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The joys of edible rubbish

Cassie Pence
Preston Utley/Vail Daily Corn dogs served at Arts Bar in Vail.
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In a land where people work out for fun, it’s hard to believe that junk food is still alive and kicking.But even High Country healthies experience cravings for processed, empty-calorie ridden treats. The more chemical additives, the better.Whether it’s because you’re bored, drunk, short on time or just plain starving, junk food creeps into our diets (similar to the subsequent pounds.) But why is it at midnight we get a mean craving for a hot fudge sundae? Or why is it hard to resist picking up a pack Twizzlers from the candy aisle? Sometimes it seems impossible to order a beer without ordering fried mozzarella sticks to go long along with it.Reminiscent of childhoodThese cravings, Dr. Drew Werner of the Eagle Valley Medical Center says, stem from much more than the grumble in your tummy. They are ingrained, he suggests, from childhood and society.

“Think about what you did for your first birthday. You had cake and ice cream, right? We eat food initially because it satisfies hunger, and then over time, food becomes more and more associated with all these secondary benefits, like our birthday party,” says Werner. “What happens with people is all of the perceived benefits of the social interaction – the party, the birthday presents, the promotion at work, the wedding – that make us feel good, now become associated with food.”Vail Athletic Club personal trainer Jacob Mueller, in all his fitness glory, steers clear of most junk food. Maybe it’s missing a piece of the heartland, because there’s one baked good Mueller can’t outgrow – his mother’s homemade chocolate chip cookies.”She still mails them to me from Wisconsin. Growing up, we always had chocolate chip cookies at the end of dinner. And to be honest, myself and my three siblings all have a sweet tooth because of my mom,” says Mueller.Owner of Art’s Bar in Vail Village Barry Davis has a bit of an obsession with his favorite snack food. Not only does he feature it on his bar menu, Davis struts a corn dog tattoo, as well. He grew up in the South, where corn dogs are just part of the culture, he says.”I remember going to the state fair, and it was awesome to get a corn dog. How much more can you show your redneck roots than eating fried meat on a stick,” says Davis. Davis claims that many patrons haven’t ever tasted a corn dog before, but after the first bite, their hooked.Art’s Bar Chef Adam Rhode is adding his own junk-food hankering to the menu. “Being from Wisconsin, I recently had some cheese curds shipped in from Madison. I’ve just started to test the water to see if they go over,” says Rhode.

When served plain, cheese curds are actually pretty wholesome, but Rhode’s are deep fried. He agrees that yearnings for bad food go back to childhood.”It’s one of those things we can’t escape,” says Rhodes.A matter of habitWorking at the Shop ‘n’ Hop in Eagle-Vail, Mary Price sees people buy junk food all the time. She said from teenagers to men in their 50s, candy, soda and ice cream are her biggest sellers. She even waits to mop the candy bar aisle because she knows it’s going to be busy until the end of her shift.”You see the same people by the same candy bar each night. People just get hooked on something. One guy comes in and buys Almond Joy and a Drumstick every night. There’s another one who buys Cherry Garcia each night,” says Price, who ironically grew up without snacks and candy. Price still doesn’t buy junk, she says.

If not a product of youth, nibbling on potato chips or chocolate bars can become nothing more than a matter of habit. Dr. Werner points out the example of eating a midnight snack each night.”After awhile, you’re going to be hungry at midnight whether or not you need food, simply because you’ve gotten into the habit of having something every midnight. That’s where people get into trouble,” says Werner.Battle Mountain High School Boys Basketball Coach Philip Tronsrue has developed an interest ritual surrounding his junk food intake. He eats a bag of peanut M&Ms and drinks a Pepsi before each boys game for good luck.”We’d gone down to Pagosa Springs for our first game of the year and I bought a bag of peanut M&Ms and a Pepsi. We won the game right at the buzzer,” says Tronsrue.The next game against Gunnison it was the same junk food and the same outcome. So he made it a tradition.”My psychological reason is it was a good omen for us, the first night we won, and I don’t want to chance state,” says Tronsrue. “I’m a physical education teacher, so I stress to the guys about eating well and not to eat too much junk food. But in reality, I’m a junk food addict.”Cassie Pence can be reached at cpence@vaildaily.com.Vail Colorado


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