Kids and Food Waste, or Like Hell You Aren’t Eating That Burrito

crispydoc Uncategorized 6 Comments

I had a challenging moment after our flight home from Mexico City last night. It had to do with a burrito we’d lugged home over 1500 miles and across two time zones. On this latest trip, we’d spent a week each in Oaxaca and Mexico City.

We deliberately made this a slow travel trip, enjoying late breakfasts in our Airbnb, a light lunch of tacos on the go, and then a big nightly restaurant dinner (often at one of the world class, mouth-watering Lebanese and middle eastern restaurants that constitute the cultural heritage of Mexico’s many waves of international immigration).

Of the past seven weeks, we’ve spent five of them traveling. Amazing, right? A lot of things go out the window during travel, and food and fitness routines are among the first to go.

I plead guilty to planning an afternoon delight of churros and thick Spanish chocolate at El Moro, and for insisting we go to Neveria Roxy, the ice cream shop voted most-likely-to-be-mistaken-for-a-stripper’s-name whose 75 year tradition of not changing their wallpaper meant my mom had no trouble recognizing it as the exact place she used to go during her childhood in the Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City.

Like many value-sensitive airline customers, I loathe paying airport food prices for terrible, horrible, no good, very bad meal options. Give me ten bucks at a supermarket and I can whip up gourmet smoked turkey sandwiches for our entire family of four with spinach, roasted peppers, capers, balsamic vinegar and the really delicious spicy deli mustard – the kind with extra horseradish that makes your eyes water and those tiny whole mustard seeds that pop in your mouth.

The burrito in question was purchased because it was huge enough to feed both kids (I heart economies of scale) and we were running late. My wife is a worrier, and at the airport she expressed concern that our flight, which inconveniently overlapped both lunch and dinner, might mean one mega-burrito would not be sufficient for the kids.

Hungry kids I could handle, a worried wife – not so much. I caved and paid airport prices (the blow softened somewhat because Mexican airport prices). I bought them a 30 centimeter Subway sandwich to share (Mexico and the rest of the world are on the metric system, so a foot-long doesn’t exist; serendipitously, my son had asked me earlier in the day how many centimeters were in a foot and we’d worked through the conversion, so he flashed me a happy gap-toothed math smile of recognition at the sandwich counter).

As the flight began, they inhaled their Subway sandwiches and professed satiety. I assumed once home they’d see our empty fridge they’d happily consume the burrito. Nope. Moping and whining ensued, along with absurd protestations that sounded every shade of spoiled.

We had just collectively experienced children their age selling handicrafts in the streets to help feed their families. We had visited a pueblo with tin-roofed houses. We’d talked about what it must be like to live this way, and ways we could help.

What I wanted to say, if I came from a generation ago: “Like hell you aren’t eating that burrito, if I have to sit here all night and watch you do it!

What I actually said, thanks to my wife’s soothing whispered reminder that child protective services was only a phone call away: “It sounds like everyone is very tired from a long day of travel. Let’s call it an early night and talk about this tomorrow.

We subsequently had a long discussion covering topics like food waste and why it’s a particular hot button issue for us, as well as tangentially touching on hedonic adaptation (eating at a restaurant is usually a rare and special treat, but after our 5th week of restaurant meals on the road we’d grown accustomed to this treat and the thrill was gone).

I’d love to say that I felt better after our chat, but the truth is it still eats at me to hear them sound so spoiled.

Any suggestions on how to get across the concept of food waste to kids, especially those accustomed to food abundance?

Comments 6

  1. Hey CD,

    I am probably a very negligent mother but this is what I have done.

    Pick your battles. Your kids are still young. You might exhaust yourself in this early stage. You need more energy during the teenage years. It’s all about strategy CD😆.

    My husband tries to lecture the kids. They roll their eyes. I wait until they ask me questions about things.

    Like when they started asking me why all their classmates worked as servers and bus boys while we went to local restaurants for dinner. That was when we discussed how we live in a working/ middle class neighbourhood and most parents and now their kids need to work. Both my kids started working as soon as they turned 16 bussing tables and doing prep work in local restaurants.

    Food wastage….I now trend more in line with “if you don’t love it, don’t eat it.” I worry more about their health and having to digest extra food they don’t need. Occasional fasting might actually have benefits.

    Just my two cents CD. I’m sure my kids will say something bad about their childhood. Thankfully I haven’t heard it yet.

    1. Post

      Dr. MB,

      I contest your self-effacing claim of negligence – and I welcome your excellent counsel.

      My wife is fully behind your philosophy of not eating just because you piled it on your plate – she says the data support her, and I don’t doubt it. My wife is my best investment in so many ways – but especially in helping me to chill over minor infractions with the kids when I lose perspective and most need it. For reasons I don’t always understand, I favor Von Trapp children orderliness. She consistently keeps me in line to help me avoid letting the rules get excessive.

      As you can guess, my lectures are about as well-received as your husband’s, so I need to find a better way. Appreciate your sharing your example.

      I don’t mind my kids eventually saying how awful their childhood was, I just hope to raise them with the courtesy to say it out of earshot.

      With gratitude,


  2. Teach them to cook. Teach them to shop. Teach them what it means to go to Whole Paycheck. I have one who trolls me for my restaurant leftovers, like yesterday I brought home half a steak and she rolled in from the beach and wolfed it down. The other can take 3 bay leaves an egg and some garbanzo’s, and make magic and photograph the process and get a blog post to boot. My beach comber however can bake like Duff Goldman. I get joy from all of it including having my kid wolf my steak. Some day she won’t be living here and I’ll have to wolf my own damn steak.

    1. Post

      You offer generous balm to a short-tempered man. I need to reframe this as an opportunity to enjoy them, on their terms, before they fly the coop. For that matter, I need to make the coop a more hospitable and less strict abode. I need to relish the chance to let them wolf my steak, and need to take it less personally when they pass on my burrito.

      Thanks Gasem.

  3. Hey CD, I’d eat your burrito! 😉

    Kids are tough. I grew up grateful for what food we had and don’t understand being picky (unless it comes to Lima Beans. Then I totally get being picky!). My older kid eats most anything and my younger one is seriously picky to the point I want to bang my head against the kitchen counter saying, “Where did this come from?!” I give them the food and if they don’t eat it, they don’t eat it. I present it at another meal and if it’s not eaten the second time presented, then it’s tossed in the trash with a mental note they don’t like it.

    Take them to Oaxaca a few more times, up into the mountains, to volunteer with Roca Blanca medical team, and they’ll stop complaining. (heck, I even drink black coffee with mosquitoes I have to fish out after living in Oaxaca for a bit…And I don’t mind ant salsa now. But I dislike Iguana tamales still…Overall, Oaxaca is excellent medicine for picky eaters).

    Best of luck!

    1. Post


      I need to become more chill about this and try your “twice and then toss it” approach.

      As for your youngest, there’s one in every family (and having been that one I had tried desperately not to pass it on to my kids).

      Finally, I did try a “let’s explore where food really comes from” day by taking the family to the Mercado Benito Juarez in Oaxaca City. As soon as the kids noted actual chicken feet extending visibly from multiple stalls, they had their heads down and couldn’t ask me to get out of there fast enough, even when I took them to a different section full of vendors offering what looked like fascinating street food. It appears we won’t be homesteading and butchering our own food any time soon. On the upside, what a great and visceral argument for adopting more vegetarian dishes in our day to day! Perhaps the more rural Oaxaca you describe, where there the two options are eat this or go hungry, will be in their future down the road…



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.