Children lined up in the cafeteria of a religious school for lunch. At the head of the table was a large pile of apples. The teacher made a note: “Take only one, God is watching.” At the other end of the table was a large heap of chocolate chip cookies for which a boy had his own note: “Take all you want, God is watching the apples.” Well, someone is watching the cookies at school and it’s the federal government. All across North America, longtime favourite cafeteria treats are disappearing as “Smart Snacks In School” standards mandate that all such treats must contain less than 100 calories or schools will not be receiving their full educational funding. And so in my home town of Albany, New York, the locally famous integrated (black and white) cookie, which I devoured regularly at school for twelve years, has been done in by: butter, cocoa, shortening, sugar, and the nanny state (a government perceived as having excessive interest in or control over the welfare of its citizens, especially in the enforcement of extensive public health and safety regulations). As one food services director put it, “We can’t have them in the cafeteria for sale, period. The guidelines for snacks are very strict, and there’s no wiggle room.” And a school board member added, “You can’t change the recipe. It’s like eating diet potato chips. It’s just not right. You wouldn’t ask KFC to change their eleven herbs and spices. You just don’t mess with perfection.” And so today’s youngsters will have to satisfy their sweet tooth at the cafeteria’s yogurt bar, all thanks to the food police. I’m sorry kids, but that’s the way today’s cookie crumbles.
I do not advocate all you will read below. It’s simply the way things were when our generation grew up.
First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and drank while they carried us. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested for diabetes. Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with lead-based paints. When we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking. As children we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. And riding in the back of a pick-up truck on a warm day was always a special treat. We drank water from a garden hose and not a bottle. We shared one pop from one bottle, and no one actually died from this. We ate cupcakes, white bread spread with real butter, and drank Kool-Aid made with sugar, but we weren’t overweight because we were always outside playing. We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us and we were okay. We would spend hours building go-carts out of scraps and then ride them down the hill, only to discover we had forgotten the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem. We did not have video games, cell phones, cable television, personal computers, or internet chat rooms. We had friends because we went outside and found them. We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones, lost teeth and there were no lawsuits. We ate worms and mud pies but a little dirt never hurt anyone. We made up games with sticks and tennis balls, and although we were told it would happen, we did not poke out very many eyes. We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house, knocked on the door, rang the bell, or just yelled for them. When it came to sports, you had to try out for the team and not everyone made it. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with the disappointment. Imagine that. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. In fact, they actually sided with the law. Yet this generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem-solvers, and inventors ever. The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success, responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all!