The school cafeteria sent me a bill. A big bill.
A bill for $45.23.
Impossible I think.
The boys take from home daily, and we only indulge them with a rare opportunity to "buy" their lunch. I also pack abundant choices - plenty of carbs like bagels, breads, pitas and proteins like chicken, hummus, almond butter, fruit, homemade goodies, multiple organic milks ... they eat plenty and well.
I called the cafeteria lady.
"There must be a mistake," I say.
"Let me check their codes," she says. "Well, Patrick ordered pizza on Friday with a milk. And Aidan ordered pizza, milk, cookies, popcorn and chips."
"Yes. That's the only order I have for Patrick. On Thursday, Aidan ordered popcorn, chips and a cookie. On Wednesday, popcorn and a cookie ... "
"Ok, Ok, I get the picture. This is all unbeknownst to me. They're only supposed to 'buy' once a week," I say.
The cafeteria lady who works for corporate food giant Aramark laughs and we say goodbye.
I immediately call Aidan in to the room.
"Hey, Buddy, are you ordering lunch every day?"
"Right, you're ordering lots of chips and popcorn and cookies."
"Why? Are you hungry?"
"No, the popcorn and cookies are just so delicious I can't resist them."
Now, I realize that this is a wildly kid-like thing to do, but I emphasize to him that this is an expensive way to eat and not a very healthy one. And I ask what about Fresh Mouth?
"Mom, don't worry. It's Smart Food and hot chocolate chip cookies just like homemade. And you just have to enter a code. I don't need money," he says.
You just have to enter a code.
The cafeteria never turns a child away. They can always eat even if there's no credit on their balance sheet. So, weeks pass and parents can pay a hefty price. It's an American credit fairy tale in the making. I explain to Aidan that the food has a price. He listens. And I tell him that Smart Food is nutritionally vacant and that hot microwaved cookies aren't like homemade just because they're warm. We agree that once a week is the rule, and that we'll pack our own delicious popcorn - one that's healthy and inexpensive. I give him a pinch and kiss and send him on his way.
Teaching kids moderation and health in the modern food system is a daily battle.
So, I baked some homemade oatmeal cookies with dried cranberries for the upcoming lunches and made two pizzas for dinner - one straight up plain and the other pesto and spinach. I enhanced "Dolbeare Dough" with flax seed meal which made the crust spectacular.
1 tablespoon yeast
2 1/2 cups flour (50% whole wheat, 50% white)(I add about 1/2 cup of flax, and when I do, I reduce the flour amount by a corresponding 1/2 cup. Play with your dough ... you may need to add more if it's too wet.)
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1. Add yeast to a large bowl. Pour warm water over yeast and stir with a fork until yeast is completely dissolved. Add olive oil and honey. Stir.
2. Add flours and mix.
3. Knead dough until it becomes a shiny ball.
4. Let rise for about two hours. Form into desired shape - pizza crust, baguette, rolls ... bake at 400 degrees until golden brown.
I defrosted leftovers from our pesto festo several weeks ago. I added cooked frozen spinach, mozzarella and parmesan and cooked the pizza at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.
Nugget o' the Moment: "Dear Mr. President-Elect, It may surprise you to learn that among the issues that will occupy much of your time in the coming years is one you barely mentioned during the campaign: food." More.. Michael Pollan who wrote an open letter called "Farmer in Chief" to the next president of the United States published in the NYTimes on October 9, 2008.