I remember fellow Little Leaguer, Kevin Delucca, who always kept Nerds in the pocket of his baseball britches. He’d round a base and you could hear the little bits of colored sugar shaking rhythmically like maracas.
I’d laugh, but when he got back to the dugout, I’d throw away the wad of Big League Chew and hold out my hand, ready for another jolt of sugar. “Give me some of them.”
“Get your own,” he’d say.
And I would. I just tried to find a hiding place in the dugout, rather than sliding into second with a purple Nerd trail behind me.
In my life, any family trip, any movie outing, any sustained period of lounging has required one thing — pogey bait.
That’s my father’s preferred term for food that lacks all nutritional value, those teeth turners that compose the fifth basic food group, “Junk.”
“Everybody got their pogey bait?” he asks when we approach a grocery checkout line.
According to the online “Urban Dictionary,” “pogey bait” is military jargon for “any non-issued food or drink item. Popular items include ramen noodles, canned meat/fish, jerky, squirt cheese, etc.” There’s another military definition for the word that has something to do with the oldest profession. But I’ll leave that alone.
Yeah, I’ve always had a weakness for pogey bait, the junk food that is, those mystic blends of gum acacia, carnauba wax and red food coloring #40. Of course, I like chocolates and traditional sweets. I had a long love affair with Junior Mints, a relationship that ended quite messily. I rested those mints on my chest as I sat in a movie theater, then forgot about them. I walked out of the movie and discovered the sticky goo melted on my shirt, a true snacking accident.
When it comes to pogey bait, my father is more of a beef jerky, pork rinds, ketchup-on-a-cracker kind of snacker.
But it’s the acidic, sour or hot candies that I’ve typically plopped on the Golden Pantry counter: the Johnny Appletreats, Alexander the Grapes, Lemonheads and Red Hots.
I’m aware that this is a toxic stew for the gut and the mouth. And, indeed, the dental bills have added up over the years.
Maybe it’s time to mature. I have a toddler who must be coaxed into eating healthy greens. She has to be steered away, as much as possible, from many of the food choices I’ve made.
But the temptations are great. We are a pogey bait nation, aren’t we? Look at our store aisles. The supplies are endless. Get a hankering for a pink, coconut-covered marshmallow — a ding dong — and you never have to go far to find it in America.
I hear those hard candies jangle in my pocket sometimes and think of that 10 year old pushing for home plate,
trying to keep his Nerds off the base path.
In my sad, middle-aged way, I lift the box for the last of the Red Hots and salute.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.