LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Less than healthy teeth is a problem that afflicts both sides of my family. Both of my parents had full sets of dentures by the time they were 45 years of age. The dental profession, such as it existed in eastern Kentucky in their youth, simply gave up on saving their teeth.
Without going into great detail, Mom had extremely soft teeth that made her extremely prone to cavities and tooth decay no matter how much care she took. Dad’s teeth were so brittle that he was regularly breaking off pieces of them. Finally their dentist simply told them that there wasn’t much left to put a filling in.
Determined I would not suffer such a fate, Mom made sure I used only the best of fluoride tooth paste and the importance of brushing and flossing was drummed into my brothers and me far more strongly than any Bible-based religion. I was trotted into Dr. Lee Moore’s office, and later Dr. Back’s on a regular basis for cleanings and fillings.
Still, by the time I was a freshman in high school, I’d broken my two upper front teeth to the point they couldn’t be repaired. As far as I know, I was the only kid in my high school class with a partial plate.
But I got through college and into the early part of my career with just those two falsies as I began accumulating a mouthful of amalgam. Over the years, I’ve never once gone in for a routine cleaning that didn’t result in one to three or more follow-ups for fillings.
The extractions, always one at a time, began when I was about 35, and it’s been downhill ever since. The upper partial grew from one to six teeth. A lower now has five. But, since last Christmas, two more uppers have broken off beyond repair and my dentist and I decided it was time to start thinking about extracting the last of my upper teeth and going for a full plate of dentures.
So, over the last two weeks, I have had no upper teeth. Nor am I going to for at least another month. I have, however, figured out why so many kids become juvenile delinquents. They have to spend the first two or so years of their lives eating so-called baby food. Other than applesauce — and even it could use some work on the tasteful front — baby food, by and large, is not something that little or big humans should be forced to eat.
There has to be a way to make this stuff taste like something other than a word I’m not allowed to use in the paper. No wonder they cry so much and slap the spoon out of the hand that’s trying to feed them. And no wonder so many of them stop trusting and commence defying their parents when they reach puberty.
All of which is to say eating baby food proved not to be a viable alternative to the nutritional needs of my toothless state of being. I also quickly learned man is not designed to live on bananas alone.
Because of other health issues, I have been medically advised, over the last five years or so, to make my diet consist mostly of fresh, raw or very lightly cooked fruits and vegetables. I eat far more raw apples, peaches, pears, strawberries, pineapples, grapes, plums, bananas, bell peppers, celery, carrots, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, cabbage and other greens than anyone I know along with cornbread, sourdough bread and three or four helpings of meat a week.
I had figured I’d survive on baby food, tomato soup, mashed bananas and the like until I have new teeth but my stomach and, for that matter, the rest of my body quickly rebelled. But I have found a solution.
Over the last two weeks, the food processor, a device I had only used previously to make cole slaw and saeur kraut, has become the most used implement in our kitchen.
Read the produce list, just above, again. Over the last 10 days, every single item on that list has found itself being chopped or ground into something easily swallowed. I’m now at the point I don’t even think about chewing.
In fact, if it was not for my occasional, obsessive need to bite into a good, rare rib-eye steak served with a couple ears of bodacious sweet corn on the cob, I’m not sure I’d ever need any teeth again.
And I’m wondering why the people who feed babies have not caught on to the miracle that I now consider my food processor to be. I’d be willing to bet our kids would turn out to be much better behaved, trusting and well adjusted if they had an alternative to that stuff that comes in those little jars.