Friday, January 22, 2010

"Very often it is whole wheat. It is never sweet."

The NYT blog comment to end all NYT blog comments can be found here.

I just showed it to Jo, who explained that at his nursery school, they not only had crusty bread, but smoked cigarettes and discussed Heidegger, it was that European. This was after he'd given me his serious response, which was that he, like me, had candy bars after school, only theirs were not called "Nutrageous."


Britta said...

It's funny, because that comment is an obnoxious take on an obnoxious trend--clearly, crusty, organic, locally produced bread with "healthy" fat olive oil and organic honey (aka, starch with either fat or sugar) is somehow ok when Europeans do it, but evil when Americans do it. The problem of course, is both sides are so unreasonable--no, cheetos and oreos are not real food, and eating them all day long will probably give you cancer, but the alternative is not some magic wholesome Euro-diet, that magically involves no unhealthy ingredients, even though European cuisine is based around pasta or potatoes or bread and some sort of fat.
I mean, I think European diets tend to be saner, because people there tend to recognize that junk food/non health food in moderation will not kill you, but certain Americans don't recognize that nutella on bread is an ok snack or breakfast if you are eating a balanced lunch/dinner is equal to a candy bar is an ok snack if you are eating a healthy lunch/dinner, they assume European junk food must have some magical properties.
On a personal level, I spent about 3 months in Europe as a small child, most of it in Germany, but a portion of it in Norway. While my diet didn't vary that much from in America (my parents eat a fairly "European" diet and shop at a local Northern European import store, so many of the foods/brands were familiar), but I do remember eating candy nonstop. Denmark has the highest candy-consumption per capita in the world, and its neighbors also do a pretty good job--one night, when my parents were out and my German godmother was at home, she let us eat only candy for dinner, and no one seemed to worked up about it. I also remember, we spent a week in the Alps, and there was a restaurant that had a large plate of french fries as a dinner option. I remember being so impressed that in the Alps, you could eat only french fries for dinner, that I begged my parents to let us move there.
Maybe that is off topic, but I guess the point is, yes, eating cheetos nonstop is bad for you, but Europeans don't exist on some magical healthy diet, you can eat candy or french fries for dinner (and, in my experience, some European children do) every once in a while as long as its mixed in with vegetables and you won't get morbidly obese or die of a heart attack at age 30.
That's maybe tangentially related to the snacking 24/7 (when did this develop? We had no snacks in school, in fact, we weren't allowed to bring candy in our lunches in elementary school. Also, no eating was allowed for hours before dinner, because it would "spoil our appetite." Of course, we had a snack after school, sometimes it was healthy, sometimes it wasn't).
Ok, this is a rambly procrastinatory comment, but maybe there's an interesting point somewhere in there.

Joe Mandrillionaire said...

"Everyone is happy."

Petey said...

It's been 24 hours. Shouldn't we expect some La Fille du RER blogging by now?

PG said...

That's maybe tangentially related to the snacking 24/7 (when did this develop?

Around the same time as having 12 different food allergies in a group of 30 kids?

I'm convinced that the constant snacking only exists in communities where saying, "I get tired of saying 'no' all the time" doesn't get you laughed out of a PTA meeting. If you get tired of saying no and your alternative to repeating "no" is saying "yes" (as opposed to my parents' alternative to "no," which was closer to the Grandpa parenting model), you have no business raising children. The mother who gives her children snacks instead of expecting them to eat what's for dinner must not have tried owning a pet before producing offspring: I learned just from having a rabbit that if they are hungry, they will eat what you give them that fulfills their dietary needs. On the other hand, if you keep giving them snacks (though for a rabbit, this is stuff like carrots and cilantro), they'll never need to eat the less tasty dinner and so they'll always refuse it.

In fairness, though, maybe these are really skinny kids? My parents always figured that if we refused to eat a particular meal, we were chubby enough to survive to the next one.

Phoebe said...

Gosh. Snacks and ridiculous parenting can go in both directions - the kids given the treat of their choice at 3, then again at 3:30, but also those whose parents make a fuss about how 'my child doesn't eat candy', when of course that child spends play-dates shoveling down whatever junk food other households keep around. The thought of having to deal with either option - being the kid's servant or anti-sugar extremism - can make a pet seem the way to go.

But what interests me here is how the comment hits all the pampered-yet-sanctimonious-expat notes. Above all, as Britta points out, there's (once again) the valorization of an eating behavior that would be condemned if undertaken by Americans. I mean, of course this bread is free of preservatives, which makes it an entirely different nutritional source.

PG said...

My parents didn't keep much candy or junk food in the house, but they weren't delusional enough to believe that we didn't want it. On the contrary, they knew very well we wanted it, which is why they didn't make it available. If we hadn't wanted it, they could have had plenty of it for their own enjoyment without worrying that we'd get into it. (Because we weren't interested in alcohol, they had lots of that.)

My parents adhered to a pretty Calvinistic style of childrearing in which one is convinced of the innate evil of the newborn and the entire process is a struggle to instill virtue. And whenever I think about some of the things kids do to each other (including what I inflicted on my little sister), I think Calvin might have gotten that Original Sin thing right, though we now couch it in more psychological terms about learning empathy, etc.

Phoebe said...


I'm sure there are some kids raised without candy who don't go nuts for the stuff whenever they have a chance. My parents would certainly deem some foods too junky to buy, others too junky to buy often, etc. However, I did notice a pattern of kids whose parents made across-the-board claims of what their kids did or did not officially have access to (which is, I think, different from not keeping "much" junk food in the house, not permitting all TV shows, say, or TV at all hours) and kids getting just a bit too excited whenever M&Ms or whatever were an option.

This reminds me, actually, of another odd NYT comments trend - parents declaring with utter certainty what their children do and don't eat, drink, do when with their peers, and the 'children' in question are like 17 or something ridiculous - the parents simply don't know, down to the last detail, what's going on, even with teens who don't have wild-and-crazy secret lives. Which is why age here is so key - there's an age at which the whole thing is setting the tone, when parents have virtually 100% control of kids' diet and basically of their kids, period. But that stage does not extend up to 18, let alone till the age of full financial independence.