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Mythical kids enjoy nutritious school lunches


I read those articles about "nutritious school lunches your kids will love." Such articles regularly show up in magazines and newspapers at the beginning of the school year.

I read these tales of children joyfully eating fistfuls of carrot sticks for the same reason I follow the theories about creatures on Mars: I enjoy reading about alien lifestyles.

Down in our kitchen, the big concern about school lunches is that the peanut butter and marshmallow cream sandwich not get squashed. To this end my wife and I have acquired industrial strength plastic sandwich boxes guaranteed to survive blows of up to 5 megatons, or fourth grade recess, whichever is greater.

Just how the kid can detect how a peanut butter and marshmallow cream sandwich has been altered is beyond me. The two main ingredients arrive at the scene of the sandwich in pretty much of a squashed state.

But the kid can tell. I suppose his detection methods are the same ones that told him last year that something was wrong when I substituted melted marshmallows for marshmallow cream. That happened one morning when, horror of horrors, I ran out of the gooey stuff. The kid told me later that the substitute was not the same sandwich. He returned it, minus one bite.

Occasionally, when I read accounts of the outbursts of celery-stick bliss in the lunchroom in something like the Ground Turkey Gazette (not a real publication, yet), I think these trend stories are written by people who don't have children. However, I know that such an occurrence -- having people write about things they know nothing about -- would never happen in American journalism. Unless the publication had a deadline looming, and a big color photo of celery sticks.

I console myself with the thought that there must be kids out there who regularly lap up their vegetables, clean their rooms and know where their shoes are. I just haven't met them. I guess these model children just happen to be experimenting with cookies and Yoo-Hoo when I run across them.

Yoo-Hoo is another item high on the lunch box request list at our house. It is a brown, boxed, liquid that may or may not contain milk. I could find out if I read the label, but I am afraid to.

Last year the peanut butter and marshmallow cream eater introduced his little brother to Yoo-Hoo. Now it is our family's lunch box beverage of choice. And this fall when little brother marked the beginning of his educational career with the first lunch at first grade, a box of the brown stuff, along with a bacon sandwich and a sweet plum, were there.

I take comfort in the presence of the plum, another request. And I am buoyed by the amazing amount of plain white milk the kids drink. In one record stretch this summer the kids went through four gallons in five days. There is, of course, the strong possibility that a fairly high percentage of that milk was spilled, not swallowed.

But like most parents, I simply seize any evidence of my kids' good behavior and, without asking any more questions, glory in it.

Finally there is the matter of developing a sense of taste. It bothers me when the Ground Turkey Gazette celebrates the time the school menu planners substituted a non-fat yogurt mixture for mayonnaise and "the kids didn't notice the difference."

It was painful for me this summer when my older son refused to eat the pancakes I made because I had used a mix and he preferred the way his mother makes them, from scratch, with buttermilk.

But at least he knew what he liked. And given the choice between having kids who can't tell yogurt from mayonnaise and ones who can tell the difference between mix and scratch pancakes, I'm happy with the latter. Even if they do drink Yoo-Hoo.

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