeniably yummy.

As for bad perms. Oh dear. My spiral perm took 227 perm rods (they counted, it was so astonishingly high a number). My head hurt so bad from the weight, it was like having whiplash. And then, of course, there were still the curls. God, what were we thinking?

Mouse said...

I am one of very few people I know to have escaped the 80s without a perm. Not that there aren't some hair pictures of me out there without any blackmail potential. I have one word: feathering. It's something my hair does naturally when cut to certain lengths and layered and I took advantage of that fact. Let's just say it's a large part of why I no longer wear bangs!

Oh, The Joys said...

The Mayor faces a sandwich held vertically - so it makes a wall of sorts in front of his face. Then he chips away at the very center with his top front teeth, beaver style.

Talk about a mess.

Mary G said...

Crusts? Depends on the bread. I rather subscribe to the 'handles' theory, myself. My grandmother used to bribe me to eat my crusts and then tell my mother that I always ate my crusts when I was with her.
And she made my hair into sausage curls with rags, when she could catch me.
Love the post!

nomotherearth said...

I'm with Mad - I prefer the crusts to the rest of the bread. I think they has more flavour and more character. Also, I make damned sure that the filling (whatever it may be) is spread to the outermost edge, so that not one iota of bread is left uncovered. (No, I'm not anal at all, why do you ask?)

marian said...

Off topic:
Please forgive me if I happen to be the 200th annoying person in your world to bring up this idea... and please know that I am NOT into pushing pet theories or diagnosing stranger's dietary needs from afar on two bits of information! I'm the mom of a spectrum kid, and your brief mention of Bub's preferences just sent my flag up a bit, knowing the concerns you've expressed about his development in the past.
For sure,a lot of little kids have very quirky,limited dietary preferences but, with the things you've mentioned before, I can't help but wonder if you're aware of the common reaction to gluten and/or casein that many people on the autism spectrum have(and it is a spectrum, right up to extremely high-functioning, non-diagnosable people). A lot of self-limiting to gluten and casein- heavy foods can sometimes serve as an indicator that the drug-like effect is occuring, and that some dietary changes could be very beneficial. You certainly know your child best and know if this thought is completely ridiculous! *Please* dismiss and delete this as you deem appropriate, and forgive my forward behavior. I sincerely mean very well, and welcome you to contact me if you'd like.

bubandpie said...

Marian - Oh, I know. I dread the thought of having to address that, because removing dairy, bread, and pasta from his diet would be such a nightmare. The one thing that has stopped me from trying it is that he doesn't seem to have any digestive complaints - no tummy aches, no bloating or constipation, diarrhea only when sick, etc. I had the impression that the gluten- casein-intolerance tended to be associated with other digestive problems. Does that make sense?

The other thing that has encouraged me to be in denial about this is that Bub has no real interest in sugary foods - he doesn't seem to be driven by cravings so much as just reluctant to stray from his specific list.

marian said...

That's the thing-- no two kids seem to be the same. It's very often not associated with digestive complaints. My son did not have them. We are no longer gluten free--not enough bang for the buck to do it at this point in our lives-- but we are still casein free and will be for a long time. Two weeks after removing casein, everything hit the fan and we went through the most marked and dramatic "drug withdrawal" reaction I have ever heard of. It was really bad for almost two months. But the thing that kept us going, despite all the naysayers who couldn't abide things getting worse before getting better, was that a fog lifted from him. We hadn't even realized how foggy he was, until he began having some real two-way conversation with us for the first time in his life. There is a urinary peptide test which can give detect the sensitivities, but it's not always the most reliable indicator. I could go on... Anyway, I'm here if you want to bounce anything off of me.

mamatulip said...

I think crust eating, for some, is a transition. It was for me. I went from hating crusts to loving them and feeling like they are the best part of a sandwich (they are, especially with a sandwich made on crusty Italian bread. Key word: CRUSTY).

But I do cut off the crusts for Julia. She makes me. ;)

Pieces said...

The look that Boykiddo gives to Grandpa whenever he insists that the crusts will give him curly hair is priceless. It says "who wants curly hair, old man?"

In my grandparents house it was the burnt toast that curled your hair. They had an ancient toaster.

Bon said...

apparently, you and i had the same grandmother. :)

i have been an inveterate crust-eschewer since childhood, but the Scotch Protestantism of my family's abhorrence at my rejection of those damn near-proverbial crusts leaks out of me in all sorts of other weird food places.

i do not particularly like cake, but love icing. from about the age of five, i have eaten each crumb of cake before starting in on the glorious icing.

something goes bad in my fridge before i use it? i am shamed, and will actually shun myself for weeks.

thank you for starting crust AA for me.

flutter said...

LMAO oh no the spiral perm...

Susanne said...

Ha! I'm German and I laugh at your measly bread crusts. I love my bread with crusts with attitude. Some of them can break your teeth.

'Handles' indeed, when the crust is the best part of the bread. But obviously European bread crusts don't make your hair curly. Only mildly wavy.