"Tuna surprise"

By Jim DeBrosse

My dog Bandit often uses our daily walks to supplement his diet of dry food with whatever discarded, rotting item he can snare and gulp down before I yank it from his teeth. But imagine my surprise one night when he darted underneath a neighbor's bush and retrieved the tuna fish sandwich I had prepared the day before as part of my 15-year-old son's lunch -- the evidence still sealed in its plastic bag.

I hate to see food wasted. I hate even more to see food wasted that I have purchased with my hard-earned money and spent my time making with care (just enough mayo, a little garlic powder, pepper, a dab of relish).

So when I returned home from my walk, I told my son, in so many words, that I wasn't pleased. He was outraged with denial, of course -- I think mostly because he was outsmarted by the family pet.

Don't get me wrong. I am not a food fascist. I have never been the kind of parent who insists my children clean their plate or choke down a meal of liver and onions.

What I do require is that my kids at least sample what they've been served, and if they don't like it, go to the refrigerator and prepare for themselves a suitable alternative.

I would have been far less upset if Bandit had found my son's discarded sandwich, sans Baggy, with a bite or two already eaten. In that case, the discovery would have prompted a simple lecture against littering. Instead, I told him he could pack his own lunches for the rest

of the week and forget about buying on Friday.

When parents don't at least try to expose their children to a variety of nutritious foods, they leave a dangerous void to be filled. Eager to oblige is the nation's fast-food industry, with lots of kid-friendly fat, sugar and salt.

In recent years, parents have lost an important ally in the battle against convenience foods -- school cafeterias. Just ask any parent who has tried to pack their child a decent lunch on pizza or taco days.

How do you compete against multinational companies with multimillion-dollar advertising budgets?

I can't tell you how many times my children have invited friends over for sleepovers, only to have them reject the evening meal I've prepared. One youth told me he couldn't eat the tomato chunks in my spaghetti sauce. Another said she didn't understand why I wouldn't serve her a glass of soda with her ice cream. My favorite is the 12-year-old who said he ate only hot dogs and pizza.

Fine, then see what you can find in the refrigerator. And good luck.

When parents and educators retreat on the food front, we not only rob our children of healthful alternatives and possibly a longer life, but we also deny them a variety of dining pleasures they will miss the rest of their lives.

A life of pizza and hot dogs? Sounds more like a culinary death sentence to me.

  • DATE: October 31, 2008

  • PUBLICATION: Dayton Daily News (OH)

Copyright, 2008, Cox Ohio Publishing. All rights reserved.