I’m a nightmare for a lot of those parents who push for preservative-free, gluten-free, allergen-free, nut-free, whole foods types. I don’t do it on purpose, I really don’t. I had a lot of allergies as a kid, though I don’t pretend that it’s the same crucial and life-threatening allergies you had. My asthma was far more threatening than it is now, and I’m doing far better now than I was as a kid. Sure, I had allergies and breathing problems but I was fortunate enough that I was neither pushed to do too much by my parents and I wasn’t babied too much so I never felt that I couldn’t do something if I wanted to try.
But my point is that I use peanut butter nearly every day in my kids’ lunches. It’s not some “fight the power” issue to somehow send a message to people or anything. I totally understand the sensitivity to nuts, the reaction that could seriously harm someone, all of it . . . my issue is that I have a very tight budget. My kids’ lunches have a peanut butter sandwich every day. The reasoning is pretty simple: even at its priciest, peanut butter is cheap, filled with protein, vitamins, and they like it. My kids know who may or may not have a sensitivity and they’re sure to stay away, wash their hands after lunch, all of it.
But the one thing that’s really caught my eye lately is all the commercials, ads, billboards, everything for foods and items that aren’t simply an allergen-reaction fueled campaign. There’s been a myriad of Chex commercials for “gluten free” cereals. Gluten free pizza crust. Gluten free this, that, the other. Preservative-free foods. Plastics-free bottles. Filtered water from your tap. Reverse-osmosis fueled spring water with all the minerals and vitamins removed. There’s a freaking bar/restaurant in New York that’s selling distilled water for ungodly amounts of money. I watch and wonder . . .
How the hell are our kids going to survive?
I get it . . . some people don’t want or can’t have gluten…though I don’t know how that’s happening. There’s a fear of carbohydrates. There’s a backlash against meats.
When I realized I was making all the decisions for my kids’ lives it became clear that I had to start doing that: making decisions. One of those wasn’t the avoidance of glutens or preservatives… it was reverting to life as I remembered it. I cannot do what my parents did, not just because I’m no longer married but because I work 8 hours most days and then get home. I wanted, though, for my kids to have what I had. Sure, every kid thinks they’re under the thumb of their parents but when you have your own children you realize what it is you wish you could do for your own children. Mine was trying to bring them some of what I had.
It started with breakfast. I fix it for the kids every morning. Working around my schedule, I might make a triple batch of waffles and cook them – freezing them – and then serving them via toaster each morning. I might do pancakes or the simple scrambled eggs. I generally make the breakfast myself.
Same goes for the desserts. I realized early on that Sam was affected heavily either by the processed sugars or corn syrup or preservatives or whatever in the bought treats. Make chocolate chip cookies at home he’s fine. Buy a bag of Oreos and give him more than one – he bounces off the ceiling. As a result I make all the desserts myself. I bought a Sunbeam mixer with better power so I could make more. I use the Betty Crocker “Cookie Book” my Mom got me. I learned a lot from my Mom – whether I knew it or not – and as a result I can cook, bake, all of it. Give me a recipe and the odds are pretty decent I can figure it out.
The thing here is that I have a theory: I don’t necessarily think it’s the gluten, allergens, chemicals, or preservatives that are causing the havoc in our lives. It’s the convenience we think we’re attaining but not really seeing. We buy cookies rather than make them. We nuke foods rather than cook them. We buy McDonald’s rather than frying up a burger. The problem with that? We are feeding the machine ourselves.
I could say it’s sooooo much easier and I’d be lying. If you absolutely despise cooking or baking you won’t do this. I don’t mind it and my kids have a far wider pallette than McNuggets and hot dogs. We drink water out of the tap or the fridge – I buy bottled water for lunches but use a reusable bottle much of the time. We try new desserts and treats.
We could be afraid of every little thing, but where gluten occurs when you’re using dough or cooking with flour, why avoid it so much? I worry more about the chemicals and preservatives and when you buy cold cereal because it’s got no gluten rather than making homemade waffles or pancakes or eggs . . . something that takes just a few more minutes or steps . . . what’s the problem there? Not the gluten in my mind. It’s the short attention span and need to “want it now”.
I don’t criticize the gluten-free-ers or those who suffer from sensitivity to these things. I do believe our reliance on pre-packaged foods and not making our own created the sensitivities we face today.
I say this knowing full well I ate Twinkies and Reese’s Pieces as a kid – and yes, I know Twinkies supposedly have rocket fuel in them – but I didn’t have a Twinkie a day . . . nor did I have Reese’s. I did have a home…filled with what I needed and some of what I wanted…because that’s what you do for your family.
I only wish more people understood that.