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Slices of Life By: Jill Pertler-Food rules

November 5, 2012
Northern-Sun Print
When I walk into the kitchen first thing Monday morning and see the medicine cupboard ajar and an open box of cold tablets on the counter, I know we may be in for a long day and an even longer week. This morning was a three-fer. Son number one complained of a sore throat. Son number two didn’t want breakfast because his stomach didn’t feel right. My husband was the culprit with the cold pills. He was achy and stuffed. That’s no one’s favorite way to start a week. Since I’m too ornery to get sick, I watched from the sidelines, as only a wife and mom can. I thought about what I could do to help, and my mind headed in one direction. I grabbed a large stockpot and set out to prepare my special cure-all remedy: chicken soup. I had to. Rules dictated my actions. At our house we have food rules. Tenets to live by. Precepts that precede our tasting and chewing. Many of them are unspoken – unconscious even – but they guide our culinary habits and experiences nonetheless. Rule 15 states homemade chicken soup is the weapon of choice for colds and the flu. Ice cream, on the other hand, fixes broken hearts (Rule 37). Hot fudge sauce atop ice cream is deployed in the gravest of emergencies (Rule 52). Not all our rules involve illness or heartbreak. Most days we aren’t sick or crying. Thank goodness. Still, even in the status quo, food rules find their place in our everyday lives. Many rules are based on psychological principals aimed at manipulating my offspring into eating items they otherwise would not consume. For instance, never ask your children what they want for dinner (Rule 88). If you do, their answer will include things like cheese balls and cotton candy. They will not suggest green beans, lean protein or any of the healthy choices currently in your refrigerator. Keep it simple. Keep it secret. Serve them up a platter of veggie-filled goodness and call it… chicken (Rule 119). The Food and Drug Administration advises us to include a rainbow of foods in our diet – the more colorful the better. Kids love the idea of eating a rainbow. However, it is imperative parents are clear on the inherent make-up of the color scheme. Skittles and M & M’s do not qualify for rainbow status (Rule 198). Nor can a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup serve as a legitimate substitute for carrots – even though it comes in an orange wrapper (Rule 223). Be vigilant in your rule abidance. Do not let the children make unauthorized substitutions (Rule 256). Be prepared to hide the chocolate when necessary (Rule 2). Some of my favorite rules pertain to healthy eating and calorie control. They are rooted in common sense. For instance, hidden chocolate contains only hidden calories (Rule 271). Go ahead, indulge – but only when the kids aren’t looking (Rule 292). Here’s another classic I adore: if you eat the ice cream right out of the container, it does not count toward your daily calorie intake because it isn’t considered a snack unless you put it in a bowl (Rule 315). This same rule applies to nibbles eaten while standing – versus sitting. Standing and eating cancel each other out because it takes more energy to stand (Rule 340). This is not based on any scientific evidence from the FDA, but on my own vast knowledge of the caloric universe. I’ve been eating for more years than I’ll ever admit. My experience has taught me this: two bites of cake, eaten while standing, do not count as a snack. Three bites do, however, so you’re smart to stop at two and leave the kitchen for a short while before returning for another bite or two – but never three (Rule 389). Food rules have been around for centuries and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. They may ebb and flow and evolve with our culinary habits, but until someone invents a substitution for eating, food will be a constant in our lives. Forever. Today my fodder of choice is chicken soup. The concept is generations in the making – feed a cold, starve a fever and all that jazz. Some experts believe I’m wasting my time. They say chicken soup does nothing to cure the common cold. The idea – they purport – is all in our heads. I think they’ve got it wrong. The love and feel-good medicinal properties that come from homemade soup don’t originate in our heads. They come from the heart – for the person stirring the stockpot as well as the one eating from it (Rule 1). Find Slices of Life on Facebook and hit Like (please). Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, playwright and author of “The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication” Email her at pertmn@qwest.net; or visit her website at http://marketing-by-design.home.mchsi.com/.  

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