As any parent can attest to, the best way you can silence a crying child is with a can of kippers. Closely followed by tractors.
Perhaps I should explain. Since my kids demented meltdown on Friday night my son has been moaning about the place. His weekends are an emotional roller-coaster because he can't believe his mother is home. Worse - she doesn't want to spend every waking moment embracing him therefore she must hate him and might be trying to escape. Therefore he needs to grab onto her at all times making her escape impossible. Add the newest family cold into the mix and you have a little boy who hasn't had enough sleep and has been worked up a bit too much all day long. Sunday morning he was way overtired and should not have been awake at 6am. His mother was trying to get some alone time after spending the night trying to convince him she wasn't about to leave. He downright refused to have anyone else interfere in his crazy leg-humping mom-cuddling. As she was cooking the family eggs for breakfast she as hoping for a little space. Grandma tried - angry fit. I tried - another angry fit. He refused to leave her alone so I handed him a can of kippers. He immediately walked around the kitchen boasting about his kippers for a good five minutes before resuming his whine. I shall remember this. Kippers can solve almost any crisis for a short period of time. Later on in the morning when we were outside he was still on the precipice of whining. Me and my daughter were running around in the woods. We were happy to have him join us but he wanted to stay with his mother. So she whispered in his ear that maybe Grandpa could take hm for a tractor ride. So he dropped her like a used tissue. He was pretty much fine after that.
At some point over the last ten years I recall standing frustrated in my bedroom trying on clothes. Something very unusual had happened. Without any explanation all of my clothes had shrunk. It was deeply puzzling. I was ready to take a cheeky snipe at my wife about it - she must have put in a load of my clothes on some weird setting that definitely shrinks them all ever so slightly. I then foolishly mentioned the shrinkage to her and she chuckling patted my belly. I'd never had one before. I'd always been able to nosh away on anything I felt like (that didn't kill me) and never gain a pound. Not even a healthy few pounds - my mother always used to say that there was more meat on a butcher's pencil. And yet here in the land of opportunity I had finally managed it.
The secret isn't actually much of one. First off you don't (or can't) walk anywhere. Most British people will never understand the scale of this place. But the US is not like Britain at all. The nearest grocery store of any kind can be 8 miles away, and that's not even considered odd. There is no corner store to walk to. There isn't even anything to walk on - they didn't even build them. So walking just doesn't happen. After awhile you get used to driving everywhere to such a degree you even forget to walk down a strip-mall and drive 30 feet and re-park the car.
Secondly - high fructose corn syrup. There are plenty of people in this country who will place their own lives on the line to prevent a governmental body from putting fluoride in tap water, but they will not bat an eyelid at corn syrup. It's evil nasty shit. And it tastes AMAZING.
Thirdly, this is a country where you can order cakes and pizza for breakfast and nobody even blinks. Seriously - they have, "breakfast pizza." Many a morning in work has been spent just starring amazed at my coworkers (I emphasize the "cow" part of "coworker" here especially) actively eating boxes of pizza at 7am, but apparently not thinking it's gluttony because it has some breakfast sausage on it. Oh and the donuts are insane. This country does donuts better than any other (ironically my favorite used to be the Canadian chain Tim Hortons). Consider this - when my wife and I arrived back in this country after just two years away we deliberately stopped on the way to the in-laws for a box of donuts. We'd been traveling for a solid 24 hours and needed to get where we were going, but were not going to skip getting donuts. Where did we get them? At Walmart, of all places. They make the worst donuts you can imagine (closely followed by Dunkin). And yet they were still ten times better than any crap you can get in the UK.
Anyway, after years of putting on the Winter pounds and then running it off again as soon as the snow melted come May (yes I said May - the outside world is a frozen tundra from late November until May up here) we still always managed to eat healthy food. Just more of it when it got cold. We eat a lot more vegetables and fruit than most people. We eat beans and lentils at an astonishing rate. We eat tofu - not so much lately - because it tastes good and we are not vegetarians of any kind (it actually really annoys me that a food like tofu is sold as a replacement for meat when it's just another food all on it's own). Although we do eat a lot less meat than most people seem to purely because - well - there are plenty of other tasty things to eat. My father-in-law is a strict 50s American family man. Dinner must have a starch and a big piece of meat in it - a vegetable is optional. It must be followed by dessert. We are more than happy if the meal is good not to bother with meat. People here eat way to much of it - go ask Mark Bittman.
And up until recently we didn't ever buy snacks like potato chips because we just couldn't justify paying that much money for something so silly. Since my wife now has a well paid job we started to enjoy some of those once-forbidden fruits (ironically none of them involved fruit of any kind). Potato chips in particular. My wife - unable to actually get fat - hasn't noticed her waistline move because it hasn't. I am still - despite my annual Fall effort to eat as much chocolate and gravy (I think I may have just inadvertently invented the best two-ingredient meal ever) that I possibly can - have stayed at 160 pounds. Still - we just sort of noticed our fruit and veggie intake took a dive. Due to some time constraints and having to go pick my wife up (ergo preventing me from getting food ready) we even got lazy and skipped making dinner a few times. Why bother - you can always fill up on snacks after the kids go to bed. And our corn chips and ice cream intake (that one is mostly me) took on a fervor unseen by us before. We had started to eat crap all the time. And with kids you can't do that. My two kids started expecting potato chips to be available at all times. And very recently my daughter just stopped eating dinner. She claimed to not like any of it. She hadn't actually tried it, but because it wasn't made by the Wonka company she wasn't interested. It started with vegetables. Then onto the starches. Then she claimed to not like the chicken or beef. Which is nuts. The combination of "snack time; at school and the candy overload of Halloween has tipped her over some sort of edge. Food isn't worth eating unless it's fluorescent or comes in a paper wrapper.
Well balls to that. My wife and I are actually kind of weird food snobs. Not in the, "oh we only eat organic tomatoes farmed by Amish virgins" bollocks. More in the sense that we didn't buy anything because when you make it yourself it is always better. Why pay $4 for Oreo's when they aren't anywhere near as good as something you can make? Add that traditional meals always seemed dull. For example I think that red beans and rice is way tastier than something like Prime Rib. Stick your burgers and hotdogs in the garbage - they are mostly boring. Steak is the dullest thing imaginable. It's okay now and again (my son would disagree - he can eat half a T-Bone on his own), but the adulation of it here is annoying. It's just warm beef. And the better the cut the blander and wetter it is. Give me Gobi Aloo or even just eggs with chives in them any day.
Still, the one thing my wife and I really really like doing together is eating. I don't mean cuddling up in front of NCIS and stuffing a bag of Cheetos into each other. We don't like gorging - we like eating stuff that tastes good. We used to get all giddy about sitting around with onion relish and stinky foot cheese in the same way people do about lobster. But a total lack of free time or preparation saw us take a few months down the lazy-line. Still having apples around all the times meant I sort of missed it. My wife noticed it this past weekend specifically so we pledged to ditch the shitty food. We don't even enjoy it. There's some form of enjoyment from eating an entire bag of barbecue corn chips in one sitting, but it isn't the taste part of it.
My daughter has eagerly climbed on board our pledge to go back to not eating so much crap. As in she likes the notion of it but I'm still yet to be convinced that her sunny disposition and kind words about the whole thing aren't just a rouse to lull me into a false sense of security before she throws an insane fit about not getting candy at 3am. This evening's dessert were clementines. My daughter used to eat them all the time. She still eats fruit every day but it;s usually as a prerequisite to something else. It's the, "seeing as I ate an apple and a banana, I should be allowed to....." nonsense. But not that long ago she'd just ask for pineapple or clementines because they taste good. Making me feel like a world class dick she obviously loved them. Who wouldn't? So she had another. And loved that one just as much. So much so that she told me that she can't poop them out later because they were so happy to be in her stomach that they reformed into a whole clementine again and, "wouldn't fit out."
I thought it best not to pretend that is how orange juice is made.