My wife and I have always tried to feed our children healthy food.
That was a lie and I’m sorry.
When we were young parents and decided it was time for our first child, the Boy, to graduate from baby food to regular food, we thought “regular” meant corn dogs, boxed macaroni and cheese and French fries because that’s what commercials said. And the Boy, of course, loved it.
This brings us to Chef Boyardee’s First Law of Culinary Science: “The taste of processed food is inverse to its quality.”
Put simply, crap tastes good.
This way of eating in our house didn’t last, not because the Centers for Disease Control said we were bad parents, it was because my wife and I were lazy.
“You really shouldn’t fix him a separate meal,” my wife said one day.
“But he doesn’t like Brussels sprouts.”
Then I realized, unless these little cabbages are cooked in bacon grease, who does?
From that moment on the Boy ate what we ate. He didn’t like it at first, but tough love, baby.
Then the Girl came along and got stuck in a world where the pile of roasted vegetables on her plate was bigger than the portion of meat. She never experienced the wonders of packaged, pre-cooked chicken and powdered potatoes until she went to someone else’s house. We always knew when they gave her Pop-Tarts. She never told us, it was that look. You know the one, like she wanted to mount our heads on pikes as a warning to other parents who refused to buy toaster pastries.
The third child appeared eight years later and everything went to hell. Those of you with only two children have no idea what I’m talking about.
Something mysterious happens to a parent’s brain when yet another baby manifests out of the ether (I have no idea how babies happen. I was sick that day in eighth grade health class). Even though a new parent lines the house with bubble wrap for Baby 1 and sort of, kind of, maybe puts away sharp objects for Baby 2, by the time Baby 3 comes around, they’re tired and their brain shuts off.
Chef Boyardee’s 32nd Law of Culinary Science: “Exhaustion increases ravioli sales.”
Baby 3 is now almost 5 years old and we’re at Law 32.
I went grocery shopping this weekend, nearly alone (for two-child parents, if you ever have Baby 3, you’re never truly alone).
“I want chicken nuggets,” the youngest said as we walked down the frozen food aisle.
Sure. The healthy nuggets were at the end of the row and–
“Not those ones. The chicken nuggets that look like chicken nuggets.”
Whatever. I was too tired to argue. I grabbed a bag of frozen vittles and moved on.
At home, my wife said, “Oh, wow. You bought those chicken nuggets.”
“Yeah,” I said, feeling the guilt of not purchasing our child food made from hormone-free, antibiotic-free chicken breast and puréed cauliflower, but also preparing to defend my decision with–
To heck with it. I didn’t say anything.
“You know what’s in our freezer?” she said. “Defeat.”
She was right. I’d given up to a 4-year-old and given in to normal America. If you’ve ever wondered what defeat tastes like folks, you can stop. It tastes like Banquet chicken nuggets.
Jason Offutt’s newest book, “Chasing American Monsters: 251 Creatures, Cryptids, and Hairy Beasts,” is available at jasonoffutt.com.