Sunday, August 30, 2009

Jag Eating: It's in the Genes

Sometimes, I'll call my mother earlier in the day than our standard 4pm gab-fest, usually to bitch/moan/whine about some slight or unfairness that's gotten my panties in a wad. "It's not faaaaaaiiiir," I'll keen into the phone, and she is quite sympathetic and patient and hears me out. My mother is assured a place in Heaven for this.

After a while, even I get bored with my sniveling, so we move on to nicer subjects. If it's around breakfast or lunchtime, I'll usually ask her what she's eating, because I'm sick that way. I'm always interested in what other people are eating.

Sometimes, she'll pause, take a deep breath, and sheepishly say,"Well....I'm on a jag..."

And I will know exactly what she means. I, too, am a Jag Eater. It's in the blood.

What is a Jag Eater, you ask? No, it's not someone who eats some bizarre food called Jag.

A Jag Eater is someone who becomes inexplicably addicted to a certain food (usually a strange one) and is then compelled to eat that food for at least one meal a day until s/he is suddenly revolted by said food.

Jag Eating is a strange behavior indeed. And, since I lived at home a long time, and my mother and I share the same taste in food, we went on a lot of Jags together. And strangely enough, when I think about it, our Jags are little time capsules that say alot about what our lives were like at the time.

Take, for example, the Baked Potato Topped with Salsa and Fat-Free Sour Cream Jag. This Jag was a reaction to the belief (in the late 1980's) that protein was bad for you, fat was EVIL, and carbs were the answer. We ate those potatoes for lunch or dinner one entire summer. We also, unpleasantly, farted a lot.

There was the summer of Ratatouille (also a pretty foul-smelling summer, if I'm honest). That Jag was a product of a year-long flirtation with vegetarianism. Which led to the winter Pasta Primavera Jag.

The spring AND summer of the Einstein's Sesame Bagel, topped with mustard, lettuce, pepperjack cheese and capers. Otherwise known as The Two Seasons of Stubborn Water Retention Jag. We found the Bagel Jag annoyingly hard to shake.

One Jag I'm particularly sheepish about is the Rocky Road Ice Milk Jag. Mother and I were slaves to Healthy Choice Rocky Road Ice Milk for several months, eating little but fruit and salad so we could scarf huge bowls of the garbage 3 times a day. This Jag was so fierce that we bought 8 tubs one afternoon, fearful that one day we'd crave it and The Horror! be denied at the freezer section. When, mercifully, that Jag passed, we threw out four large tubs we'd stashed in the deep freeze. That was a walk of shame to the garbage can, lemme tell ya.

And I don't feel good about the Miserable at College Jag. This I did alone, because my mother would've throttled me had she gotten wind of it. This little freakshow consisted of an apple for breakfast and a large bag of Vic's Lite Popcorn for lunch/dinner. Amazingly, I did not contract scurvy, but I did have to come home for a while after that little love affair.

Most of our Jags were fairly benign, although, certainly, strange. I feel I should mention that neither my father nor my sister are Jag Eaters. They're capable of enjoying a food without becoming completely consumed by it.

As we've aged, Jag Eating has relaxed considerably. Now we'll hop on a Jag maybe once a year, and even then, it has a short life span. Maybe a week, perhaps two. Maybe Jag Eating requires the energy and devotion of the young.

However, on those occasions when mama does fess up to one, I'll sympathize and listen intently, wondering what little morsel of wonder has caught her fancy this time.

As I write this, Miss M. has demanded Kraft Macaroni and Cheese at lunchtime for 3 weeks straight. If I deny her, she hugs herself tightly, rocks back and forth, wails as if she's in unspeakable pain.

I hand her the tissue box, pat her softly on the back and murmur, "I know, honey. I know."

***If any of you readers are freaks like me, feel free to confess your food obsessions/jags in the comments page!


  1. Ohmygosh! Wonderful, funny post!! I get cravings...but don't know if I get full-blown jags or not...I'm going to sit back and take notice now, though!

  2. Oh, the power of food. Sigh.

  3. Sadly many of the jags of my youth are tied to my mother's dieting. Atkins = Cream cheese packets, straight up. (I still gag just thinking about this.) Low cholesterol = Bran muffins 3x day. I do remember a similar low fat coffee ice cream jag- that must have been a good year for ice cream makers!

  4. I've done this and never knew it had a name! I definitely parcitipated in the miserable in college/ low self-esteem/fat is bad for you JAG all through college. Not fun at all.

  5. This is such a sweet post - I love how you tell it - like it is a special thing that runs in the family! I've had food obsessions like this in my time. It used to be for sweets as a kid - I suffered from Crunchie Bar fever (do you get crunchie bars in the US? Honeycomb covered in chocolate?), then I remember being addicted to avocados with balsamic vinegar for a while... parmesan and rocket salad (I had a big strop in Australia when I got tired of eating pies and simply wanted this for my lunch) and the last craze I can remember which was a while back was sushi fever. I ate that practically every day until i grew weary of I have a bad addiction to junk food. I get bored in the office and it is there and I really need to stop...I find when try to deny myself these things though I simply want them more...argh!

    As for leaving - I'm just moving to North London but hopefully soon I will be going abroad - intend to write a post about it soon! xxx

  6. I once ate a Wendy's dollar salad for 6 months until we moved and they are all wilted and gross! I didn't know it was called a Jag, I always thought it was a kick, but I get them alllllllll the time!

  7. dear kitchwitch

    i love your writing. i absolutely *heart* your storytelling style and the tidbits you choose to share. please promise that you're compiling all of these wonderful vignettes into a book.

    a sincere fan,

  8. Oh, lady, I knew we were soulmates.
    I am such a Jag eater. And it's usually two meals a day, with a forced something else thrown in. Some examples: in college there was about a month of spaghetti and Coke for breakfast every morning and egg whites poached in cheese sauce (homemade) every night. After a catastrophic fire in which I lost everything and had to live in a frat house I ate hardboiled eggs and saltines for several weeks. Every meal. I've had sandwich jags and stew jags. A couple of months ago there was a homemade lentil soup jag: make a 6qt stock pot full, eat at least twice a day, then cook again. Never needed too freeze any. Went on vacation during that jag and made the soup for my hosts. I had an ice milk jag, too, but it was mint chocolate chip and I had to have it after every meal, the bulk of which consisted of as little as possible so I could have more ice milk.
    Most recently it's cheese rolls from my two favorite bakery. Dueling cheese rolls. One day breakfast and lunch and snack rolls from one bakery. The next day, from the other. Dinner varies. Because I have witnesses. There's something shameful about being a jag eater, unless you're two years old and eating only raisins and mac n cheese....
    sorry this is so long. Edit it if you want, but this is the only place I can confess. Bless me Witchy, for I have jagged.

  9. Wonderful post. I thought how funny I'm not like that. Then I thought about it. I usually jag at breakfast. In high school it was instant carnation breakfasts or toaster strudel. In college, I was famous for my toll house ice cream cookie breakfast. I've eaten a bowl of rice krispies five times a week for over a year now. Mmmm. We're not even going to mention the snack jags.

  10. Farenheit, you are right, fast-food salads are sooooo nasty!

    Faemom, I think your college breakfast of choice is completely reasonable! Genius, even.

    Nap, I would totally agree that Jag eating is shameful. And I WOULD chide you about your cheese roll addiction, but then I remembered that you actually RUN (with P in a stroller) to the shop that sells them. This little detail makes it much less embarrassing.

    Ck, that was such a nice comment. YOU are the real writer. I write about popsicles. I would write a book, but then you and my mother would have to buy all of the copies.

  11. I do love your posts! I remember my first Jag. When I was in kindergarten I would have a spoonfull of Miracle Whip and 5 slices of Salami - for breakfast. In high school, I do believe I at a salad every single day from the cafeteria, just for the dressing. More recently I have been known to mix tuna with said Miracle Whip and as many pieces of dill pickle as possible, on top of Sour Cream and Onion potato chips. No I'm not pregnant.

  12. Diana, that last comment made me laugh, because I was thinking it!

    Your kindergarten breakfast sounds right up my alley, although I think I would add pickles!

  13. I am on a perrenial ice cream jag, as long as it's chocolatey. There is not enough chocolate ice cream in the world for me! How I wish it weren't true!

  14. Well, I have been on a chocolate jag for about 20 years now. Does that count? My other current jag is goat cheese. I eat it on and with everything. I just can't get enough of the stuff. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. It's ridiculous.

    Love this post, BTW.

  15. omg, Diana, tuna salad with chips in the sandwich is NECESSARY. Same with chicken salad. The chips have to go in the sandwich. I don't know why anyone would eat a wet sandwich without them.

    @kitch you can still judge the cheese rolls. Until I mail you some. Seriously. Email your address and you'll DIE from them.

  16. NAP!!!!! You are blowing my mind here--how is it that you know the term "wet sandwich?"

    I love wet sandwiches, and in college, I discovered this great mystery writer who had novels centered around this detective, Edward X. Delaney, who was a sandwich addict. He particularly liked "wet" sandwiches, eaten over the kitchen sink.

    In seven months, after you finish Infinite Jest, and have blown all of your brain cells, take it for a beach read...Lawrence Sanders, The First Deadly Sin (and of course there are other "sin" books out there until he croaked--all very good, I think). Not the McNally series though, just the Sins.

    In fact, Edward X. Delaney is solely responsible for my one and only shitty novel....

    And do NOT send me your crack cheese rolls! As a confirmed Jag Eater, I know that no good can come of this....

  17. Loved this post! I'm just dying to know what your mother's current jag is?!?

  18. How much Healthy Choice ice cream does one have to eat before it's no longer a healthy choice?

  19. K. So this was one of those posts where I'm all like... yes! oh yes! yes yes YES! throughout the whole thing. Because first...4 pm gab fests? That's me and my sis. (Used to be my mom but she got bumped.) And the jag eating? I live by it. Although I have very poor follow-through on most things, so my jags last about 2 - 4 weeks. I can't think of any that have lasted for months.

    I'm currently on the plain greek yogurt with blackberries and granola jag. A healthy one. This is good. I can feel another jag coming on. It's pita bread with hummus, pear, tabouli and muenster. I'll end up eating it every single day until I just can't do it anymore.

    I'm grateful when they are the homemade jags. (Oh and by the way, thanks for putting a name to this for me. JAG) Sometimes I go on the Turkey Sandwich from Panera Bread Jag and I'm recalculating our household budget just to make sure I don't have to live withOUT.

    Love this post! Love it!

  20. Sarah, your jags are so healthy! I am impressed. I am currently on a jalapeno pimiento cheese on toasted english muffin jag, which is quite shameful.

  21. Do constant chocolate/candy cravings count as jags? are jags stress related? because I have had a lot of stress in my life lately, causing me to eat candy bars for breakfast, sneak candy when the kids are around, and even *gasp* eat cookie dough. yes, I said it, I have been eating cookie dough for the last two weeks. Anything and everything else that was chocolate or sugar flavored in my house having alredy been consumed, I have turned to cookie dough. What about caffeine, is caffeine considered a jag? because I do a lot of caffeine too. Caffeine is my crack, I cannot live without it (and since it is not illegal, I do not intend to give it up.)