Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Great Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner Debate In My Head


David is in Vegas and then, LA on business. It's just me and the kids and a long expanse of togetherness. I like all the girly togetherness, so that's fine with me, but last night while hiking the kids through our neighborhood Duane Reade (the drug store for you non-New Yorkers), I walked past a shelf of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner boxes. Nice blue and yellow boxes. I stopped.

And that's when my mind started having a conversation without me:

David's out of town. No one has to know. The kids will love me for this. One pan, virtually no clean up. A one dish dinner in minutes. $3. Dinner for $3. The box says it's the cheesiest. I know it's not really cheesy but still, it says it's the cheesiest. It must be a little cheesy. There's got to be some cheese in it. But cheese-schmeeze, who cares anyway? My kids eat from-scratch meals all the time. They are the healthiest kids on the planet, why Edie hasn't had a fever in two years. I'm awesome. I rock. I made my own damned bacon, for Christ sakes. People who make their own bacon can feed their kids the box once in a while, right? No need to become one of those brittle pedigogical psychos who never let their kids have a Tic Tac. Oh My God, I have this huge stain on the front of my shirt. How the hell long has that been there? One night of crap isn't going to kill them. That's right, and they are gonna think you are the coolest mom ever for this. The coolest. For 3 bucks! And on Mother's Day. After they made you those cute cards with feathers and pom pom balls and all those hearts. There were so many freakin' hearts. Seriously, I can't go out anymore with stains on my tits, I look like I'm breastfeeding. They DESERVE to eat the crap this once. That's why you're such a great mom, you're flexible, open to anything, a revolutionary, not stuck in a grind or an ideology. You are bigger than ideology. You are a slave to no one...

Damned right. I am a slave to no one.


So, I plucked the box from the shelf trying to forget that I had written a terribly sarcastic, mean-spirited attack on Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner just a few short years ago. How had I fallen so far, so fast? This stuff is like crack.

I shook off the thought and tucked the box under a bag of beef jerky (why am I not making my own freakin' beef jerky?) and made my way to the check out. I didn't have to blog about it. No one would know. I searched the store, surveying the aisles, looking for foodie neighbors - I'm talkin' to you, Red Cook - and assessing my chances of making it from aisle six to the check out lady without being spotted. I considered tucking it under my sweater but that looked a little like shoplifting. No need showing up on Food News Journal busted for a box of mac and cheese in my shirt.

Two ladies were in line in front of me. I tried to look non-chalant. Not a care in the world. Like I had bunches of kale in my trolley.

Finally we reached the cashier. I pulled out the box. Edie looked at the box, looked up at me. And she said, "I don't like that. I want something else." And then turned back to the stuffed monkey in her arms and started talking about something nonsensical and totally unrelated. Something about sparkly hair and unicorns.

I handed the box to the cashier, lowered my eyes in shame and said, "We won't be taking this...sorry."

Then, we went home and while the kids played, I made miso soup - from scratch - with home-made dashi. I eyeballed the dashi from watching Youko make it at Gomen Kudasai in New Paltz, New York.






It did not cost $3 dollars and it took more than 15 minutes. Way more than 15 minutes, although if I had made the dashi ahead of time it would've taken minutes. The dashi needs to be romanced and that is not a snappy process.






Frankly, I lucked out that I had all the ingredients in my pantry and fridge. I lucked out that I have access to a real Asian market. I lucked out that I had time. I lucked out that we aren't living paycheck to paycheck and can't invest in a surplus of spices, herbs and pantry items. I lucked out that my kids have a wide enough palate that I know they'd eat this soup and I wasn't wasting my time and my money, only to still have hungry kids staring up at me at the end of the night asking for something else. I'm lucky that I'm not so overwhelmed by life, depressed, screwed over, miserable, disease-riddled, poor, or life-challenged that even the simple act of making dinner from real food seems like a herculean task. I'm just lucky.

Everybody ate. Everybody was happy. I didn't have any guilt. My brain stopped talking to itself, gratefully. I'm certain I'm no longer delusional. I'm glad I didn't buy the box. But I get why people do.

Can't wait for David to come home.

xo YM

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14 comments:

Nutmeg Nanny said...

Sometimes the world of convenience calls our name and we cannot resist. It's good to know your daughter could talk you off the ledge ;)

C said...

Convenience food is one thing, I've occasionally done it myself - but Kraft Mac and Cheese is foul beyond belief.

Basia said...

Good for you for raising kids who know good food. I have Annie's mac 'n cheese sitting in my cupboard but the Son hasn't wanted it for months. His tastes have expanded beyond the quick fix. It'll probably petrify there. I've also sent him to cooking classes with a nutritionally-minded cook, and he's been coming home with vegan meals.

Sharon Miro said...

My daughter the Chef, lover of the home grown, homemade is MUCH better school, spent several years eating nothing except Kraft Mac & Cheese, and bologna sandwiches. There is nothing wrong with the blue box BUT your kids didn't want...so you did the right thing by cooking somehitng else...

PS: when the Chef and her teacher husband took a year off to go round the world, I sent a care box to New Zealand for her birthday: what made her the happiest? The several blue boxes of mac & cheese that were tucked inside.

L'altre stelle said...

Thank you for pointing out that food choices are not as easy as they seem. I totally agree that fresh, homemade food is better than convenience food. It's what I choose to include in my kitchen. However, I work with many students who receive free (processed) food and meals and they're thriving because of it. Who am I to say that they should be making everything from scratch...that's a luxury of both time and money, really. I appreciate your work with elementary students and look forward to reading your book!

Paula said...

I love that you had enough time to not only make this soup from eyeballing Youko when she made it but that you had time to take pictures of it for this great post. Good for you for not caving to the KD and good for your girls for their wise choices too. The healthy food habits you have been raising your girls with are obviously rubbing off on them.

Warner (aka ntsc) said...

Was worried for a minute there.

LopsidedMom said...

Oh, I loved this! My Hubs is gone a lot - a lot - and I used to have this very conversation regularly, only I went with the mac and cheese (fair enough, it was Annie's.) But still, an entire of layer of unease has been lifted now that I took back the entire experience. Hubs never leaves town before I stock our pantry and do a full shop.

Christine said...

I love the heck out of L'Altre Stelle's comment. Having the ability and know how to make food from scratch and the resources to afford it, are all incredible privileges. Thank you for acknowledging it. (For the record, I would have shown no judgment for the blue box, although when I was little the one food my mother didn't make from scratch was Velveeta shells and cheese.) ;)

Janis said...

Shhhh...I love that day glo Mac and cheese. I have been known to eat it on occassion when no one was looking. Having said that I am glad your girls have better sense.

Marnely Rodriguez said...

you just might be the funniest person ever. really, your thought process was LOL inducing.

Kimmy Bingham said...

I love the honesty in this post. I always believe life is best lived in moderation. Annie's Mac N Cheese will make a visit in my house... and when we're feeling really dirty... tater tots. These things happen, they're rare, and the rest of what's on the table is filled with fresh, amazing food. Convenience foods can serve a purpose in limited consumption... although I am glad you stepped away from the box. :-)

Jennifer said...

I'm thinking about what you said, "lucky." It's true and too bad unlucky is the truth for most.

Julie (TheLittleKitchen.net) said...

I actually have some of those boxes in my pantry and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I think it's really cool that your daughter said she didn't want it though. Your soup looks amazing. Can you believe I have to drive an hour to get to an decent Asian market? You are very lucky!