Monday, August 13, 2012

Hide The Pickle

One book that I remember having a big impact on my formative years is the classic guide to home food preservation, "Putting Food By". Everything the frugal, conscientious housewife needed to know about pickling, canning and preserves could be found in this hefty tome.

Why was twelve-year-old Pac so interested in saving food in jars? I wasn't. But this book happened to be the exact size and thickness as another book which was also very popular at the time.

I don't remember exactly when the idea occurred to me. All I knew was that there was way too much information to absorb in the short periods of time I found myself alone in the house. I was also fairly certain the book hadn't been referenced by my parents in quite some time, judging by it's undisturbed position in its hiding place.

So one day when Dad was at work and Mom left for the supermarket, I switched book jacket covers. Putting Food By was now stashed in my dad's sock drawer, leaving me free to read everything I always wanted to know about sex (but was afraid to ask) at my own convenience. And the genius part? I could get my sex education while it looked to the casual outside observer like I was simply boning up on cucumbers.

I didn't know at the time that this famous sex manual was dangerously flawed when it came to the topic of homosexuality. I didn't understand my first formal introduction to gay sex was a mishmash of negative stereotypes and crass homophobia disguised as carefully researched scientific fact. What I took away from the chapters dedicated to homosexuality was the knowledge that out there in the world were other people like me. I might be perverted, but I wasn't alone.

This was a huge revelation back in the days before the Internet, when all outside knowledge came from books or public television. Back when kind of books which could be borrowed or purchased by a twelve-year-old were limited and we were lucky to receive four clear channels on VHF and UHF combined. My mind was starving for this kind of information and I eagerly devoured every dubiously nutritious scrap I could find.

Despite being horribly misguided, I never once tried to pick up a guy by playing footsie in the stalls of a bowling alley men's room. (Which I remember reading in that book was how homosexuals met one another.) Having consumed every last word, my search for knowledge outgrew that silly book and the perfectly camouflaged sex guide ended up forgotten on the shelf. I didn't even give it a second thought when half the books in our home library disappeared, donated to the multi-family yard sale to raise funds for the Holy Family parish.

Until a few weeks later when my mom got a phone call about a book she donated to the church. A book about pickles.


  1. "boning up on cucumbers"
    LOVE IT!! lol

  2. I remember the bowling alley passage too. Unfortunately, I did try that - to no avail!

  3. I never heard about either book but then again my parents were masters at sheltering their children -- well intended as it was it was the source of never ending amazement on my part through much of my early 20s until I moved out and finally was living on my own.