There would be a void in my life without David Sunflower Seeds.
Freud calls it oral fixation. He has this theory that all infants pass through early stages of development; the oral stage lasts until a kid turns two. At this age, an infant’s main focus is oral stimulation provided by breast-feeding. A child who is breast-fed too much or too little can be affected later in life. As an infant, I survived on Similac with added iron and a plastic bottle.
Adults fixated in the oral stage develop an obsession with oral sensations, often participating in behaviors like nail biting, smoking and straw chewing.
I constantly find myself popping a stick of Polar Ice gum, biting my lips and touching the outside of my mouth when I am bored or nervous. The orally fixated are also known to suck on toothpicks and snack as comforting activities.
But David Seeds? They are my Snacktivity.
My snack of choice starts with garden dirt and a pattern of numbers. Sunflower seeds grow out of the center of the flower head in very succinct spirals, following the Fibonacci number sequence: One, two, three, five, eight and so on. This ensures that every sunflower will grow with maximum seed-holding capacity.
Ninety percent of David’s successful seeds come from America’s Sunflower Triangle. Gardens from Minnesota, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas and the northern plains of Texas make up the triangle. The other 10 percent come from Canada.
No matter where the seeds are grown, the chosen ones will get dry roasted in Fresno, at the main distribution center for my spiraling fixation.
Fresno is also where David Der Herbedian created the consistent mixture of slick seeds and plentiful salt that I so often crave. In his own grocery store, also serving as a gas station and tavern back in the day, he began roasting sunflower seeds and sold them as individual servings for only five cents.
In 1912, he started marketing them under the name David Seeds, which later became David & Sons. The name change came 14 years later, after popular demand influenced company expansion. ConAgra Foods bought the David name in 2001.
Other brands just don’t do it for me. Planters seeds aren’t salty enough. Frito-Lay gets an A for effort, but the seed texture is too dry. Publix seeds are just unpleasant – like seeds that have been plucked out of the dirt and sealed in a bag, often discolored and gritty. David gets it right every time.
ConAgra Foods can dress David Seeds in all the nacho cheese seasoning they desire, but I will never spend a dime on anything except the original. It gives me a twisted sense of pride to know that the original taste of David Sunflower Seeds, a roasted concoction of just seeds and salt, is still the #1 selling flavor out of the seven. Ranch comes in second and is the only other flavor I could bring myself to try; I won’t even touch that chili lime nonsense.
Out of the 142 seeders that responded to a David Sunflower Seeds poll on Facebook, 54 left comments naming original as their favorite flavor.
Original was there for me as a beginning seeder with training wheels. As a kid, I would suck on a single seed and bite until I heard the cracking sound. I would then extract it from my mouth and take it apart like a seedologist in surgery. I’d have a pile of kernels on the living room table, while my dad would lounge behind me on the couch, pouring the bag into his mouth and shooting shells into a cup like a machine gun.
For Christmas one year, he bought me a gift bucket of the seeds. While most kids were into Twinkies and Pop-Tarts, I was obsessing over the David-stamped bucket at the bottom of our pantry. We both were.
These days, it’s Dad’s fault that I can’t make it through finals week without a surge of sodium chloride. It’s his fault that I can’t watch the annual season of the Next Food Network Star without clutching a red bag during each hour-long episode. It’s his fault that I can’t write a paper without an overflowing mug of shattered shells at my side.
He wasn’t breast-fed either.