In this modern day, aren’t we all just really really healthy and really really unhealthy at the same time? I mean, I’m pretty sure my grandparents didn’t have chia seeds in their fridge, but, then again, they didn’t have rBGH in their milk. I’m fairly certain my grandparents didn’t drink coconut water to restore their electrolytes, but, then again, they didn’t ingest GMOs either.
My modern-day child-rearing often leaves me scratching my head in amused consternation. We all give our children such extremes of good/bad food, and, as a result, alternatively congratulate and chastise our own parenting skills.
I’m the kind of mom who routinely sneaks flax seed and pumpkin into their Bisquick pancakes; sweet potatoes into their jarred marinara; wheat germ into their meatloaf. They snack on hard-boiled eggs as well as graham crackers.
I forbid aspartame and corn syrup from passing their lips, but I will give them (homemade) cookies or (store-bought) animal crackers, made with real sugar.
They guzzle smoothies that I make with kale, avocado, and almond milk AND they also love McDonald’s french fries. I cook with coconut oil AND I also like to fry things. They eat avocados every day, AND they also love beanie weenie. (Hey, don’t knock it – that’s an amazing amount of protein and fiber for toddlers!)
Good, bad, good, bad. Who’s with me?!
My own sons eat an odd little combo that I like to call Southern Cooking, Mediterranean style. I was raised on southern cooking. Our food groups are meat, potatoes, cheese, mayo, and fried. Just kidding. My mom is an excellent cook, and, even though she worked full time throughout my whole life, made biscuits from scratch, could somehow get a whole meal out of a ham bone, and knew her way around a deep-fryer. In the 1980s and 1990s, when everyone was worrying about fat grams and eating Snack Wells, my mom always said to us, “I’d rather feed my children fat than chemicals.” We always used real butter, even when all of you ate margarine. She was ahead of her time, even if you might make fun of her GrandPappy FryDaddy or whatever it was called.
My husband, on the other hand, comes from a unique heritage that is undoubtedly not-southern. I don’t believe he ate mayo or peanut butter or anything from a can. I am certain they didn’t deep-fry. I like to say, “Before we met, I had never had real tuna, and he had never had tuna from a can.” Without divulging his origins, English was not the first language for either of his parents, and, as a result, his parents brought two diverse cultures of food to their table.
He was raised on fresh food, massive quantities of fruit, all kinds of nuts I never heard of, and something called, um, chicken? Lean meat? His mother, like mine, is an excellent cook, but that is where their similarities end.
(One place I’ve managed to feel haughty with my husband is sweets. My mother was a dental hygienist, so I didn’t eat sweets. I think it helped that neither of my parents had a sweet tooth, so sugar wasn’t some forbidden treat. We just didn’t care about it. My husband, on the other hand, has the normal love of sugar.)
Let’s just say that when Southern Cooking married Mediterranean Cooking, cultures clashed. Good thing we had eight childless years to figure out if our house was going to contain mayo (yes) (how else can you make potato salad?), tuna from a can (yes), and canned corned beef (no).
I was distraught as a newlywed when I made him my favorite meal, Corned Beef Hash, and he didn’t like it. For those of you who aren’t familiar, you can combine any meat with “hash” (the potato kind, not the Amsterdam drug kind) and fry it into a meal. The corned beef, to be clear, has to be from a can. It kind of smells like dog food when you open it, but once it’s fried, it’s delicious. I was such a weirdo kid, I requested that cheap-o meal for MY BIRTHDAY every year! That was the one day of the year that I could have requested steak or shrimp, and I requested meat from a can that smelled like dog food. What can I say? I am a cheap date. He still doesn’t like it, so, to this day, my mom will make some for me on my birthday, but my husband doesn’t have to eat it.
Conversely, I was overjoyed when I discovered that he loved my creamed-chipped-beef for breakfast. (Or, “SOS”: “Sh*t on a Shingle”.) It’s still a weekend breakfast staple around here. He likes tuna from a can now, as a quick protein. He loves it when I fry things, but I try not to do it too often, so I don’t offend his non-southern body. Seriously, those healthy people can’t take it!
I made my fair share of changes too. I learned a handful of his favorite recipes from his mother. I am always wanting to learn more. I still don’t like berries of any kind (weird, I know, but they give me a stomachache), but I do eat far more fruit than I ever did as a kid. I think we mostly had apples and grapes in our fridge when I was young, but my kids have a never-ending supply of every kind of fruit. It’s an expense that my husband insists we make room for in our budget. My one-year-old twins can eat an avocado per day, each. My four-year-old can pit cherries by himself. (I don’t think I had a real cherry, the kind not from a jar, until college.) He can eat an entire Costco-size container of raspberries if I’m not looking. My husband- and now my children- are fruit snobs. That’s okay with me. I pretend to be one too and I hope they never discover my secret.
Besides being fruit snobs, my children are yogurt snobs, too. I could write a whole blog post about this house’s relationship with yogurt. I didn’t try yogurt until college. My husband, on their other hand, had plain yogurt with almost every meal. It was a fixture at his table, much like white bread was a fixture at my table as a child. I can tolerate a few select brands of blended yogurt, like lemon or vanilla, but, plain yogurt? Whoa. That is an acquired taste. No, I take that back. I haven’t acquired it yet, even after much effort. Plain yogurt is something on which you have to be raised. I’m pretty sure we have at least six different kinds of yogurt in our fridge at all times. And I’m not talking flavors –I’m talking varieties. Whole, organic, Greek, Iranian, fat-free, fruit, onion. Wait, what? Yes, onion yogurt. My husband and my children fight over the plain yogurt with raw shallots in it. Yeah. They do. My babies wake up from nap with onion breath. They will turn away from fake-y yogurt with aspartame in it but they fight over RAW ONION YOGURT. I hope they never discover my secret: I am no yogurt snob, I didn’t eat yogurt until college, and I certainly don’t (yet) eat shallot yogurt. Go, kids, go!
Like his father, but unlike his brothers, my oldest son (who came to us through adoption) seems to eat the most Mediterranean diet of all. His favorite foods include salmon, berries, onion yogurt… and he says he’s just “full” when I serve anything remotely Southern, creamy, buttery, cheesy, or fried. He’s polite about it, because he knows he’s not getting anything to eat that wasn’t already on the table, but he asks to be excused quickly. He might be one of the few four-year-olds who doesn’t like chicken nuggets. My twins, while being of the same biological lineage as my husband, scarf down my homemade mac n’ cheese with intense fervor.
And there you have it: I suck. And I’m awesome. Just like you.
Tell me I’m not the only one! What extremes of good and bad food do you feed your kids? Come on, brag/publicly shame yourself a little!