Our Kids Know Real Food

My son at 5It seems that our kids are paying attention to what we eat.

Over the weekend we went to visit our friends at Ma Petite Maison in Port Orford, Oregon (I wrote previously about their beautiful place here: “A Taste of France on the Oregon Coast“). Port Orford is a tiny town with about 1100 people, no stop lights, a handful of restaurants, and a lot of virtually empty beachfront. It’s an exceptional spot to visit if you want peace, quiet, long uninterrupted walks on the beach, and more than just a little local quirkiness.

Port Orford has it’s share of 4th of July weekend activities not unlike most places: a morning parade of local groups ranging from muscle cars and fire trucks to a family of 4-wheelers with kids dressed in camouflage shooting high-powered squirt guns (I was not aware that this was a symbol of patriotism, but I now know better); a man who wakes the town each year by driving a truck around with loudspeakers attached, proclaiming, “GOOOOOOOOD MORNING PORT ORFORD. SEVEN AM ON YET ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL FOURTH OF JULY!”; A craft fair and quilting exhibition; a pretty good fireworks display, and a variety of weekend food-related activities.

I decided to get up early with my almost-6-yr-old and take him to a pancake feed that was being presented at the community center. I didn’t think much about the food that would be available; I was more interested in doing something just as father and son, since his little sister being a feisty 3-yr-old often grabs much of the family’s attention.

When we arrived, we stood in line for a while waiting for the food, stomachs rumbling and my son hopping on one foot from time to time. I eavesdropped that the griddles were not getting very hot, and thus the wait – but folks didn’t seem to mind. Eventually we were handed our Styrofoam plates which laid the foundation for pancakes, scrambled eggs, and a slice or two of ham. From all appearances, this is a reasonable meal – unless you are a 5-yr-old in Real Food training.

I should pause for a moment to mention that our kids are not at all picky eaters. My son will eat almost anything, although he doesn’t care for mashed potatoes for some reason. He eats any kind of salad, beets, broccoli, fish, all cheeses including goat cheese and feta – and loves to try any hot sauce that I have, no matter how hot. We don’t cook separate meals for our kids; they eat what we eat (and yes, we count ourselves lucky).

After we sat down, I put the standard pat of mostly-frozen butter on my son’s pancakes, added a little syrup, and cut up a few pancake bites for him. The pancakes were what you might expect from a “pancake feed”; certainly made from water and generic pancake mix (consisting of a lot of I-don’t-wanna’-know-but-I’m-eating-it-anyway ingredients), and cooked completely through. On the other hand, the syrup was, to be honest, pretty awful. It was the cheapest you can get, and tasted like what I imagine burnt corn syrup and food coloring with a motor oil chaser tastes like. Not so good. It was incredibly sweet however – In fact I thought to myself, “ya know, if you just want ultra-sweet and can ignore the chemical aftertaste, this stuff is just the thing.” And lest I sound like a total snob here (oh who am I kidding), let me just say that nobody of any economic strata should eat that syrup, although I suspect it does keep dentists in business.

After a few minutes of eating, my son put his spork down and looked up at me.

“Dad…” he said quietly and with crinkled nose, “…Do you…like…the eggs?”

“They’re OK. A little undercooked I’d say.” The eggs were clearly “egg product” out of a carton – something he’s really never had before.

“Dad, I don’t like them. Maybe they need salt.”

He shook a little salt from the shaker onto the eggs, took a bite, and made a face like he was eating salty cooked dirt (probably the face he saw when I ate the syrup). At this point I noticed that he was right – these runny scrambled eggs were not only undercooked, but had almost no flavor at all. I added salt too.

He moved on to the ham.

He put the 4-inch medallion of glazed ham on his spork and started eating around the edges. I took a bite from my ham too and noticed that it was incredibly sweet – at home we eat a fair amount of pork that we buy from a local farmer, but never canned or honey-glazed from the grocery store.

Without saying a word, he looked at it as if examining a new species of pink floppy tropical fish that he had just caught on an improvised spear, and before I could stop him he removed the ham and chucked it like a Frisbee several feet across the end of the table and into the Rubbermaid 40-gallon garbage can. This is certainly not behavior that I endorse, but it was all I could do not to laugh. He was right – the meat was questionable at best compared to the  pork he’s used to.

Finally, he dug into the pancakes. After 5 or 6 bites, he said, “Dad…I think I’m getting a stomach-egg…” – That’s stomach ache, for those not familiar with the vernacular. Stomach egg indeed.

“You don’t have to finish. Let’s get going.”

We cleaned up our spot, dropped the remains in the trash, and headed to the car. My son settled into his booster seat, buckled up, and looked out the window.



“I’m hungry.”

UPDATE: One little bit to clear up: Despite my attempt at some levity here, to be clear I am tremendously grateful for the work that is accomplished by the organization that put on the event. I deliberately left their name out of the piece originally because I didn’t want to offend, but turning it to the positive I think some good can come of mentioning the details. Specifically, thank you to the Rotary Club of Port Orford who generously put on this event and according to their President, Rick Francona, has “awarded almost $100,000 in scholarships through fundraisers just like this one.” Thank you, and my sincere apologies to any readers who found this offensive – that was far from the intent. (Maybe next time I’ll just bring my own syrup and keep my trap shut :) (see there I go again with the humor thing). )

Taking it a step further, I strongly and sincerely recommend donating to your local and national Rotary Club, or even better, volunteering – they are a secular, volunteer-run organization that does immensely good work globally. Here’s a link to their national Contribute page: http://www.rotary.org/EN/CONTRIBUTE/Pages/ridefault.aspx. From their site: “Since 1947, Rotarians have contributed more than US$2.4 billion to The Rotary Foundation to help Rotary do good in the world.”

Consider donating, won’t you?

Thanks for reading Almost Fit.