I love cooking almost as much as I love not cooking.
While it’s my pleasure to prepare most of the family meals at home, the first thing I will spend disposable income on is meals out. There’s nothing like being served and being cleaned-up after. I can’t wait to be a ninety-year-old in diapers. Pure heaven.
It’s this level of ‘Where’s the Beef?’ fast-food thinking which perverted a recent ski trip into a guilt trip.
My son began lessons at a local hill this past Sunday morning. We turned it into a family ski day – no small expense, once four lift tickets and the equipment rental for my wife were factored in.
In an effort to put the brakes on our budget’s downhill slide, I hurriedly packed snacks for us all: fishy crackers, rice cakes, half a cheese wheel, a box of crackers, and a Costco-sized container of cashews a friend had given me for my birthday (I’m a bit of a salt nut).
Look, they can go one meal without fruits or veggies, right?
By 11:30am, everyone was starving.
The hill was packed, so we were forced to share our cafeteria table with another family – another mom, dad, and two children similar in age to our own. Surely they would understand when I upended my back-pack of snacks and other food containing enough preservatives to survive a shuttle voyage. Parents of young kids are busy, and tired, and are rushed getting their kids to a 9am ski lesson. No time to start packing lunches. I mean, it’s not a school day. We get a break, right? Non-perishable, disposable goodies were invented for days such as these.
They began to unbuckle a fairly massive Tupperware container from underneath our shared table. I left them to their work as I went to search for…more food. I mean, budget aside, I had packed a plethora of snacks, but nothing which would constitute a real meal, even my wife recognized that.
By the time I returned to our lunch spot with two trays supporting 5 hot dogs, two poutines, 4 hot chocolates, and a diet Pepsi (in a pear treeeee), our familial counterparts had emptied their meals neatly onto their half of the table…
…Their children began with a chicken salad. Not the mayo-filled, processed stuff I bring home from the deli, but a neat bed of romaine, drizzled just slightly with a light dressing, topped with home-roasted white breast.
When (and only when) they had polished off the salad appetizer, the children were each handed a short stack of carrot sticks. Not the baby-cut ones I buy in bulk and scoop unwashed out of their resealable plastic bag, but rather the hand-cut, hand peeled, hand washed variety…probably imported from their Brazilian cousin’s veggie farm he’s bringing to maturity just in time for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
Did I mention the side of hummus dip?
My kids weren’t even taking notice, they were too busy pulling poutine cheese strings out of their ski-pant suspenders…
My lunch, and additional $42; theirs, $0. Numbers reminiscent of our respective cholesterol ratios.
Their healthy meal was causing my guilt began to grow as quickly as my heavy lunch was causing my consciousness to fade. Surely their children could not continue through an afternoon on the slopes on this low-cal diet?!
How do they survive?? I was convinced their eldest, who appeared to be no more than 8-years-old, was probably really a nutritionally-stunted 27.
Finally, after all (and I mean all) the carrot sticks had been happily devoured, the health-parents reached into their bag for dessert. I became excited with possible vindication as I recognized the familiar sound of pre-packaged cellophane…yes, it was true…they were about to reveal a processed food!
Nope. All natural, health-food store brand, nuts-and-grains-only granola bars.
I didn’t even know those bars came without marshmallows.
They had all the food groups covered.
I had food groups covered as well: saturated fat, sugar, preservatives and MSG.
Yeah? Well I’ll bet, I told myself, I love my kids more than they do.
But, if that were true, why did I seem to spend my lunch time telling my kids to sit down, to stop playing with their food and eat, while the health-family’s kids seemed quiet and well-mannered, allowing the adults to talk amongst themselves?
I was the poutine parent, they were the carrot parent. All that was left was for me to acknowledge their victory:
“Excuse me.” I said “I have to say I’m really impressed with how well you feed your family, and how receptive they are to such a healthy meal. I’m feeling a little guilty. Just so you know, we were rushed this morning, and I didn’t have time to pack properly. Usually we always insist on a good portion of fruits and veggies with every meal, I’m going to make up for it with a healthy supper, for sure”
Even in victory, he was gallant: “It’s funny you should say that. Our kids were telling us how jealous they were of your family’s meal.”
I laughed and he laughed and I looked at his kids and told them what great parents they had and how they were going to grow up to be tall and strong and healthy. Secretly, of course, I was praying for an explicable numbers of cavities to show up under their next molar scan.
We were all collecting our belongings – them replacing their geometric Tupperware back into its larger geometric mother; us throwing our Styrofoam and plastic refuse into the waste basket – when my salvation showed up.
“See? Grandma’s here.” My counterpart announced. “It’s not always health food.”
He motioned as their grandma handed over a package of Skittles and a Hershey bar to the kids.
“Oh! I feel so much better.” I chortled.
Little did they know that my kids’ grandparents were coming over for supper that night. The poutine and hot dogs had better hurry up and digest. Hosting grandparents for supper was a special occasion. If they don’t clear their system of lunch soon enough, they won’t have room for the apple pie defrosting on the stove at home.
Should of at least made a carrot cake.