Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Food Fight!

Every house has it's hot spots and in ours one of the major battlegrounds is the kitchen. Sure, there are skirmishes over bathroom time, closet space, seating privileges in the living room, bedding unevenly shared. But it's the battle over what goes in the refrigerator and pantry that causes the biggest fights between me and the boys (meaning Hubby and William).

Long ago, when the kids were little I had complete control over the kitchen, the shopping, the gardening, and the cooking. For seven people. Family grew older and I both lost control and relinquished it willingly, in about equal measure. I wanted the kids to know their way around the kitchen and have some autonomy, and even if I tried to keep the kitchen barricaded, everyone was on so many different schedules that it would have been a 24/7 job to do it all myself.

Kids grew, moved out. Now we're down to Hubby, Teen, and I, and I'd like my kitchen back, for a number of reasons. I want the junk food gone and the healthy choices back in stock for health reasons for all three of us. I want control over our diet for economic reasons. I want to get back to having a kitchen that's more in sync with my philosophical, spiritual and ecological goals and beliefs. And I just, plain and simple, want my TERRITORY back. I'm a Pict, painted in woad, jumping and up and down behind the wall, trying to keep the Romans from coming any farther. And I do truly jump up and down and shout and bang my weapons together over my head. Everything but the woad. Although it's true I do it until I'm blue in the face. Not that it helps.

The family isn't near as afraid of me as the Romans were of that wild tribe in the northern reaches of their island. I explain to Hubby what foods are good for him and what foods make his cholesterol levels go up and should be avoided. He nods and agrees and then assumes if I don't SEE him eating that two pound block of artery blocking cheese, it doesn't count as actually eating it. William complains that I don't cook like a mom, like a housewife, is SUPPPOSED to for her family. So I cook something delicious and lovely. And William often looks at it as if I'm handing him a plate of Klingon blood pie, and then goes off to the local Subway for some REAL food.

I buy vegetables and fruit and unless I slice and serve it to the family, it might as well be invisible. They only notice it once it's morphed into it's green and fuzzy stage where someone (meaning me) is supposed to put it in the compost. Leftovers are anathema to William, even if he didn't actually eat them the first night the meal was served. Even if they were made earlier that same day and put away in the refrigerator until he came home. If they aren't fresh out of the pot or skillet, HELLOOOOO, they're LEFTOVERS! What am I trying to do, poison him!?

Hubby will eat almost anything I make but he believes food is only edible if it leaps directly onto his plate with no effort. By effort I mean no dicing, slicing, stirring, or even opening of packages. And let's not even mention the horror of "reading instructions"!!!! An orange? It has a peel on it - how do I expect him to get inside of it to the edible part!? A package of frozen stir fry? - instructions are too hard to find amongst all the other words on the packaging. Dried beans? - I might as well have offered him a handful of rocks and said "eat them".

Since so much of the food in the kitchen appears inaccessible to my family, they make late night or early morning survival missions to the market. I often wake up and wander out to the kitchen, open the pantry to discover it restocked with energy drinks and sugar coated cereals. White flour tortillas (William can't chew the whole grain kind apparently) mysteriously appear in my refrigerator, and countless number of cheap TV dinners replace Montresor's brick wall in my freezer, my frozen tofu playing the part of Fortunato.

I'm not sure why it frustrates me so, why I feel such a strong need to reclaim it in it's entirety. I mean, isn't compromise in a family a good thing? I'm certainly willing to do so, to a degree. And it's not like there's not a whole lot of middle ground where we all agree. The boys love fresh salads. No one balks at 100% whole grain bread. William loves a bowl of old fashioned oatmeal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And none of us are big on storebought cookies or other sweets. It's not about absolute control.

It's also not about purity. I'm not unwilling to find room for William's protein powder. I buy him cows milk while buying soy milk for Hubby and I. If it's not a health point, I look the other way at the odd things Hubby eats. And I'm certainly not willing to give up my personal stash of dark chocolate.

I think it's more a feng shui thing. Or maybe an artist's thing. If I'm going to begin again to treat cooking and eating as a conscious act, an art, then I want to be in control of the paintbrush and the canvas. I don't want other artists coming in and adding their own touches - squirting a bit of fuschia into my earth tone color palette, deciding I needed to darken the shadows more and doing so for me, adding more detail to my minimalist sky, or paint in a clown walking down the street. I want the whole of the work to be what I envision. I want the process and the end result to feel like it's part of me and not something I'm just a part of.

For all the arguing and eye rolling on everyone's part, at least I know I'm making an impression, albeit not one anyone is willing to admit to feeling. The other night we went to a spaghetti feed dinner put on by the football booster club to help raise money for improvements at the high school field - a new press box and badly needed new bathrooms. The football players families were asked to help by each bringing a dessert. I brought a bowl full of cut oranges. William and his buddies took great delight in teasing me about bringing such a goofy selection - who wants ORANGES for dessert. ORANGES aren't dessert. They're fruit. No one is gonna eat ORANGES.

After our fill of spaghetti, salad, and bread, we all took several trips up and down the long row of tables piled with thousands of cupcakes, cookies, and cakes. I had some of my own oranges, a slice of someone's lemon pound cake, and half a brownie. I overhead volunteers handing plates heaped with cupcakes on the boys, asking them to pass them around, that there were too many cupcakes and no one was eating them. I noticed that the oranges I had brought were half gone and the dinner was only about a fourth of the way through their serving hours. When William was done with his rounds of cupcake peddling, I saw him make one last sweep of the row of desserts for himself. He looked over all the choices, glanced up to see if anyone was watching, shrugged his shoulders, and grabbed ......

....a handful of ORANGES.


Anonymous kathy savage said...

I once sent celery with peanutbutter and carrot sticks for Alex's end-of-year class party. I think it was 4th grade. He continues to be bewildered and unhappy about this choice, especially since "no one" ate the carrots. Actually I guess all the Mom's and teacher did, since none came home, and the teacher thanked me for one of the few "healthy selections. So good luck with your kitchen project.

We spend about 30 minutes meeting over our schedules, grocery list and weekly needs, so I do have a team, but I am unfortunately the leader of cooking and eating on the healthy side. We don't do chips, cookies or frozen junk food, but Alex does like his "100 calorie" packs for lunch, and insists on white bread. Got to keep in the new milinium. And I hope as he ages his taste in food.ages too.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Jana said...

We are having a similiar issues at our home. I am trying my best not to buy processed foods except for pasta (no mixes, just plain pasta) and ceral. I have been doing this for about a year, but finally told everyone to suck it up because it is happening. My husband cannot cook anything but eggs. My kids on the other hand are very helpful even though they are young. My little girl has autism, so cooking is an escape for her. It is also good occupational therapy for her hands. Now we try to make everything from scratch and it certianly is healthier for all of us. My kids loved the desserts at the spaghetti dinner the other night. They filled up fast. LOL That your son took a handful of oranges. Kids are great.

10:43 AM  
Blogger JulieZS said...

I totally get what you're trying to do Laume, and I wish you fortitude and the finesse to pull it off. It is truly *worth doing* even if it isn't 100% successful in the end.

11:50 AM  

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