When I was in kindergarten and elementary school, the glue of choice was library paste. We used it for just about everything, from making paper chains for Christmas decorations to using a watered down version for piñata making. If you’ve never made a piñata, let me give you a quick lesson: Blow up the balloon of your choice – it can be round, oval, or hot dog shaped – but, as every 4th grader knows, it needs to be big enough to hold a shitload of candy when it is done. Then tear up about a gazillion strips of newspaper – no need to be fussy about it – the size and shape don’t matter here. Then mix up your library paste and water to make a “gravy” of goo – dip your newspaper pieces in there and then slap them on the balloon. Once you get a layer all over the balloon, you have to let it dry (this project is not suited for impatient types). Repeat until the shell is hard and only slightly flexible – and then cut a hole in the top. Remember to pull out the remains of the balloon, because if some kid chokes on that during the candy stampede, that’s just a lawsuit waiting to happen! Decorate how you want – in 4th grade, we liked to use crepe paper squares molded around the end of a pencil and dipped in the library paste – it gave a nice, fluffy texture to the end product.
Damn, I am so easily sidetracked! The point I was trying to make is that library paste was used almost daily in my school….and it was DELICIOUS! I think the thing that sucked me into tasting library paste was the smell – if you’ve ever used library paste, you know what I’m talking about. Charlie Brown (created by cartoonist Charles Shultz) once said, “I fall in love with any girl who smells of library paste.” There is a reason for that! Library paste has sweet, yet slightly sour smell – and it just makes you want to stick your nose into the jar and inhale until you feel a little loopy. As we would make our school projects, I would take the library paste brush and dab at my project, and then dab at my fingers, licking them clean and then repeating the process. And I wasn’t alone in my addiction – many of my classmates shared my enthusiasm for library paste.
Now that I’m older, that particular obsession has dimmed. Part of the reason for this may be that I now associate library paste with something else…something horrible, awful, and yet eerily similar.
As I’ve mentioned before, Mormons do a great job of taking care of each other and my mother had a particular affinity for young people – so she was often a Scout leader or in charge of activities for the young women in our area. She also took exchange students under her wing – and that’s where we met Kimo. He was a pleasant young man from Hawaii who was attending the university in my hometown and he became good friends with my parents, spending quite a bit of time at our house. When he learned we were planning a trip to Hawaii, he insisted that we visit his home there so that his family could treat us to a real Hawaiian luau. I had no interest in this, as I was ten years old and would rather spend my time at the hotel pool or the beach – but I didn’t have a whole lot of choice in the matter.
I remember we had to drive through a jungle and over mountains to reach the humble home of Kimo’s family. I’m sure they were very nice and extremely grateful that my parents had taken good care of their son, but I just wanted to eat and get back to civilization. I found the whole situation to be rather awkward. I mean, it is one thing to graciously say “Look up my family (who you don’t know from Adam) if you are ever in my neck of the woods!” But who actually DOES that? Well, my parents do that, apparently. I’m also sure that the food was plentiful and delicious – but the only dish I remember vividly was poi.
Poi, if you didn’t know, is made from the root of the taro plant – which is cooked, mashed, and then water is added to the desired consistency. In this case, the consistency was just like library paste! In fact, the only noticeable difference was that the poi had an ugly purplish color, but how bad could it be? I observed others dipping their fingers into the paste and shoveling it into their mouths and, being a girl who was usually willing to try new foods, I gave it a go. According to Wikipedia, poi has “a delicate flavor,” – but Wikipedia lies! This poi tasted slightly bitter and rather like mud (not that I go around eating mud on a regular basis or anything). I looked around frantically for something to spit the offending mouthful into, but not a napkin was to be seen. In the end, I had to swallow it, trying desperately not to gag.
That experience with poi forever changed the way I felt about library paste. While it still brings back a nostalgic feeling when I smell library paste, I no longer have the urge to scoop out fingerfuls for consumption. And I think it goes without saying that poi will never pass my lips again!