Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cool food

Toasted sticky rice - tastes better than a bag of chips, but not as cool.
Last week I read an interesting blog post about kids and junk food.  Specifically about how, thanks to marketing, junk food is cool, and healthier foods usually aren't.  And it's true.  Think back to elementary school - the coolest things in kids' lunches were Twinkies and Oreos and Lunchables, right?  And can't you remember a weird kid or two eating homemade date balls, and hard boiled eggs, and carrot sticks out of a sandwich baggie?

Don't laugh too hard... that's my kid.  Or will be, in a few years.

But Stacy at School Bites is on to something.  Junk food is cool, there's no arguing that, but those cool kids I remember from elementary school had more than just Handi-snacks going for them.  Every aspect of kids' lives has a cool factor - clothes, movies, games, activities...  Obviously food, by itself, doesn't make or break a kid.

Those cool, fruit-snack-eating kids I remember from elementary school were probably also wearing cool jeans and playing Playstation while my brother was still taking out our Nintendo cartridges to blow the dust off the inside so they would play right.

So what does that mean for me as a parent?  Well, even though I don't want the kids to be too wrapped up in what "cool kids" do, I don't want them to be outcasts either.  I know coolness is all about self-acceptance and confidence, and those things can't be bought.  But, on the other hand, I have to admit that sometimes a certain outfit or hairstyle makes me stand a little taller, and having something to contribute to conversations about the latest books and movies and t.v. shows makes small talk easier for me.

Knowing that my kids are bringing "uncool" food to school every day might make me willing to go out of my way a little to make sure they have other "cool" stuff, like a particular type of shoes, or a game other kids are talking about, or a book from the book order (Yes, the book order is still awesome.  At least it is in our school.)  I'm normally pretty cheap, so it's not hard for me to say no to things I don't think we need, especially since I want them to choose things based on what they like, not what everyone else says is cool.  But I might choose to go against my nature, just a little, as compensation for all those dorky snacks.

Most importantly, though, I can rest assured knowing that no funny, confident, talented kid is going to be ostracized for lack of a pudding cup. Who knows?  Maybe other kids will want food like theirs.  After all, cool is as cool does.

11 comments:

  1. I totally remember being jealous of the kids with Lunchables-my mom would always try to make me homemade lunchables with cheese and crackers, but it was never the same :)

    I know what you mean, not wanting your kids to be the outcasts. One good thing is that I think that food is starting to change though, and people are becoming more accepting, if that makes sense. Although, I'm not a kid in elementary school :)

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    1. I was desperate for the idea of a lunchable, but only for the cool factor. Those plasticy slices of cheese and weird, slimy lunch meats? Gross! You could not pay me to eat those now. That goes to show the power of perceived "cool". I wonder what I would have done if I'd actually gotten one.

      You're right about food culture changing - I think people are pretty used to the idea of allergies and sensitivities and special diets. And luckily, since we're in an international school environment, lots of kids are bringing their own cultural foods, so there's no PB&J standard that my kids would be standing out from.

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  2. and yet the adult "cool kids" all drink mason jars of kombucha and eat malformed homemade pizzas for lunch.

    that RICE thing looks SO GOOD.


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    1. That's so true. I guess that's going full circle?

      That rice thing IS so good! I was bummed because the picture looks stupid with all that sunlight shining off of it and you can't even tell how it's crispy like a hot soft pretzel (my most longed for snack ever since going gluten-free as a kid), but it is one of my favorite snacks now and all it is is a bit of sticky rice, toasted up in a little oil or butter. I guess not a good snack choice for bubs, though. haha

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  3. How do you do the rice thing? It sounds awesome. (remember, I don't cook so you have to be sort of specific...also...don't laugh...is sticky rice something you buy specifically (does the bag say "sticky rice" or is it sticky because of the way you prepare it?)

    Okay, now that my humiliating questions are over, I have to say I think you have exactly the right frame of mind when it comes to these things. Certain things that you feel you can give a little leeway on you'll consider(a specific hairstyle, or item of clothing) while others just are the way they are (food).

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    1. I'm not laughing- sticky rice isn't common in the states. It's the kind of rice you buy and the way you make it. You have to buy the sticky rice (or glutenous rice, it's sometimes called.) You soak it overnight and then instead of putting it in the boiling water like you do with regular rice, you suspend it over the boiling water in a cheesecloth or strainer, so it's not touching the water, only the steam.

      It sounds harder than it is. Anyway, normally I just buy it made. And then fry it in a pan like a grilled cheese sandwich or whatever. No special tricks, I just put some salt on it. Easy peasy.

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  4. I think all of parenting is one big giant balancing act. And there are no solutions right for everyone because we've all got different kids with different needs. (I've often told my kids that fair doesn't always mean equal. It means giving each child what he/she needs.) So, yeah--if lunch is "weird" it makes a lot of sense to balance that out with a little extra dose of cool somewhere else.

    As the mom of a smart teenage boy, I have to say how hard this cool thing can be. Healthy food isn't cool, and neither is being a smart boy. At least, not in the school my son attends. He only wants to wear name-brand jeans and shoes, and it can all be only from one (over-priced and not very politically correct) producer of athletic gear. I don't like it, but I go along with it. School (life!) is hard enough for him right now.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. I like the idea that we all budge where we can- for some, like me, food is the one that we can't waffle on. For others, maybe they can give a little in food, but there is just no way to make the expensive jeans happen. At my high school, being smart wasn't cool, either. It's such a shame!

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  5. I'm so thankful that Lil Duck is only 4. The lunching options make me gag. She loves deli style turkey. I cringe a bit giving her that because it is so highly processed and all. I'm not one of those "only from our garden" parents who do everything free range and fresh. I would like to be but it just doesn't work for us right now so I do what I can where I can. She gets the turkey but she is the kid with carrot sticks and apple slices. She will take a carrot over a cookie any day and I am thankful (for now) :)

    The boys? They are middle school and while they don't require name brand stuff they do love their crap food.

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    1. I'd love to eat only from our garden, too! Only one problem- we don't have one!! :)
      Thanks for your comment- I know we all do what we can. :)

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  6. I love sticky rice. I think I could make these for my family because the diabetic child here is not very adventurous with rice that is not rice pudding. I mean, and he could eat it anyway, but you know what I mean might as well avoid exciting new carbs.

    I hope you make a detailed post, with step by step photos, of how to make the pucks!

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