A meanie redeemed

By Mir
October 6, 2008

It seemed like I sort of struck a nerve in this post where I talked about trying to avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup in the foods I choose to feed my family. I always find that sort of thing interesting, because the HFCS thing was really a sidebar to my main point in that post (which was, I think, “insurance companies and doctors’ offices make me want to eat my own face”), plus I did not (that I noticed, anyway) say, “HFCS bad! If you feed it to your kids or eat it yourself, you’re a filth-encrusted whoremongering minion of the devil!” And yet the urge to justify one’s choices is human nature, I guess, and so responses to that post pretty much fell into one of four categories:

1) “You are so right, Mir! Corn syrup is evil and so hard to avoid! ACK!”
2) “You are so right, Mir! Corn syrup is evil, and that’s why we consume lots of aspartame and sucralose, instead, because I prefer chemicals to genetically-modified corn! ACK!”
3) “You are a whiny alarmist, Mir! Corn syrup never hurt anyone! Why don’t you go hug a tree, you filthy hippie!”

Alrighty, then. I’m glad we all know where we stand!

The thing is, I am really NOT that crunchy-healthy mother that I sometimes wish I really was. I’m more of an all-things-in-moderation kind of mom, not the least of which because I have a sweet tooth, myself, or because I realize that forbidden fruit is all the more sweet. It’s not like I go for groceries and come home with my reusable eco-totes full of tree bark and organically harvested spelt. I really think it’s all a matter of balance, you know?

So that means I avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup as much as possible, because the reality is that it’s in several products we still consume, including the occasional meal out and all of the food the kids consume over which I have no control—snacks at friends’ houses, food swapped at the school lunch table, etc. Plus, avoiding HFCS as much as possible means that when I buy the occasional container of ice cream, I can feel all virtuous, knowing this is an occasional treat rather than the icing on the early-onset diabetes cake.

Furthermore—and I’m not saying I necessarily do this on purpose, you understand, but I’m not exactly UNAWARE of it, is my point—the more deliberate and nutritious our everyday menu is, the greater the chance that I get to (occasionally, oh-so-briefly) be a revered rock star on those rare, beautiful days when I offer up something normally verboten.

This weekend, the kids were gone and Otto was working and I have a really sucky week on tap, here, so I did what any normal person would do, and I invited a bunch of girlfriends over to play on Saturday night. But first I spend most of Saturday exercising extreme sloth, spending half the day in my pajamas, cuddled up to craptastic television programming. Ahhhhh. The second half of the day I spent preparing, which meant that I ran to the store for provisions (and by “provisions” I mean “wine”) and then came home and made a mess in the kitchen.

First I made Chrisbean crack, because I do loves me some bean crack and lime Tostitos. And then—on a whim—I also baked some cookies.

Because all of my friends are awesome and not nearly as piggish as me, at the end of the evening I still had most of the bean crack and cookies, as well as about thirty more bottles of wine (okay, maybe not thirty, but it seemed that way) and twice as much snack food. Including a jar of pickles. I mean, Wickles. Wickles pickles! (From the product description: “The most exciting new pickle product in years.” Maybe I will just suck down that jar for lunch today.)

I of course tidied up after everyone left (a wild evening of frolicking and playing Balderdash will take it out of you, hooboy), including putting away all of the extras, and the children were none the wiser.

This morning I packed them nutritious lunches—as I always do—including sandwiches, cut up celery and carrots, dried fruit, and a bottle of wine each.

Oh, wait. No I didn’t. It’s really hard to fit an entire bottle of wine into a lunchbox, plus Monkey never finishes all of his before he passes out.

I meant to say, I hid a cookie in the bottom of each lunch bag. The children will be DELIRIOUS WITH GLEE when they discover this. Which means I’m a hero with minimal effort.

And with no High Fructose Corn Syrup; just the element of surprise, mounds of refined sugar, and sticks of butter—the way God intended.


  1. Suzanne

    That was the way I was raised. My Mom baked her own cookies and she used honey for sweetener and oil instead of crisco. Looking back on it, those were some really awesome cookies and I would give an eye (or something like it) to have some of those cookies now. I try to occasionally follow that mindset, but rarely ever pull it off like she did. And that was back in the late 60’s when it was just plain sugar and crisco!

  2. Megan

    Yop – I do just like that. Only along with the “Doods! Is healthier!” I have an equal slug of “Doods! Highly processed food is expensive!” So this weekend when I informed a delighted Child 3 that I felt it and its siblings had earned some high-salt, deep fried Bag-O-Child-Killer treats (they volunteered to get up at TWO in the morning both weekend days in order to fund raise for their various activities. Very virtuous) it stood in the Target chip aisle dithering for five minutes or so and finally opted for the bag that was not only chemically delicious BUT was On Sale. I am one fabulous mum I’ll tell you what!

  3. Michelle

    LMAO. Really, just LMAO. I like your plotting.

  4. Beth

    @Megan: your entire comment needed a spoot warning! I’m having to wipe my chai off of my monitor because of “Bag-O-Child-Killer” and just plain fell out of my chair at “chemically delicious”

  5. RuthWells

    “If you feed it to your kids or eat it yourself, you’re a filth-encrusted whoremongering minion of the devil!”


    (I am anti-HFCS myself, just in case you’re keeping a tally. I figure the less processed stuff in general that we eat, the better.)

  6. RuthWells

    Ooh, the other way to be a total rock star to your kids is to surreptitiously make popcorn after they’re in bed and eat most of it yourself make sure to save some to pack for school snacks. (Scratch popcorn, of course, not the microwave stuff — since I’m being all virtuous.)

  7. Lisa- Domestic Accident

    FYI- I don’t care what you feed your kids. Just keep making me laugh.

    PS- HFCS is evil.

  8. Neil

    I’m always on the look-out for soda that is made with sugar rather than corn syrup, like the much-better-tasting Coke of Mexico. If I am going to ruin my teeth with drinking crap, I want to do to it with the “good stuff.”

  9. Lucinda

    When I learned I had several food allergies last year, I had to start reading every label. I had already become aware that HFCS was in a lot of places, but Lord Almighty, ignorance truly is bliss. I think most people who don’t worry about it, usually just aren’t aware as much as anything. I find my views changing over time.

    That said, I thought of your last post when I pulled BBQ sauce out of the fridge and the label proudly boasted “No HFCS!” So if the “Sweet Surprise” campaign is true (LOL) than why are companies starting to advertise no HFCS as a selling point. Hmmmmmmm…..

    Anyway, even though I am a far cry from offering really sound nutrition all the time, I too like being the good guy for allowing the forbidden fruit occasionally.

  10. Katie

    Mmm, cookies…

    Cause the point of this post was the cookies, right?

  11. Isa

    Wickles is THE BOMB! My uncle brings cases of it as gifts for Christmas every year (he knows the Wickles folks, apparently). I mean, who doesn’t love Wicked Pickles? Spicy and sweet, mmmm. Their hamburger pickle slices are just so darn tasty, they’re one of those stand in the open fridge door and fish them straight out of the jar kinds of things.

  12. Groovecatmom

    Yup, that’s how I roll too. Nothing but fruit and veggies and then the occasional cookie or two to make me look like the best mom ever. Well, what they don’t know won’t hurt them! Also, I heart Wickles. Mostly their relish, which is the only thing I can find around here. I understand they are more accessible in the south.

  13. Headless Mom

    I bought my kids a bag of ‘sugar cereal’ a couple of weeks ago (not the norm), and you would have thought I was the second coming. Nothing like letting your kids go off to school all hyped up on sugar. I’ll bet the teachers love me for that.

  14. Karen

    I guess I missed the first post in question. I will say that there are a lot things in our food that don’t belong there. I agree that corn syrup is very difficult to avoid. (The only thing harder to avoid than corn syrup is soy. My husband has an allery.) I say good for you that you think about your families health and nutrition. I am the same as you on the suprise treat here and there. Moderation really is the key. My mom was really good about our nutrition when I was young, so much so that, when we grew up and moved out we all binged on the things that had be forbiden. Yeah, that wasn’t so good for us.
    I’m off to google Wickles now.

  15. mamalang

    I have both the relatively healthy and the not even close to healthy cereals in my cupboards. Guess which ones I end up throwing out because they are stale? The not so healthy. They eat a bowl or two, the realize how crappy they feel later. I’ve found that linking cause and effect makes it much easier to get them to eat healthier. When I read the previous post, all I thought was that you were much more tenacious and patient then me…lol.

  16. Tatiana

    I am really excited about Wickles… time to put them on my baby shower list!

  17. abbey

    Isn’t it so fun to be awesome? We’re not having an awesome day here, but glad you are as it helps with ours.

  18. Barbara

    Witholding HFCS – generally speaking – that’s leverage! Always looking for leverage – an important concept well into teen years.

  19. Burgh Baby

    I can’t help but chuckle while other moms struggle to get their kids to eat healthier. Somehow I, she of the ice cream/chocolate/candy/Mexican/pizza Food Pyramid, have birthed a child that will knock you over to get to Lima beans, but will always turn down a cookie. I’m starting to believe she’s not even human but rather an alien sent from another planet here to prove to me that I will not, in fact, die if I don’t eat that Butterfinger.

    It’s not a risk I’m willing to take.

  20. tuney

    Spelt? Really, Mir? I must know..did that just…ROLL off your tongue, or did you have to take two seconds to think of something appropriately off-kilter? Cuz, seriously, now my vocabulary feels woefully inadequate. THANKS.

    I am an hfcs nazi of sorts, railing against it while realizing it’s fairly unavoidable. I even earned a rather nasty note from the “corn people” (not to be confused with the People of the corn) when I commented about the evil liquid-spawn-of-Satan in the local paper. Heh. Now, about your cookies. I can has one or six? Trade ya one pound of spelt…

  21. jennielynn

    For some reason, “Chris’s Bean Crack,” sounds dirty. I don’t know why. I just started laughing like Beavis and Butthead when I read that.

    I am adequeately embarrassed.

  22. MomCat

    Sounds like fun. Bean crack and Lime Tostitos – yum!!

    You omitted the category of responders who said, “Whaaaaaa?” and drooled a little over the apple juice question.

  23. Lauren

    I read today’s post while eating a store-bought piece of cake…with lots of frosting…for lunch. Now those Wickles are looking really healthy, huh? :)

  24. Sara

    That Monkey. What a lightweight.

  25. Shalet

    You crack me up! Maybe you should get a bumper sticker that says “My 10-year-old can drink your 10-year-old under the table.”

  26. Fold My Laundry Please

    The 80/20 rule of nutrition, making moms look like superheroes the world over!

  27. Lindy

    I chose to comment about corn syrup as I, one of the most healthy-looking accident-prone neurodisordered people you will ever meet, choose to not acknowledge the existence of insurance companies, else I risk exploding my brain, which in turn would require more hospitalization, horrible doctors who are like 12 and don’t speak English are the only ones on your plan, and medication that costs more than my rent, and along with that, more dealing with insurance companies. Eh. Yay corn syrup.

  28. Astrogirl

    Oh, we do try to avoid HFCS here in the Bunker. We prefer our high the way nature and God intended – all natural sugar (mostly Sugar in the Raw, but some refined stuff). Delish!

    Don’t feel bad – I made jelly from scratch last night-woo for me, right? Except that after making each batch, I licked the jelly pot clean as a whistle. Yum, 3 cups of sugar! Don’t worry, I washed the pot after every batch :)

  29. Ray

    The thing that cracks me up about the “sweet surprise” commercials is that they say, “in moderation”… Apparently, moderation means “In every food on your grocer’s shelves, and we’re looking into a way to inject it into your apples when you’re not looking – SURPRISE!” Sweeet!

    The whole wine in the lunchbox thing… I had to cut that out. My kids were having trouble with the corkscrew.

  30. Lori

    Only the best post ever! Parenting advice (deprivation is good motivation – put that on a t-shirt), recipes for crack (though mine will be made with Gimme Lean and Tofutti cream cheese TYVM, Wickles (which will be to die for if they are half as good to eat as they are to say) and underage drinking (as the cherry on top). Good stuff Mir.

  31. Heather

    It is funny – I have a friend with 3 healthy children who never worries about HFCS and other items while I completely freak about it. Actually, the only reason I started noticing HFCS was it was in the yogurt and chocolate milk (breast fed Burble for 15 months and then she wouldn’t drink milk – tried lots of things for calcium)that I waslooking at and I kept thinking why is this stuff in these items. I now make sure to buy certain items without it to balance the other food that we consume. However, it is very funny how upset people get one way or the other. By the way – loved the wine comment.

  32. Chuck

    You could always give a bottle of wine to each of their teachers, of course…

  33. Jenn

    Love the 80/20 rule. I try my very best on 80% of what we eat. And I let the rest slide. And sometimes that very best means opening a can of fruit (packed in juice, nat) as the veg for dinner.

    I’m sure wickles are very good and all, but I’m currently head over heels for the Felix pickles I can only find at Ikea. They taste just like Grandma’s!

  34. tj

    My parents owned a bakery when I was a child – HFCS isn’t an ingredient for food in my books.

    Anyways, good works supermom!

  35. Sara

    Oh yeah, I totally do the can of fruit from a can in natural juice instead of veggies for dinner. I put the cans in the fridge so the pineapple is nice and cold when we pull it out of the can and fruit just tastes better that way!!

  36. Kristy

    I’m taking a Human Nutrition college course and indeed High Fructose Corn Syrup is listed in the $110 textbook as very bad for you. A “highly avoided” food on the list of recommendations.

    I read often. Comment little. On this one…you are right. It is hard to avoid all bad things..hard enough in fact that if you make a solid attempt you are doing better than most.

  37. Kira

    Homing in on the salient point, as always, I just have to say one thing.
    Pickles are gross.

  38. Flea

    Give it to me straight – I was category four, right? No! Don’t tell me! I don’t want to know! LALALALA!

    Not a label reader. Sorry. Unless I’m looking for fiber.

    So not sending wine to school is what I’m doing wrong with my kids! Mir, I’m so glad you’re here to set us straight. :)

  39. JennyM

    Is organically-harvested spelt like Wickles? Because if so, I’m all over it. Mmmmm, Wickles. And I’ve recently discovered pickled okra, which I’ve always categorically disdained as likely slimy and gross (which, let’s just face it, the baby Jesus intended that we eat okra, if at all, battered and fried), but OMG, give me a plate of Wickles and pickled okra and I’m all “Crudites, my ass; bring on the sodium.”

    It’s just a good think I don’t have children, because more often than not, they’d probably end up with a dinner of popcorn and beer, or wickles and wine, and that’s probably worse than a bowl of HFCS and apple juice.

    So… what’s spelt?

  40. mama speak

    eh, I just try to watch the number of carbs we are all getting over all. I went low carb for Fibromyalgia a few years ago and have been drug free for that (my herniated disc requires meds, trust me. Vicodin is my BFF) In the process I realized how many carbs were in things and just about flipped out. I can get my full supply of carbs in one serving of yogurt if I don’t pay attention. Usually there’s a lower carb choice, if it’s organic that’s the one I’ll be getting. (Your post about organic for our kids a while back ago guilted me into it. No new clothes for me if my kids are drinking non-organic milk.)

    Everything in moderation, right? Less overall carbs = less HFCS and less sugar. So where was that category, huh?

  41. Brigitte

    I think, like Linda, insurance thoughts made lots of our brains explode, which is why we focused on the HFCS. I love your breakdown of the comments (and totally don’t remember what I fell under, or if I commented at all).

    One HFCS product I’m soooo addicted to is full-sugar Coke, I’ll have to hit the local Mexican groceries and see if ours have the kind with regular sugar like Neil mentions. Yum!

  42. Hip Mom's Guide

    You are a brave woman, treading these waters. Brilliant response. Wickles? The “wickedly delicious pickle”? Have to see if I can find them out here. HFCS-free, I’m sure!

  43. Jennifer

    I should have commented! But I didn’t. (I’m lazy) It was a great post though and I mean the whole thing, not just the bit about the high fructose corn syrup, although that was the part that stuck with me the longest because later that day, after reading your post, I read the ingredients on half of the things of my cupboard. I could not find anything that had HFCS in it, and not for lack of trying. But we live in Italy and they don’t use that stuff in anything. Or at least anything that I buy. And yes, I buy cookies.

  44. Kristin (aka Krisco)

    That stinks. I’m sorry. I think the fact he was not even familiar with your case when he walked in is grounds for not paying him something! Of course, I don’t want to get you in the trouble with the mediator board or anything. But that stinks.

  45. becky

    I made Chris’ bean crack once for a party. It was a huge hit, to say the least. And it’s divine with Lime chips. I may just have to make some soon.

  46. sumo

    No, you didn’t say, “HFCS bad!”. You said that anyone who can think and read would not buy HFCS products, which is a slightly less direct and more condescending way of saying the same thing.

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