On Picnics and Leftovers
Along with some neighbours, we’ve dedicated two evenings a week this summer to soccer. More accurately, we’re spending two evenings a week trying to get the four and five-year-olds in our co-op to play soccer at a local league. (Anyone who has attempted soccer for this age group knows it’s about the journey to get on the soccer field – not the destination of actually kicking the ball.)
Sitting on a crowded picnic blanket with neighbours, babies and at least two soccer players who at any given moment don’t feel like playing, we’ve been catching up, and establishing a communal picnic etiquette.
Out of this came the best one-liner I’ve heard all summer. My daughter rejected a Mini Babybel she had nevertheless managed to grime up in a minute’s time, barely eating any but pawing it with her shockingly dirty hands. My neighbour, a nurse, then said, “Unless she’s got a horrible illness right now, you can pass that to my daughter. She’ll eat it.” I stared at her.
“What?” she said, “kids with the most allergies tend to come from the cleanest countries.”
As it so happens, she’s right – and her daughter happily popped the cheese into her mouth.
And with that, our nurse neighbour confirmed our neighbourly picnic etiquette: waste as little food as possible. And – within reason – germs, sherms.
During these soccer picnics, most of my adult neighbours finish uneaten sandwiches left by their children, little kid fingerprints still embedded in the bread. Babies open their mouths for tiny leftovers and often, two kids finish the same half sandwich between them, usually after one child has rejected it for a cheese or lunchmeat-related reason.
As a society, we waste a shameful one third of the food we buy. I contribute my share to this waste. I feel sick when I discover the special organic tofu I’ve been saving for the right dinner has gone past its date and needs to hit the trash. I’ve made some bad watermelon purchases this season and probably chucked a total of a whole fruit. It stinks as much as my green bin. I hate wasting food. Most real people do.
When she goes out, my food-conscious vegan step-sister tends to put food in one container to share with her daughter – in reasonable proportions that she knows they can finish between the two of them. It limits food waste and disgusting kid-handled leftovers.
I will eat leftover fruit and veggies from my kids, but I’m not as wholesome as other moms: I think about the fish marinating in the fridge for our grown-up dinner post-game and I want to eat that so much more than my daughter’s sandwich rejects. My four-year-old likes to open up the sandwich and pick off the contents (butter, cold cuts, etc) and leave the rest behind. Gross. I already told you about her shocking soccer field hands that become grubby a half-second after I’ve cleaned them.
I feel like a selfish food-wasting glutton compared to the other parents.
I turned to Google, as one does in these situations. I discovered that Modern Family’s Julie Bowden claims she only has time to eat what is left on her kids’ plates, which is always waffles.
So I say kudos to the brave mamas and papas who eat gross kid leftovers in the name of zero food waste. You’re good people. I’ll try to work on better portions and not forgetting what’s about to expire in my fridge.
And maybe I’ll figure out how to make a breadless sandwich for my four-year-old.