The Ice Cream War

Gather around ol’ ‘Granpappy, kids. Did I ever tell you about the great Ice Cream War of ’14? Tommy, go get ol’ Granpappy some more vino out of the box there… that’s a good boy. Tellin’ stories is thirsty work…

Double-standard Espresso, Please

I admit I am a bit “funny” about food.

I generally believe that there is far too much added sugar, salt, and fat in the foods we eat. I also believe that if I don’t get my Utz Potato Chips (ingredients: potatoes, sunflower oil, salt) to go with my Jif Peanut Butter and store-brand Grape Jelly sandwich at lunch, there is no justice in the world, and someone is going to get shanked.

Some people call this hypocrisy–I call it being human.

someecard-hypocrite

As a parent, it’s even more perplexing. I can just about convince myself to believe any given set of arbitrary set of rules I want to follow, but my four kids are like a cheese-grater for rules.

“What about chicken nuggets? It’s chicken! That’s healthy!”

Why can’t we have chocolate chip pancakes? They’re home-made!”

Can I have a Popsicle? You said it was mostly water!”

Daddy, you’re making that up!”

If the rules are not self-evident, they take a disproportionate amount of effort to defend, and eventually get abandoned because it’s not important enough to waste my precious energy on.

It’s exhausting.

One by one, all of my pre-conceived rules and beliefs that I started with on my parenting journey have shriveled up and died under constant, relentless assault.

No TV in the car? Gone.

No juice on the couch? Gone.

We will all sit down and eat all our meals together? So, so gone.

7zg0n

I am down to just a handful of guiding principles:

  1. Keep a low profile
  2. Handle your business and I’ll leave you alone
  3. Don’t make life more difficult for anyone else if you can help it
  4. You can’t always control what gets done to you, but you must control how you react
  5. Hot things are hot

This works pretty well for the most part, although I struggle with “Hot things are hot” at the expense of my children’s vocabulary far too frequently.

I scream you scream

There’s a new development around the corner from us that has 5-story townhouses in it. My wife and I were on our way to a rare lunch date, and driving through the development we had a flash of inspiration.

“Are those… 5 story houses?”

“Wow, yeah, that’s a lot of stairs. Imagine all of the stomping up and down our kids do now, and then multiply that by five.”

“… wait, I think you’re on to something here. ‘Get back down here missy and stomp up those stairs again. All the way up! No that wasn’t loud enough, come all the back down and do it again!’ ”

“…You’re evil, but that’s brilliant.”

Our daughter, in particular, has decided that the Stair Stomp Of Death is her most favoritest way to register her disapproval with homework, insufficient sprinkles on her donuts, and/or she’s hungry and there is no food in her mouth yet.

STOMP STOMP STOMP STOMP stomp stomp stomp stomp stomp stomp stomp stomp STOMP STOMP SLAM

Today alone, we’ve managed to get three separate runs up the stairs squeezed in between breakfast and bedtime.

I am negotiating with the electronic toll people to have a toll lane installed on our stairs for express-stomping during rush hour.

The most recent altercation involved ice cream.

Daddy can I have some ice cream?

“No.”

Pleeeease?”

“Um… no.”

You never let me have any ice cream? Why do you even buy it?”

“Yes, that last time I scooped out Ice Cream for you, I never let you have any.”

“DADDY.”

“I said no. And now I’m throwing it away because I’m tired of arguing about it. Again.”

Daddy NooooOOOOOOOoooooOOOOO!

“Yes.”

Ice cream goes into trashcan. Daughter fishes ice cream out of trashcan. A scuffle ensues. An arm is bitten.

STOMP STOMP STOMP STOMP stomp stomp stomp stomp stomp stomp stomp stomp STOMP STOMP SLAM

“Aaaaand now you’re grounded until Monday.”

DAAA-DY!!!”

No more ice cream.

50sdad1

What I meant to say was…

The thing is, I don’t really know why I make such a big deal about this. I mean, it’s only ice cream. We buy it. It’s illogical to buy it and not eat it. It just just doesn’t feel right, I guess. For me, that’s really the core issue. One of the lies I tell myself is that I am a consistent and reasonably rational person. If I can’t explain my actions, are they really sound?

So here’s what I really meant to say:

Dearest Daughter,

I know you wanted Ice Cream tonight. You made that abundantly clear. I also made abundantly clear that the answer was “No Ice Cream”. I don’t have the energy right now to properly explain my philosophy on nutrition and parenting, and even if I did you really  just don’t have the life experience to understand it because, contrary to what you think, you’re 10 going on 11 and not 10 going on 21. For now, you’re just going to have to accept “Because” as an answer. I hope we both live long enough to see you realize why.

Love always,

Daddy

PS- My arm still hurts, so you’re still grounded.

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Skinny Lazy Nerds

If there’s one thing, ONE THING, that makes me foam at the mouth, it’s when people insist that “X” makes you fat, when “X” is anything other than “consume more calories than you expend”.

This is the other thing. via overflowingbrain.com.

Video games make us fat.

TV makes us fat.

Working on a computer all day makes us fat.

These days the F-word seems to apply to anyone who doesn’t have a thigh gap.

F-word them.

Skinny Lazy Nerds

Being lazy does not make you fat. The world is full of skinny, lazy people. I am one of them. I was 80 pounds soaking wet through most of high school.

I was also a band nerd with helmet hair.

High school was not kind.

Obesity seems to be the only disease where it’s still socially acceptable to blame the ill.

stevie-wonder
We know what *this guy* did too much of when he was a teenager, amiright?

We are only beginning to understand the real complexity of the triggers for this disease. Why are there some people who only have to look at ice cream to gain weight? Once you are obese, it’s very, very hard to lose weight– it seems like you are literally fighting a constant battle against your body’s survival mechanisms.

So why are we getting worse?

If there’s one thing we can trust humanity to do, it’s figure out how to make a buck from the suffering of others.

murica1

Zach and Miri Make a Smoothie

The American diet industry goes back to at least the 1950s when the first weight loss drink appeared on the market. Prior to that point, food science had not matured to the point where we were able to manipulate our food at the chemical level (beyond burning the meatloaf), so weight loss fads focused on concealing rubber garments.

Something something society women something dissolving flesh wait what? via abcnews.com
Something something society women reducing flesh wait what? via abcnews.com

My favorite obesity conspiracy theory is that used to be cheap corn creates high fructose corn syrup, which gets added to everything and makes us fat. It turns out that this may not be the entire problem.

It’s not just corn that’s cheap: wheat and soy are both commodity crops that are frequently over-produced and/or receive subsidies. Removing those subsidies won’t have a substantial effect because the prices will still stay low, because economics.

In other words, it’s not the farmers who stand to gain from over production, but the processed food industry. As long as the wheat in our Wheat Thins is stupid cheap to for Nabisco to buy, there is plenty of budget left for clever marketing!

7mrf2

We’re damned from the moment we open our eyes, because we interact so heavily with media during the course of the day that our brains are saturated with the tantalizing deliciousness of Cool Ranch Doritos from birth to age 99. By the time we set foot in the grocery store, we’re already well-programmed to self-destruct.

Kale is the new black

The experts will tell you “Oh just shop the outside of the store.” These experts have never gone grocery shopping a DAY IN THEIR LIVES.

I think the stores are getting wise to this strategy because I haven’t been into a grocery store yet where the bakery was in the middle bit.

Regardless, as soon as I walk in, my cart is making a beeline through the asparagus and to the cakes.

BEE-BOOP ROBOT DAD NEEDS CAKE

Also, juice boxes are not near the organic kale, and you can bet which one the kids will give me grief over when they find it in their lunch boxes.

In fact, kids are probably the real leading cause of obesity in this country.

More times than I can count I have eaten leftover chicken nuggets because the child was done and I can’t waste good Chik-fil-a.

47437757

It’s only recently, as a direct result of a few of my children somehow surviving long enough despite my constant efforts to screw them up, that I have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. I can say from personal experience it gets better.

Slowly, ever so slowly, they start to appreciate real food.

In our house Mrs. Nostrikethat and I agree that the best thing we can do for our kids to help make them successful is to make sure they’ve got a good mix of fat, fiber, carbs, and veggies on their plates so they can wander off in the middle of dinner to go play.

As I have written before, feeding kids (and especially toddlers) is an exercise in the absurd. They never like what you make, and it seems like you just get the kitchen cleaned up when they’ve digested the tiny amount of food they just ate and are back for more. I’m no internet expert here, either.

The kid wants peanut butter and jelly for dinner again? Fine.

The 6 year old is having food sensory issues again today? Fine, eat Cheerios.

I’m even using JIF, because I’m a choosy mom. Dad. Whatever.

BEE-BOOP ROBOT DAD BUYS WHAT HE IS PROGRAMMED TO BUY

Taking a stand (while sitting)

Let’s review the forces in play. In this corner, we have:

  • The multi-billion dollar processed food industry and their advertising
  • The grocery stores where I buy my food to live
  • My own body which, as I type this, is salivating over the prospect of potato chips

Versus

  • Two weak-willed adults trying to make the best food shopping choices for their kids while acknowledging it’s nearly impossible to feed a three year old broccoli without committing horrific violence on someone
  • Kale

My response?

783v5

Parents, give it your best shot.

Take your kids to the playground when you can.

Try to put something green on the plate when you can.

Maybe ease up on the soda and drink a little more water yourself.

There are countless ways we can be bad at being parents, and no expert is going to tell you to just muddle through because that doesn’t sell a lot of books.

Worst case scenario, your kid grows up and writes stories with funny pictures in them on the Internet.

If I have to be outraged by something, I’m outraged by the fact that in the United States today there are more than 16 million children living in poverty.

I am outraged that there are 50,000 kids in our nation’s capital that may not eat on snow days.

How much iPad someone else’s kid plays? Not so much. Those stakes aren’t very high.

Mmmm… steak.

BEE BOOP ROBOT DAD WANTS OUTBACK FOR DINNER

Dangit.

Growing Up Vito

It’s Good to Be the Prince

As the oldest son of an Italian mother, I grew up absolutely certain of three things:

  1. I was better than nearly everyone else in general, and Americans in specific
  2. Most things that are American are decidedly inferior, although America itself is The Greatest Country in the World (a paradox, to be sure)
  3. Italian food is the best food
Also 4) Track suits and white tank-top t-shirts are appropriate for daily use.
Also 4) Track suits and white tank-top t-shirts are appropriate for daily use.

Fortunately for me, my wife cured me of the first belief (mostly) and travel has cured me of second (nearly). I rarely break out in hives if I am not inoculated with tomato sauce weekly, so maybe my views on point number three are becoming a bit more …

Nuanced.

Or maybe not.

A Dissertation on Salted Cod

Salted cod (“Bacalhau“) is the essential Portuguese food, despite the fact that they import nearly all of it. There’s a popular Portuguese appetizer called Pasteis De Bacalhau, which is a salted cod fritter. They usually look like this:

Like a jalapeno popper, but with less pieces of flair involved

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Portugal for business twice now. My first trip I stayed for 10 days, my second trip for 9. I love the city of Lisbon– it’s cleaner than Paris, milder in climate than London, and safer than Rome. Eating seems to be the main national past-time, so I had plenty of chances to try a bunch of the national cuisine, which is largely fish-based.

Fish popular here? How insightful, Watson.

I am not a huge fan of seafood in general, preferring a more linguine-based diet. However, if there’s one thing I deeply believe, it’s that you should do your best to eat local cuisine when you’re abroad, because food is the soul of a people, right? Also because the voice from my childhood tells me that Only Americans Eat American Food In Europe, And It’s A Sin, Right There In The Bible.

In Portugal alone, I’ve gamely tried:

  • fish with the head on (broiled and fried)
  • octopus tentacles with the suckers on (broiled and fried)
  • assorted mollusks (mostly just broiled)
  • shredded fish (boiled, then broiled, sometimes also fried for good measure)
  • deep-fried fish (fried again just to be sure)
  • fish stew (not fried, but not for the lack of trying)
  • goat (pretty tasty, actually)

Then after about five days of finding the soul of the people, I wander off to find the nearest Italian restaurant.

It seems my soul is made of lasagna.

You there! Dessert! You can stay. The rest of you shove off.
You there! Portuguese Dessert! You can stay. The rest of you shove off.

A Moment of Weakness

On this most recent trip, I visited the Hard Rock Lisbon (Ola Sofia and Ines Rita!). I did not mean to go there– we were actually trying to find a poorly-remembered Indian restaurant, but it wasn’t going so well on account of the fact that we had successfully found the soul of the alcoholic people before stumbling past what was probably the Indian restaurant, or a store, or an Indian, or maybe a very tan homeless guy. Whatever it was, it was probably near the Hard Rock, because you can’t walk past a Hard Rock without saying “Look! The Hard Rock Cafe!” in much the same way small children can’t NOT say anything about that embarrassing sore you have on your face that you tried unsuccessfully to camouflage.

By the time we got to the Hard Rock my stomach was growling with the intensity of a peevish weinerdog. I had only earlier in the week scoffed at another group of my colleagues who had set out– intentionally! — with the Poorly-Camouflaged Sore On Your Face as their destination. Yet here we were, with no Indian restaurant, or Indian people, or even that very tan homeless guy anywhere in sight. A hurried debate in front ensued.

“Where’s the Indian place?”

“Did we pass it?”

“We couldn’t have passed it, we’re nearly completely sober!”

“Do you want to keep walking?”

“If we walk any further, I wanna take a cab.”

We want hamburgers. Right now.

“Who the hell said that?”

Eat. Burger. Now.

Thus it was decided, and we went inside to be greeted by the perkiest, most flair-adorned Portuguese waitress we had ever set eyes on up to that point, who introduced us to another, perkier, more flair-adorned Portuguese waitress and generally set new record levels of perkiness in a Portuguese dining establishment.

We ordered burgers.

Which were delicious.

And $20 each.

Thanks, Obama.

That’s why you’re a butt

I believe that we really are, both molecular-ly and spiritually, what we eat. Our choices about our food says a lot about our values, our beliefs, where we’re from, how we’re feeling, and even our hopes and dreams. On one hand, I was disappointed in myself for taking the easy, safe choice and picking a known (if average) quantity. I don’t like the viral nature of American culture, and I feel a little guilty in helping support its spread across the world. I feel that sharing food is the second most intimate thing you can can do with another person, if only because after the first most intimate thing I usually want a sandwich.

ON THE OTHER HAND

That restaurant was packed with locals. They were at the bar. They were at the tables with their kids. They were in the gift shop buying t-shirts. No one is forcing anyone to eat $20 hamburgers, they’re lining up for the privilege! So maybe my choice was a little lazy, or immoral. Maybe I also was a little homesick and craving a little food for my soul. I think it’s entirely possible that one person can wander down a dark alley and try the most incredible Russian food at a brand new restaurant one night and go to Hard Rock the next, because people can hold contradictory ideas in their minds and believe them to both be true.

I was born outside of the US.

I have lived in 3 different countries.

At one point, I spoke 3 languages (2 of them are a now a little rusty).

I have stepped foot outside of the airport in at least 7 different countries, and the Glorious Nation of Alabama.

I have had tourists stop and ask me for directions in 4 different countries.

A Cuban asked me where the iHop was. In Miami. In Spanish.

In short, I think I have some pretty damn good international street cred.

There has been nowhere I have visited that has a greater diversity of quality food than the US of A. I am lucky and incredibly spoiled to have authentic, amazing food from nearly every country in the world no more than an hour away from my house. So deep down, I’m okay with sitting on the wrong side of the Atlantic, eating a hamburger or drinking a Starbucks, because I miss my home and I miss my family.

Also, I had Penne all’Arrabbiata Tuesday.

I asked them to go heavy on the the nuance.