2008.03.19 In defense of Doritos, Oreos, Thin Mints

Written by David Green.


Thin Mints.

Thin Mints are my downfall.

I didn’t eat the wonderful looking cake Sally Kruger provided for refreshments after young adult author Patrick Jones spoke at the library Monday night.

But Thin Mints did me in. Those delicious Girl Scout cookies knocked the resolve to avoid processed food right out of me.

On her last visit home, Maddie left the tail end of a sleeve of Thin Mints in the freezer. I discovered them late Monday night and was only going to eat one. But one thing led to another and soon all seven were gone in one fell swoop.

It’s not like I’m on a diet or anything. Along with David, I’m just trying to follow the edict of Michael Pollan’s latest book, “In Defense of Food.”

I had skimmed through the book a few weeks ago and read the last section. It offers great recommendations about eating, all distilled down to the catch-phrase on the cover of the book: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

So, without kids at home and just sort of vaguely, we’ve been trying to follow that edict. It’s hard, but it’s also fun. It’s sort of like living in our past when we were real vegetarians. When we ate things like bulghar and made our own bread.

When we didn’t have kids to guide us down the path to Doritos and Oreos and all the other good tasting things that end in O—or not. Like Thin Mints. I’ve been a sucker for Thin Mints since before I was a Girl Scout leader and bought them by the case. It’s hard to eat just one.

Life without kids at home is lacking, but it has its perks. David can make cornbread using all whole wheat flour and olive oil and nobody’s going to cry. I can go crazy with curry and the only downfall will be the smell on our clothes.

It’s a fine time to make changes to our eating habits, to read books like “In Defense of Food” and act on the recommendations.

Every now and then David utters bits of the edict.

“Eat food,” he’ll say matter-of-factly when I reach for the bag of tortilla chips.

They’re made with only organic white corn, expeller pressed oil and sea salt, but still, David’s right, they’re processed food. I’ll keep eating them anyway—we’ve got a case in the basement. Practice moderation. In all things. Even chips.

And parenting:

Maddie had quite a successful semester at U of M last fall. If U of M had a dean’s list, she would have been on it. I really thought it was the wrong college choice for her, but in every facet—academic, social, financial, extracurricular, employment—it has turned out to be a great experience for her.

Fast forward to winter semester—a rougher class load, a heavy community service requirement, a job, a spring break trip that resulted in a couple of missed classes, training (however haphazardly) for a half-marathon, an active social life—and the demands are leading to drastic measures: Coffee.

I hate the smell of coffee. I hate the smell of coffee breath. When coffee is perking, I am gagging.

And I hate the idea of my kids drinking coffee or caffeine-laced soda to stay awake in order to complete school projects. I always push peppermint candies or peppermint LifeSavers as a means of staying alert, but my drug of choice in college was Hershey’s Special Dark bars or even just plain water.

Drinking lots of water has a similar effect as coffee, plus it makes you go to the bathroom and get a little exercise which invigorates the brain. I suggest that to Maddie; she says it isn’t an option.

“You can’t keep getting up when you are in a library by yourself,” she said. “You have to keep packing up all your stuff and that’s annoying.”

So she started drinking coffee to get through a few English papers.

“I got the paper done...it seems OK to me. I drank coffee,” she said. “I only drink it when I have to stay up and write a paper so I’m not a bad person...I still hate it even though I get the hot chocolate and coffee one.”

Oh, no! More evidence that I’ve warped my kids! She thinks I think drinking coffee makes her a bad person?

What a wake-up call. Sure, I hate the smell of it and can barely tolerate being around it, but that doesn’t mean I think people who drink it are bad.

I tell her that, assuring her that I don’t think she’s bad if she drinks coffee. Still as she moans in a recent phone call about another paper due, a test in Economics that she’s sure she’s going to fail, lack of sleep, etc., I suggest she suck on peppermints.

“Peppermints, peppermints...” I say, my voice trailing off as I say goodbye.

“Thin Mints,” Maddie retorts.

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