I Want REAL Food – Not Cheap Food

This week, the New York Times ran an article highlighting the hypocrisy of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA): While warning about the dangers of saturated fat, the USDA is actually working to encourage Americans to eat more cheese. Cheese is extremely high in saturated fat and there very are few people in this country that ought to be consuming more of it. I’m sure the UDSA’s promotion of cheese would surprise many, as it is a common misconception that the USDA is tasked with overseeing the nutritional health and well-being of the populace. In fact, the USDA’s mission is to promote the interests of US agriculture – in other words, the beef industry, the chicken industry, and of course, the dairy industry.

In the past few years, I have become something of a food vigilante. I’m not a religious person, but I imagine if I were, Michael Pollan would be my prophet.  My diet consists primarily of produce shipped to my house each week by a local farm, unrefined grains (such as quinoa), and some meat. My grocery bill is surely higher than the average American’s, but I’m okay with that. As a percent of income, my food spend is still standard deviations below that of my grandparents (thanks, of course, to farming subsidies and the explosion of Big Food). In fact, not only am I okay with paying more for my food, I actually want to pay more. I don’t want to eat “food” that is cheaper to purchase than it is to produce; I don’t want to support a system that is incented toward cheaper and faster. I want food that is just that – food, natural and pure. Call me a self-important elitist (you wouldn’t be the first), but every time I see a coupon site dedicated to helping people save money on already dirt-cheap processed “food,” my soul dies a little. In 1950, the average American spent 20.6% of their income on food. In 2004, that number was 9.5%. Most of us can afford real food if we make it a priority.

I work full time, but I try to cook dinner most nights. It is important that my son see me cook, that he sees ingredients in their whole form. He knows that food comes from the ground, from animals, and not from a supermarket or a factory. I want him to know what he is consuming simply by looking at it, not by reading a label. I want him to eat what his body tells him it needs, not what a commercial suggests. As I mentioned before, we get our fruits and vegetables delivered from a local farm. We augment our produce with regular trips to the farmers’ market, where we purchase wild salmon right from the fishermen.

Processed food has its place. Advances in agriculture have given us a calorie surplus; while we may not be eating as healthily as a nation, hunger and starvation are no longer problems for us. Processed foods should be consumed sparingly, however. They should not be used as an excuse for not cooking or as a way to save a few dollars. Sadly, though, I don’t think this situation will change for most Americans unless there is strong government action to reduce corn subsidies and to turn the USDA into an advocate for us, not for Big Food.

Toy Day is Over

On the surface, “Toy Day” sounds like a sweet concept. Twice a week, the kids get to bring a toy from home to share with their class. No weapons, no monstrosities (I had to veto a pop-up Thomas the Train playhouse this morning). Other than that, the rules are pretty open.

G, for his part, has created an additional rule: You must never (ever!) bring the same toy twice. Can you imagine the snickering? The disgusted looks? The whispering of, “Didn’t he bring that Backyardigans guitar last week?!”

As my son gets older, status has become more of an issue amongst his peers. And Toy Day has become THE DAY to improve that status. I mean, what is cooler than being the kid who brought The. Best. Toy. – am I right?

Every Toy Day morning is stressful, as G calculatingly hunts down the perfect item, the one that will set him apart from the heard. Usually, this process takes about 10 minutes, but it can take up to 30 minutes. Today, however, it took an HOUR.

It didn’t help that I was already about an hour late to work to begin with and not in any mood to double that. No amount of prodding, cajoling, suggesting, or threatening would speed this process up. In fact, it seemed to spitefully slow him down. I was desperate, so I enlisted the Ex to help. Nothing. Finally, I got the now angry preschooler into the car by promising him that there was bound to be something really awesome buried under the mess in the backseat. When we were loaded into the car, it was quickly discovered that all that lay buried under the mess was more mess.

G was not pleased. “You are going in the garbage can,” he informed me.

He proceeded to pout and inform me of other places I could expect to go during the ride to school. He did this as we walked to his class (read: his teacher and I dragged him), and as he waved (still pouting) as I rushed off.

This has led me to the conclusion that Toy Day is a very bad idea. I might talk to his teacher about canceling it altogether; however, I’d make her sign a non-disclosure first, forbidding her from ever letting G know that I was the evil mastermind behind it. If not, I don’t think I’d ever get out of that can.

Oh, Jim Gaffigan, I Love You

First time I saw him perform, I admit it. I hated him. But now? OMFG. He might be the funniest man alive. (Don’t worry, the Ex holds no false ideas that he’s funny. Nor does he read this blog.) Anyway, my favorite Gaffigan commentary of all time (and, no, it’s NOT “Hooooooooootttttt pockets!”) has to do with our sad gift-giving habits:

It can be hard to give a gift. I can’t believe we’re still giving clothing as a gift, because whenever you get clothing as a gift you open it up and think ‘not even close.’ And the person who gives it is like ‘you can take it back if you don’t like it!’ That’s all right, I’ll just throw it out. Don’t give me an errand. ‘Happy birthday, why don’t you head to the mall for me?’

Did you ever get a candle as a gift? ‘Hey, thanks. You know I have electricity, right?’

My favorite gift I’ve ever received is a flask. I think giving someone a flask is a nice way of saying ‘Hey, you seem like a drunk on the go. You strike me as needing hard liquor at all times.

My Parents Joined Facebook

In stumbling around the Internet, I came across a funny site entitled “Oh, Crap. My Parents Joined Facebook.”

I joined facebook in 2004, as a senior at Harvard (the school where the site originated). My member number (the order in which you joined the site, relative to everyone else) was in the hundreds. Facebook now boasts millions of users. Though I am late 20s, I felt no shame in my social networking addiction.

Until my parents joined. And my crazy relatives. And they all friended me. Not only did they friend me, but they started posting on my wall and messaging me PROFUSELY.

Suddenly, I saw a vision of myself 20 years from now. I hope to god I have enough self awareness not to put Gavin through what my “I’m 20-something still, aren’t I?” relatives are currently putting ME through.

The Perils of Parenting

No one ever told me that parenting a toddler was a full-contact sport.

When my son was born, my friends showered me with gifts of cute little onesies, baby bjorns, and stuffed animals galore. Had one them been a parent themselves, I remain certain they would instead have given me full body armor and a helmet.

You see, I am writing this post on the eve of my septoplasty. For those of you who don’t know, a septoplasty is a surgical procedure done to repair a damaged septum. I was not born with a deviated or damaged septum. No, my injury occurred at the hands – err, the diapered butt – of my three year old son.

Two months ago, I was very innocently lying in bed on a Saturday morning. Gavin, thrilled that it was a weekend day (what he aptly refers to as a “Mommy-Gavin Day”), bounded into my room and threw all 40 lbs of his toddler self upon me. In his pure elation, he did not consider neither his takeoff nor his landing, and he landed, diaper first, right onto my face.

My nose wasn’t broken, so I assumed all was okay. The only thing I found strange was that ever since the nose-landing incident, I suffered an unusual amount of congestion. Finally, I took myself to see a doctor who quickly assessed the situation. My septum was bent and the only way to repair it was through surgery. (He assured me that this was a very common injury, especially for those with large dogs and / or small children.)

So, tomorrow I will have my surgery. The sympathy from those around me is truly wonderful, though. When I told my Jewish mother what had happened, her reaction was, “So you’re having a nose job?” My Ex is having even more fun telling people that I am “having my nose modified.”


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