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Betsy Block

Stories without recipes

Meat Pie Mums

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There was a photo on the front page of the New York Times a couple weeks ago showing people covertly passing knives to prisoners through a gate.

No, actually it was just women selling burgers and fries to high school students, but these weren't any entrepreneurs; they were "meat-pie mums," as they're called, actual moms who are taking their protest against government-mandated health food to the hungry masses.

Turns out that celebrity chef Jamie Oliver recently convinced the British government to stop selling junk food in school cafeterias; there's to be no more fried foods, processed meats or sugary drinks for poor British children. "It's rubbish," exclaimed one of the kids in the article, and apparently some moms agree. After all, why should their children have to eat plain old fruits and vegetables when they could be enjoying a satisfying French-fry and butter sandwich instead?

As a mother of two, I grew indignant when I read this article. I've been known to sneak junk food on occasion, but I always sneak it from my kids, not to them. Don't these women realize that the obesity rate is skyrocketing in Britain? Don't these meat pie mums care?

I do, which is why I've been fighting with my kids about food for nearly a decade. As soon as they could chew, their lunch boxes were filled with the likes of organic hummus and locally grown carrots, hold the dessert. A friend of my son E's once told me that E has the healthiest lunches in the entire school which, when you're 10, can only mean one thing: relentless teasing.

It's not easy for me, either. Every lunch that leaves my house represents nonstop cajoling, begging and negotiation - on both sides. It's almost enough to make me want to give up and just let them eat cake.

But I keep up the good fight because it seems like the right thing to do. Still, some days I can't help asking myself, All this, and for what? The day after the article appeared, while doing the laundry, I found a chocolate wrapper crumpled up in E's pants pocket; meanwhile, my 5-year-old daughter P spent the afternoon with a beloved family friend who slips her candy whenever possible. In the end, despite all my hard work, my children's diet is probably just as lousy as any other kid's.

That's when I realized that my British sisters might be onto something after all. Maybe I too should start saying yes: yes to junk food, yes to staying up late, yes to more TV! That way, even if my kids don't grow up to be all I could have hoped for, at least I'll get some instant gratification out of the deal. And so, on a recent afternoon when I dropped P off at her supplier's - I mean, with the family friend - I didn't tell her not to eat candy. Instead, this time I asked if she could bring me some too.

The Postscript
P brought me Snickers. I don't like Snickers. But the next night, needing some candy, I went to get that Snickers bar. Sitting on my desk where she'd put the bag of candy was the twist tie - and that was it. The bag was gone. P had hidden it, and wouldn't tell me where.