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December 2, 2011

Food scientists have developed an edible metallic spray paint. I’m guessing these were the same food scientists who, about fifteen years ago, came out with a warning right before Thanksgiving that cranberries can give you cancer, but then had to admit that the risk was so small you’d have to eat thirteen pounds of cranberries a day for a decade to be at risk, and even then you’d be more likely to die from malnutrition having eaten nothing but cranberries for that long. As a side note this means cranberries have joined eggs in the group of foods that were good for you then bad for you then good for you again, although cranberries have the advantage of being low in cholesterol.

Anyway, I’m assuming food scientists developed edible metallic spray paint so when you come up with a really good idea and your friend says, “That sounds like a slice of fried gold” you can both then have a slice of fried gold and see if it compares. And the spray paint doesn’t just come in gold. It also comes in metallic blue and metallic red, because if there’s one thing more appetizing than metal it’s colors that don’t occur naturally. And it also comes in silver, which doesn’t seem like such a big deal. People were using edible silver balls to decorate cakes and other pastries back when egg yolks were still good for you. I remember a dumb joke about those another kid told me back when I was eight years old, which went something like this: a woman was decorating a cake but she didn’t have any of the edible silver balls so she used BBs instead. If you can understand why someone would do this you also understand why someone, probably the same woman, would also name her dog “Freeshow”, but that’s another story.

Anyway, the next day the woman’s husband came in and said, “Honey, I just farted and I shot the mailman.” At the time this joke cracked me up, although I think it was mainly because the word “fart” will make any eight-year old laugh. Also my mother used those edible silver balls when it got close to Christmas and she did a monumental amount of baking. I realize now that one of the best things about the holidays wasn’t getting and opening presents, which mostly lasted just a few hours, or even being out of school for two weeks, but all the amazing things my mother made: candied pecans, fudge, date spirals, kolacky, which is a kind of Czech pastry, and pretzels and peanuts dipped in white chocolate. She made chocolate rum balls, which my grandfather loved, partly, I think, because they annoyed my teetotaler grandmother. He’d always say, “It’s okay, the alcohol gets baked out of them” and then he’d wink at my mother because he knew she added the rum after they were done baking. And she made mountains of sugar cookies. Compared to most of the other treats she made the sugar cookies were pretty plebeian, but she gussied them up with food coloring, and she had a device that looked like a caulking gun that spat out cookies in different shapes, so instead of just plain cookies she made green Christmas trees, red holly berries, and blue stars decorated with silver balls. When I was really young I’d get my mother a box of food coloring every year for Christmas. It wasn’t because I was cheap. I’m sure if I’d thought of it my father would have been happy to help me get her a bottle of perfume or maybe a new car, since I’d wrecked the backseat of her Pontiac by covering it with spider webs I made out of some chewing gum I’d found on the street. Food coloring was just something I associated with my mother, even though it never occurred to me that, as a gift, it was kind of like giving someone a Christmas tree ornament for Christmas: it’s a gift that’ll get put away somewhere for at least the next eleven months. And one year my mother did run out of food coloring in the middle of her holiday baking, so she opened her Christmas present early, which made me feel proud. I’d saved her a five minute trip to the grocery store. As far as I know she never ran out of the edible silver balls and substituted BBs. At least I don’t remember the mailman ever being shot.

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