Like her two brothers, our late daughter Fiona was autistic. She loved cheese pizza and potato chips. The pizza had to have started out as a cheese pizza; we could not take a pepperoni pizza and remove the pepperoni, for she always knew. She ate only plain potato chips—no ruffles or ridges, no barbecue or cool ranch.
In her earlier years, she loved fruit loops and applejack cereal. (Oh, heck, so did we.) We bought her the most popular brand name, until the company made two mistakes: They added a new colored loop (blue) to the fruit, and a new colored jack (green) to the apple.
Fiona would not eat either of these cereals after that.
We tried emptying the boxes into large mixing bowls and picking out the offending colors, but she wasn’t fooled. She still wouldn’t eat the cereal. Could we not understand what was so obvious to her? THOSE STRANGE COLORS HAD CONTAMINATED IT!
We searched for lesser known brands that did not have evil blue in the fruit, or detestable green in the apple, but the damage had been done. She would no longer eat these cereals, regardless of brand or absence of unacceptable colors.
For years we assumed this was a feature of her autism, but her younger brother, Baby Bear, loves pepperoni more than any other part of the pizza, will eat any flavor or texture of chip, and any kind of cereal. In that sense, he clearly takes after his father.
When it comes to cereal, I bounce back and forth between raisin bran and grapenuts. Recently, when I ran out of cereal, Mr. Lucky went out to buy some more and came back with two boxes of “trail mix”—grapenuts with all sorts of exotic stuff added to it. It was as if the company took bits out of every type of cereal they made, threw it all together into one box, shook it up and called it “trail mix”--which quite frankly sounds like dog food to me.
I wouldn’t touch it.
Mr. Lucky thought I was crazy and unreasonable and stuck in a rut—as if he didn’t already know all these things about me after twenty years of marriage. “Come on, it’s the same cereal you’ve always eaten,” he said. “And it comes with lots of other stuff you like—cranberries, almonds, vanilla. Plus it was on sale—buy one, get one free.” This is the kind of logic I’ve come to expect from my husband, who’s an honor graduate of the Gracie Allen School of Economics.
I do like cranberries and almonds and vanilla. I also like ketchup and chocolate and fried chicken, but I sure as hell do not want to eat them together, and I certainly don’t want to find them in my grapenuts or raisin bran.
Mr. Lucky gladly ate the trail mix, because he’ll eat any kind of cereal at any time of day—except for grapenuts and raisin bran.
The next day I went out myself to buy cereal I knew I would eat. I had to read the boxes carefully to make sure I got just raisin bran, and not extra crunchy raisin bran, or raisin bran with grapes and nuts, or—heaven forbid, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s out there, and I mean way out there—raisin bran with chocolate flakes, chicken chunks and dried globs of ketchup.
Maybe Fiona’s aversion to blue fruit loops and green applejacks had nothing to do with autism. It could be she simply took after her mother.
Mr. Lucky likes to tease me by saying I’m no fun, that I have no sense of adventure.
That’s not entirely true. Secretly, I really want to eat cocoa puffs for breakfast. And I probably would, if I weren’t afraid he and Baby Bear would devour them as snack food, leaving me with nothing to eat for breakfast . . . except grapenuts and raisin bran.