Friday, April 16, 2010

A Small But Satisfying Victory. And Some Vomit.

Today was chilly and gloomy. I got some writing done while the Mau-Mau took in a bit of quality ABC kids TV. Then we played the harp together for a while. No - I'm not kidding. I own a small Irish harp. I'm not particularly good, but it's nice to play, and I'm introducing the Mau-Mau to it because a) she loves her some harp music (her favourite bedtime music is Arianna Savall) and b) her small hands suit the delicate instrument more than mine, and c) she can sing with it, and d) she likes playing it with me.

A lot of laundry got done too. And a very unfortunate amount of back-and-forth to Scottsdale. Delivered the boys to school in the morning, with their instruments. Went back at lunch to get the shopping done, and check the post - and deliver unto Elder Son his forgotten school bag, complete with lunch. And finally, late in the evening, yet another trip all the way through Scottsdale and out to Bridport, to collect the boys.

You see, they had one of their orchestra days today, and orchestra practice is in Launceston. But we've discovered another local parent with a kid in the orchestra, so we're dividing up the inevitable trip-back-and-forth routine. So I had to duck down to Bridport (where the other parent lives) when the boys came back.

The Mau-Mau stayed at home with Mum. But because Mum was on-call, we had a couple neighbours over, just in case Natalie got called away while I was off collecting the boys. This is the kind of convoluted nonsense one has to go through to have a life when one is married to a country GP - but that's just how it is, so no complaints.

Anyway, I drove off and reached the designated house about ten minutes before the Other Parent made it all the way back from Launceston. Had a pleasant chat with her partner - admired their rather nice house, discussed their new puppy... nice, human stuff like that.

Then the boys arrived, along with the Other Parent and her two kids. And right away, I noticed two things: first, that Younger Son was a rather nasty shade of pale green, and second, that they were carrying McDonald's Happy Meal bags.

Oh dear.

I did actually prep the lads for this. Y'see, they've never eaten Maccas in their life, and I had a half-idea that there might be a post-orchestra McFood stop. I also figured it might constitute a bit of a treat for the other kids, so I told mine not to complain: just to order something with the cash provided, and just suck it up.

Apparently they had Chicken McNugget Happy Meals. Or... part of 'em, anyway. Elder Son managed most of his, and put together his How To Train Your Dragon toy with the wings in the proper position. But Younger Son only managed a couple of nuggets, and half his chips... and his toy wasn't looking too sane, either. But that's nothing new, really.

We fetched him a bucket pronto, and gave him some ginger and lemon tea. And I explained as nicely as I could that the boys just weren't used to Mickey Dee - while trying not to sound too damned precious about the whole thing. And to be fair, the other family aren't regular McSuckers. It was a matter of convenience and speed, and a bit of a treat, and that's perfectly understandable -- and they weren't to know that my boys have been on the wrong end of some devilish Anti-McFood Psyops from both their mother and myself since they were quite small.

Once Younger Son returned to a more normal colour, we headed homewards. The little guy was still feeling pretty sorry for himself, though. Just sat there, all curled up on his seat in the dark. I had a long chat with Elder Son about the whole McFood thing: explained that his Mum and I weren't by way of forbidding the stuff - just that we wanted the boys to be old enough to make decent decisions about their food before they really sank fang into anything trademarked by Ronald McDonald or the Colonel or their ilk.

I explained the business model of fast food franchises. I pointed out that thinking of the McFood people as 'food providers' is a mistake: they aren't in the business of feeding anybody. They're in the business of making money by creating a rapid, convenient, and highly repeatable experience designed to bring people back by offering them a lot of fat, sugar and salt, which (as animals) we're geared to desire.

The boys seemed to take that on board, which is good. Of course, their very fresh McExperience must have played a part. When I said that the McFood was concocted in a fashion designed to bring people back, Younger Son opined in a low, pained voice that it didn't work very well. And he further suggested that they probably shouldn't be called "Happy Meals". He offered "Angry Meals" as an alternative.

Shortly after that, he made some garbled noises to indicate we should pull over. Then he got out of the car, and spraypainted the countryside in various shades of Half-Digested McFoody Chunks With Chopped Carrot.

It wasn't particularly pleasant, and he was quite a sorry lad by the time we made it home. Happily, I'd made some soup stock during the day, so I put together a quick bowl of hot noodle soup with fresh, crunchy veges and thin-sliced marinated beef, and the boys got a bit of real nutrition into them.

Best of all, Elder Son took the time to thank me -- and his mother -- for keeping him away from the McFood people when he was too little to know better, and thanked us again for introducing him to all the food he's learned to enjoy over the years. And you should have heard the appreciative noises he made over that bowl of soup!

Flinthart 1, McFood Culture 0... in your face, Ronald McDonald!


  1. The very smell of McDonalds makes me ill. I mean it. I cannot abide it at all. My stomach just turns. Vienna gave the world the waltz. Other countries are known for wonderful contributions as well. America? Fast food. Lovely. Just flippin lovely. I'll never forget an architecturally beautiful bridge in Germany with a Mickey D's sign plastered across it. Audible swearing...and how my students from the international school could be on a road trip with me as chaperone and instead of eating say Italian food most Americans will never really understand, thinking pizza is the thing, could find a Mickey D's from miles away and walk to get there. I think it has to be the smell of it. Putrid shit...stench carries forever. Either that or they had fast food radar inset in their brains at birth. Crap, crap, I say!

    And I had to go to military school with the girl whose family started Mickey's. Didn't like her either.

    Plague upon their houses!

    Your kids are so lucky to have such a great dad and a sensible and smart one. Well done, Flinthart, once again! You rule.

  2. I can't claim all the credit. The kids have a doctor for a mother, and she'd have my skin nailed to the wall if I tried to bring 'em up as McDonaldvores!

  3. E-x-c-e-l-l-e-n-t...

    Our kids don't dig on the clown much either. We take 'em out to eat all the time, but usually to decent cafes and restaurants. When we finally let them go to McDunny's we chose the time carefully, at the end of a long, hot, trying roadtrip from canberra to the coast and back. We pulled into a Macca's I knew to be favored by the Summer Nats crowd, so it was filthy and overrun by bogans. Let them have a cheeseburger. No toys.

    They both hated it. Anna's response: "This isn't cheese. Can I get some reggiano?"

  4. My little bloke has never been to The Shrine of the Clown either. Mind you, being allergic to dairy and sesame would rule out roughly 99% of the 'menu' there anyway. Similarly, my 13 year old niece has never eaten the stuff either, purely because she just doesn't like it. This is no bad thing.

    Both kids have been brought up on fresh, decent food, and know what The Real Thing tastes like. Me, I've eaten a ton of it in years gone by -half price when I was in the cops, (and sometimes out of necessity as nothing else was open at 2am), or when travelling on the road. But as a first choice? Never! I have not visited the Shrine of the Clown for many years now, and this too is A Good Thing.

  5. This is all good, though I can't help but figure there's going to be a square-up in terms of peer pressure bullying from other kids, along the argument that anything that makes you different makes you a target. But I'm also figuring your kids will have the tools to deal with that, so good luck to 'em.

  6. Doc - there's no actual Maccas in our little town, and IIRC there's only three in Launceston altogether. There's very little pressure on the kids as it stands, and I don't anticipate a lot more. They can hack it, because it means they eat home made san choy bau and mee goreng and kway teow instead of Clownburgers.

    Bondi... don't be too quick about that dairy allergy stuff. My wife the doc relates a tale of a dairy-allergic kid who went to a McParty and got a "thick shake". Total horror from the parents, trip to hospital... no reaction at all. And a quick call to the McStore in question revealed there wasn't actually any dairy in the stuff.

    Formula may have changed since that occurred, some fourteen years back - but it was a real eye-opener at the time.

  7. Yeah I hear ya there Flint, I'm thinking more the 'cheese' on the burgers though. Mind you, one has to wonder if 'food' constitutes any part of a McWhatever.

    Regarding peer pressure, my niece has been invited to Maccas birthdays etc over the years - screw peer pressure, she just won't eat the stuff! You're on the right track mate, give the kids the god stuff and they won't want to touch the shite.

  8. You have a recipe for kway teow. Give it! Please?

    On topic. As a self-confessed Coca-Cola addict, that was my big no-no for The Brat. Hadn't had that much experience of Macca's growing up myself. Imagine my horror when my articulate 18 month old started babbling about DIET COKE. Nearly KILLED my sister over that, but it didn't stop her giving it to him every time my back was turned. I occasionally remind her, and threaten to get HER kids hooked on the Cr*p, but frankly I couldn't do it, and NOT just because my sister could raise the dead and kill them slowly and painfully all over again, with just a look.

  9. Actually Dirk you might want to re-think/update your anti Maccas rant a bit. Its all a bit 1990's. While I don't disagree with not feeding your kids fast food and all that, Maccas itself has made a determined effort to change its ways. Actually I'm surprised your kids got bad food, I thought they served em pasta in the happy meals now? maybe Tassie hasn't caught up yet :) And a lot of the foods contain the real heart foundation tick of approval now.

    If you are surrounded by fast food joints at lunch time you could do worse than a Maccas salad and bottle of water for lunch.

    Not that I advocate it or anything but facts are facts...

  10. Actually Dirk, here is a challenge, next time you are in the big smoke, pop into a MacDonald's and check it out. I'm not saying you should buy anything but at least check out the menu. Yeah, a lot of the shit stuff is still available but I think you will be surprised at the range of healthy food they offer now.

    I'm not trying to be belligerent here :) But do it for the sake of education :)

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  12. I would rather get a greasy donner kebab from a caravan next to a servo then the supposed 'healthy rolls' that Maccas now serve. I tried one of them once and it was an excercise in futility and lack of taste - seemed to still involve some sort of fried substance in it as well. I think that they only introduced them to make their usual offering look even better in comparison...

    By the way - strange that there aren'r carrots in any of Macca's menu items - but theys till appear in the chuck?