Never Waste Good Cheese on Children–Feed them Processed Food

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 5.48.14 AM“Mommy!” Declan stood in front of me with a Lindt truffle. “Please don’t put these in my lunchbox anymore. They’re yucky.”

I’ve been sick, and I haven’t been fun. I feel guilty. So, I put some extra treats in the lunchbox. The Halloween candy went missing, so I put a single milk chocolate truffle in his box. The kind that I save for adults and dignitaries. Sharing that’s a big deal. I was being extra nice…like when I give up my seat for an old person or lay out the best spread for company.

“They’re yucky. They’re caramel.”

“They’re not caramel, they’re truffles. Really good chocolate. They melt in your mouth and make you happy.”

“Well, I’m not happy. They’re yucky.” I remembered a lesson my brother taught me. You don’t waste good food on children. I went downstairs and found the bag of Halloween candy so I can chuck in a little Kit Kat tomorrow.

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Cato Corner Farm, where Elizabeth MacAlister and her son, Mark Gillman have been making some of the world’s best cheese since 1997.

Kids don’t appreciate good food, so they haven’t earned the right to get any. Nothing that costs over three dollars a pound should be given to kids in the single digits. Cheese comes to mind. My brother,  has worked with some pretty impressive foods and chefs. One day he taught me this lesson I hold dear to this day, “Never waste good cheese on children.” I buy Declan cheap American cheese. In this way, I am able to afford the best cheeses for myself, and not feel like I am breaking the bank. I can get the best chèvre, Manchego, brie, Stilton, camembert, Roquefort, and even try something new whenever I want. I love cheese, but it’s not cheap. Turns out, one of the nation’s renown cheesemaking operations has popped up in my hometown of Colchester, Connecticut, in a little farm called Cato Corner Farm. I’m proud to have some awesome cheese near where I grew up, but when it’s $10-$30 a pound, nothing would strike terror in my heart more than, “Mommy, can I have another hunk of that Drunken Hooligan?” It’s an amazing cheese even at $30/pound. I’m surely not going to waste so much as a sniff on Declan. He can sniff the cows while I sample the cheeses.

Declan hates the cheese aisle, too. He tries to escape by saying, “Uncle Dan said you should never waste good cheese on children. Get away from here!” It’s amazing that the boy can overhear a conversation three rooms away but can’t follow a simple direction when I’m staring right in his face.

Along these lines, I’ve started keeping a few inferior ingredients in the house. The emergency box of mac and cheese for lowbrow kid company, and a couple burgers in the freezer. I hate that Thomas Jefferson’s beloved mac and cheese has been bastardized and put in a yellow and blue boxes. I make it from scratch every time.

The last straw was brownie mix. Declan had his first boxed brownie at an event.

“Mommy, can you get boxed brownies?” My heart died a little bit. I make brownies from the highest quality fair-trade cocoa or melted chocolate with farm-fresh eggs from down the street and local butter. Mea culpa. It’s time to stop wasting good ingredients on children. He’s in school now, he sees the tasty processed food everyone eats. He feels left out. He needs to feel like an all-American boy. So, instead of making cheese pizza by hand with homemade dough, sauce and home-grown basil, he can have school lunch cheese pizza today. He’ll be happy as a clam, and I’ll save money for things that really matter–getting good food for the adults around here who appreciate it.

Maybe, just maybe, he can taste my brownies and the Drunken Hooligan in a decade or two. For now, I’ll keep my grocery bill down.


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Look at These Eggs!!

Eggs from the farm

Eggs from the farm

Look at these eggs. I doubled back, putting the five dollars in the envelope in the cooler that said “Fresh Eggs.” I took the last two dozen. Quite a bargain, I think. The cooler had done its job. It could rest quietly in front of its farm. I pass this farm when I run a lot, but never noticed the “Fresh Eggs” cooler out front. I must have been running slow enough today to see the sign.

I cracked open the cartons. Each one of these eggs is unique. Beautiful. I picked several out and studied them.  I marveled that so many eggs could have so many characteristics. I marveled at this fact.

“You need some serious help,” said one of the voices in my head.

“What a nerd,” said another.

“Don’t you have anything more important to do than stare at the color of eggs?”

I answered them.

“Absolutely. I have exams to grade, curriculum to standardize, I probably should shower, and my favorite Twitter chat’s coming up in a half hour. But…these…eggs…are….stunning.”

“Stunning? Get some help. Shoulda used the five dollars for a copay,” said the voice before going silent. I’m not listening anyway.

Look…at…these…eggs. Every one is different. Unique. Perfect. The way life should let us be.  It shouldn’t put us cartons marked the same, “Grade A Medium White,” or “Extra Large Brown.” Whoa to the egg just a little bit larger, a little bit of a different color, and God help the double yolk.

Nature shows us uniqueness should be celebrated. Creativity, beauty, different thinking, the road less taken. I struggle when I see hate, discrimination, or pressure to conform. I’m sad when I see standardization, negative peer pressure, or the desire to churn out people who are all uniquely…the same. It seems to be the trend in society today. Maybe that’s because I’ve always been like the egg that never quite fit in the carton at the factory when they were measuring.

But these eggs…every single one says, “I have personality! There’s no one like me!”

Being unique is what makes us beautiful. It’s what makes me want to live. It is the magic of life. Strange that I can see it in something as ordinary, or maybe not so ordinary…as an egg.


Drive Thru Coffee’s Slow–Make It Driveby

Screen Shot 2013-05-29 at 12.22.40 PMI look at the clock on the odometer.

I want to stop for coffee. The drive thru is right there, beckoning. It’ll just take a minute. It’s quicker if I run in.  I look again. I’m already three minutes past my time–I’ll have to make it up on the highway. Can I make up five or six minutes? I’ll drive efficiently.

I find myself wondering how cool it would be if someone were standing outside the coffee shop at the edge of the driveway with my coffee ready. If I could just call ahead and have it balanced on a pole like the old train mail sacks waiting for a pickup.

I pass the coffee shop. If you want a cup of coffee, leave earlier, you idiot. The voice in my head chastises me. It’s tough to leave on time lately. The boy wakes up, I try to load the dishwasher, I lose my keys… I berate myself again. If you can’t leave one simple minute early, you moron, you don’t deserve another coffee. You haven’t earned it. 

I’ve got The Junes.

It happens to every teacher–The Junes.

I find myself envious of my friends in offices who can have coffee anytime they want. Heck, they can pee any time they want, too–no small thing. Regardless of whether they are a minute early. Some even have their own baristas and get lunch shipped in. I miss those days.

I don’t need a drive thru worker to stand at the edge of the road with my coffee. I’ve already had four. And I don’t deserve five. Maybe tomorrow, if I leave early.

I race toward school with a list of things in my mind: Finish copying final exams. Finish processing teacher evaluation data. Help the kid who is supposed to come during advisory. Clean the fish tank. Clean my desk… Let’s be realistic. I don’t think I’ll clean my desk. Maybe next year.
We still have so much to do. About a million safety drills. Final exam reviews. Chasing kids down for work they owe me.
End of the year. It’s coming fast. Not fast enough. And too fast all at the same time.
I’ve got The Junes. So do the kids. They started in April, though.
There’s no cure for The Junes.
Except, maybe, July.