Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul opens up about a life long battle with a quirky eating disorder
How is it possible that until last week I wasn’t aware that November is National Peanut Butter Lovers Month? After all, I love peanut butter so much that I ate only that sticky brown goodness for an entire year when I was five years old. That’s it. Just creamy peanut butter spread on one piece of white bread, folded over, no jelly. I insisted on eating that treat for every meal for twelve months.
My mother Gay (indeed, her real name) just went along with it until my regular check-up at pediatrician Dr. Moore. He noticed an odd muscle deficiency for a child of my size.
“What’s he eating?” Dr. Moore asked.
“Peanut butter,” Mother replied.
“And what else?”
“Oh, that’s it. Peanut butter for every meal.”
“Now Gay, you can just let him eat peanut butter. You’re the mother. You’re in charge!”
Rather than dig down to the root of my odd eating disorder, mother avoided it by making sure I avoided the addictive substance—she banned peanut butter from the house.
I didn’t come into contact with it again until I was a teenager and moved in with my father (a judge appointed by the nation’s second peanut farming president Jimmy Carter), stepmother and little three year-old half-brother James. Fortunately for the newest Buchmeyer toddler, peanut butter addiction didn’t run in the family and he was allowed to have jars of it in the house for his lunch. Now there was a serious problem—I devoured it before his nanny even had a chance to slather Welch’s Grape Jelly onto the bread. Fortunately, my stepmother Chris performed an intervention and peanut butter once again disappeared from the shelves (or at least it was well hidden from my view).
Only a couple of times in college did I fall off the peanut wagon—mostly around times of high anxiety like exams, boyfriend break-ups, and late night post-theater rehearsal munchies. But when I moved and became the star of Alphabet City in 1996, the stress just got to me. With little money in my pocket, and combing the aisles of Key Foods for a food substance that would carry me through the end of the work week, I turned not to Ramen Noodles, but to Peter Pan. That’s when things really got sticky.
For the most part, I stumbled along trying to keep my addiction in check. For the most part, I’m a peanut butter purist and prefer it right out of the jar. I’m usually not tempted by concoctions that include it as an ingredient—not interested in peanut butter cookies, or ice cream, or high-end truffles. Although I am a sucker for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and any Thai Noodles with a peanut sauce.
For years, I was able to hide my addiction because I indulge it privately. But once with Juan Pablo, it was hard to hide how quickly a jar could disappear. He very sweetly worked up his confidence to confront me one night.
“Honey, I’m worried about your eating habits,” he began.
“I know. I know. I can’t help it. I’ve been like this since I was a kid. I just can’t get enough of peanut butter.”
“It’s not just the peanut butter, sweetie. It’s you’re entire regimen. Monday night is sushi. Tuesday is hummus. Wednesday is Thai. Let’s mix things up a bit.”
“But that’s what I want.”
“I know. But I’m your boyfriend now. And I’m in charge.”
Finally, someone was taking charge of my odd eating habits. As a chef, Juan Pablo did introduce some novelty into my eating routine, but thankfully he allows some jars of Whole Foods 365 Peanut Butter in the house.
“If you have to eat the stuff at least eat one that’s better for you,” he says.
When I stumbled upon a posting about National Peanut Butter Lovers’ Month on Yelp, I immediately did some research, hoping the organization sponsoring it might have need for a spokesperson. I got excited about this statistic: Americans eat 3 pounds of peanut butter per person every year—about 700 million pounds—enough to coat the floor of the Grand Canyon! First I thought, I’m not alone! And then I started day dreaming about a peanut butter filled river rafting trip down the Grand Canyon—that’s when I knew I was in dangerous territory.
So, here I am, taking my first step, owning up to my addiction. My name is Jon Paul, and I have a peanut butter problem.