This project certainly has its up and downs. Just a few days ago I was on the verge of despair: a good and trusted friend had offered the observation that our project was big on “deprivation,” and this sent me into a bit of a tailspin.
Why was I doing this exactly? Am I a masochist at heart? Worse, am I torturing my family in a misguided effort to further my own career as a writer? To give me fodder for a book? Wouldn’t that pretty much make me the culinary equivalent of Joan Crawford?
It didn’t help that I made the mistake of taking the girls with me to the supermarket, so we could drool over all the lovely products in shiny packages that we weren’t buying. Note to self: go to Price Chopper during school hours. At home- away from all the shiny bells, whistles and cartoon characters- is where the kids are at their most philosophical about the project, which is nice because it would seem to indicate they aren’t feeling, you know, deprived.
At school, I see them struggling- which is hard for me. Both of them have graduated from “Mommy I had a brownie at school today” to “Mommy, I had a brownie at school today- I’m sorry,” to “Mommy, everyone had a brownie at school today- but I couldn’t! It was terrible!”
Now, we’re keeping in mind my “outside the house you decide” policy, right? Whereas the menu with mom and dad is strictly no-added sugar, when at school or a friend’s house I have been emphatic that it is their own decision. No guilt. Definitely no apologies. Make this of this project what you want it to be. In fact, I might be blue in the face from repeating this.
I guess I just assumed they would choose to have the sugar items and not give it another thought- this unforeseen response is much more complicated. It doesn’t help either that everywhere we go my ten-year-old announces to anyone within hearing-range the specifics of our project, to which the usual response is a puzzled, piteous grown-up look that seems to say: “you poor thing, you have crazy, controlling hippy parents, don’t you? Do they make you eat tofu for breakfast?”
Thank goodness for the health food store. This is the one place so far that the complete-stranger response to project has been unequivocally positive. While I shopped for carob chips, dried mango slices and seaweed crisps (nope! Second ingredient: sugar) my ten-year-old was deep in conversation with the cashier, who seems very upbeat about the whole thing, and totally unfazed.
“Yes, but just think how healthy you’ll be,” she said to Greta, who was not getting the doe-eyed sympathy she had been hoping for. “You’re going to feel so good!” I drank her words in, simple platitudes though they were, drank in the lack of implied critique, the lack of hesitation in her voice. Maybe we weren’t insane! Then again, I thought, they’re probably used to getting all the nutritional kooks through their door; being v-e-r-y open-minded is part of the job description. But still.
The bill was, of course, enormous- one bag of no-sugar groceries? Ninety dollars. Lack of judgmentalism? Priceless.