posted by meowser
Over at Chez Paul yesterday, in the forums, Kunoichi posted a link to a flamebait column (regular columnist, not op-ed one-shot) in the Edmonton Sun called “Grow Up, Fatties!” Yeah, you just know this ain’t gonna be no Paul Campos shit just from the title, right? (Meowser’s Rules of Flamebait Linkage apply here; if you must see the article, go through Paul. But trust me, you’re not gonna like it.) Using fourth-grade epithets to address your audience just has mature discourse written all over it, mais oui. (Ordinarily I wouldn’t bother with the French, but since it’s Canadian flamebait I felt I had to, sorry.)
I, unfortunately, having chosen to write about this guck, had to look at it, if only just to see what this paragon of sophistication’s name was so I could address it by given nomenclature. It’s Mindelle Jacobs. Mindy to you. (Her email: mindy.jacobs at sunmedia dot ca; her paper’s email, mailbag at edmsun dot com.) Okay, Mindy. I’m not going to bother giving your article a full fisking, because frankly, I’ve seen about 10,000 versions of this story already and it’s getting REAAAALLLY BOOOORING. ZZZZZZZ. And also…ZZZZZZZZZ.
“Whatever happened to responsible parenting, healthy eating, exercise and self-restraint? Oh, I forgot. Switching from belly-bulging, greasy fast food and pop to fruit, veggies and small cuts of meat is too tough.”
“Getting fit isn’t so tough, folks. Turn off the TV, go for a walk or a run or head to the gym. Snack on fruit and veggies and make high-calorie foods a rare treat. In other words, grow up and start taking some responsibility for yourselves and your children.”
Are you asleep yet? Hope not. Because what made me want to write about this was this one sentence in it. Quoting Dr. David Lau, the president of Obesity Canada:
“Some kids don’t even know what broccoli is,” he adds. “Don’t you find it frightening? That, to me, is a daily staple.”
Doc, how old are you? Twenty-five? I’m asking this question not to be ageist, but because he, like so many other yups, has a condition I like to call Veggie Amnesia — in other words, he (like his mouthpiece Mindy) seems to think there was some golden age in North America’s past when the majority of kids eagerly (or even reluctantly, with Mom putting the hammer down on their well-disciplined heads) snarfed piles of fresh leafy greens. If you’re 25 and middle-class-to-affluent, and the adults you lived with insisted on everyone sitting down together to eat every day (big “if” there, too), fresh leafy greens might well have been a staple for you growing up. Which is not to say you necessarily ate them, mind you, but at least your dog got some under the dinner table.
But I’ve been around a bit longer than that, I’m afraid. And what I remember from my childhood dinner table was…I Hate Peas. Not “I hate peas,” because I eventually discovered that I personally don’t, in fact, hate peas. But an actual product called I Hate Peas.
When I was a kid, the “preferred” way for veggies to be served was “boiled to death,” often after they’d come out of a can. Frozen if we were lucky. Fresh veggies — let alone organic ones — other than iceberg lettuce, corn, onions, carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes — were true rarities (and most of those we saw only in the summer months when Mom pulled them out of the garden). And we weren’t dirt-poor or agriculture-deprived by any means. Consequently very few kids then admitted to liking vegetables, other than a few favorites (I was partial to Chinese mushrooms and boil-in-pouch creamed spinach myself), and there were lots of brackish-looking peas and suchlike being secretly fed under the table to canines. (Although not by me; no dogs in my house, alas.)
So in the early 1970s, in order to deal with this parental despair about kids not consuming all that glorious roughage that had already had the vitamins and most of the flavor leeched from it in the saucepan (no microwaves then either), there came to be a product called “I Hate Peas,” which was frozen french fries with mashed peas in them, and there were also “I Hate Corn,” “I Hate Beets,” and “I Hate Spinach,” same deal. (I have no tangible proof of this product’s existence, but if I’m hallucinating this stuff, so were a lot of other people my age: see here, here, and here.) I even remember the TV jingle, it went something like: “I hate practicing my ABCs/But most of all/I hate peas!”
How’d it taste? Oh, like ass-flavored chalk, just about. (They didn’t last more than a year on the market, IIRC.) But they were fries! Yeah, in those glory days of Moms Who Made You Eat Your Veggies ‘Cause That Was Their Job (harhar), that’s what “Mom” was asking Big Food for as a tool to get us to eat our peas, corn, beets, and spinach, fries to mix the dreaded veggies into. ‘Cause we loved those veggies that much. HAHAHAHA.
I read in one of Mary Pipher’s books (I’m pretty sure it was The Shelter of Each Other) once about a woman who was forced to eat broccoli when she was a child even though she hated it, and when she threw it up, was forced to eat the broccoli vomit. Mmm, so healthy. And you can bet that as an adult, she never touched the stuff again. Can’t blame her there. Damn, but I cannot begin to tell you how many adults I’ve met, while they’d never experienced anything quite that extreme, still don’t care much for the green-and-orange stuff because “they made me eat that crap when I was little.”
I’m all for turning kids on to new things they might not try otherwise, but forcing them to eat stuff they know they don’t like? I don’t see the point, frankly. And as far as I can see, young people have eaten a lot more fresh veggies in their lives, both in volume and in variety, than even most vegetarians my age and older ever did, let alone omnivores. (My grandfather was a vegetarian all his life, and I don’t remember ever seeing even him loading up on the fresh leafy greens.) If you want to freak out about lack of veggie consumption, please, limit it to the poor people who can’t afford or get access to any of that shit even if they want it. Middle-to-upper-class kids don’t need your handwringing bullcrap, Dr. Obesity Canada.
And speaking of being concerned about the health and nutritional needs of the poor, this piece by brownfemipower, about her dad who worked in the fields picking berries and at other backbreaking pesticide-riddled agricultural tasks, makes me wonder on whose backs we’re building our so-healtheeee fruit-and-veggies-year-round lifestyles on. (BFP also said, in an earlier piece, that the average lifespan of farm workers in the U.S. is 49. Ye gods.) If we have to trash other people’s health to improve our own, I don’t see how that’s anything much to brag about. Eating veggies and fruit, and getting your kids to eat them, might make you and them feel good, but please, don’t act like it’s a goddamn public service, because unless you’re one of the few people who grows all your own or has managed to become part of some neighborhood cooperative, really, it’s not. (Organic farming may eliminate the pesticide aspect of the whole farming business, which is certainly a good start, but mostly it’s still backbreaking shitwork done for very little pay and no benefits, far as I can tell. If you have better information about this than I do, though, by all means please share it.) Reading BFP’s piece made me want to never buy any foodstuff that didn’t come out of a test tube, ever again. I could do that for myself if I had to, but my cats wouldn’t survive. Shit, shit, shit.
But speaking of growing your own, we just had our first harvest of fresh peas today from the garden. I shelled the damn things raw and just gobbled them up like candy, they were so sweet. And there are raspberries, my faaaaavorite, falling off the bushes right now. (You want raspberries? Come by with your container and I’ll give you some. We’re having to stick them in the freezer at the rate they’re ripening. I’m drinking bellinis, raspberry tea, raspberry lemonade, raspberry everything now.) It made me wish everyone, kids included, had a chance to do that, have the joy of planting stuff they love and just pick it off the bushes at their own pace and eat it any way they want — no shoulds, no rules, no nothin’. But of course, doing it that way would mean we’d get fresh veggies and fruit maybe three months out of the year, and then it’s back to the test tube. Let’s all have a toast to Healtheeee Eating — with a giant-ass can of Boost.