Everything’s going stale, except the vodka

With three boys, it’s a challenge keeping foods fresh in their original packaging. Little boys can’t read the instructions on packaging. Older boys can, but reading is a chore reserved for schoolwork, not to be mingled with the pleasures of gluttony. You’d swear our victuals were opened with a sledge-hammer.

The impatience of hungry children leads to bags and boxes ripped beyond recognition, incapable of keeping contents fresh until the next feeding frenzy.  This serves the little piglets right, and would be a great lesson, except sometimes Daddy seeks an edible morsel from the pantry.

We have lots of random foods sealed in storage containers.

Sometimes you can’t blame the kids. Some foods have been packaged to combat freshness.

Exhibit A

 

embrace the stale

Defuse this time bomb.

Saltines, in their waxy, rectangular sleeves, have vexed me since my first bowl of Lipton Noodle Soup.  I learned how to mix the soup powder in water 45 years ago. I’ve still not figured out how to open a sleeve of saltines.

I feel like a bomb disposal recruit trying to defuse the end of a saltine packet, gingerly tugging at the corners, visualizing the package blossoming into a neat square opening. In spite of my great care, I will send a gash halfway down the sleeve.

Even when opened perfectly, there is no good way to close up a sleeve of saltines for later. After the first use of saltines, I might as well throw the remainder of the sleeve away.

Exhibit B

I consider the 1/3 portion that will be wasted as tribute paid to the Universal Baking Mix Gods.

The bag inside a box of Bisquick is recycled from old bullet-proof vests. You have to be a strongman competition winner to open it with your bare hands, and if you do, you’ll find yourself lightly breaded. You can cut it open with scissors, if you have scissors tough enough to pierce Kevlar.

Bisquick does not deteriorate like saltines, but I find myself spilling a good portion of it, pouring it from the bag I mangled during the “attack with sharp objects” step of my baking recipe. When the bag is empty, I can get three more pancakes from the loose mix accumulated at the bottom of the box.

Exhibit C

Do they still even make the triangular hole punch can opener anymore?

Dole makes delicious pineapple juice, but was it packaged in 1918? A sealed can of juice? I suppose that makes it easier to ship to our troops fighting Kaiser Wilhelm.

As it happens, pineapple juice is a great mixer for vodka. When you’ve made vodka your summertime choice for that after-getting-the-kids-in-bed relaxer (because it’s much cheaper than scotch and goes good over the rocks with pineapple juice), you’ll want a supply of pineapple juice that will keep in the fridge. No matter how you manage to open it, a metal can is hard to close up again.

That liquid in mason jars in my fridge isn’t liquor. It’s pineapple juice, which I happen to mix with my liquor, which, by the way, comes in a bottle, with a cap, that I can put back onto the bottle to keep its contents safe and civilized. Now that’s packaging!

Advertisements

Good manners warrior

I write a lot about my children, but I try not to do too much open bragging about them. Instead, I like to keep it subtle and sprinkle my boastfulness in between the lines, so you’ll know how awesome my boys are without even noticing all the syrup you’re standing in.

Today, I am so overcome with pride I have to just cut loose and let the treacle fly. I hope you have a sweet tooth.

Our little Big Man has such excellent manners. I mean, lots of four-year-olds know to use good manners when speaking to adults, but it’s a whole different level of politeness to use manners when dealing with your brother.

We were riding in the car, when I heard Big Man address his big brother in the back. The object he needed must have been out of reach, so he asked his brother, “Will you please hand me that weapon?”

It did my heart good to know no one needed to prompt him to say please. What a little gentleman!

Also, no one in the car was wounded during the journey.

When the zombie apocalypse comes, I am confident my boys will be the most gracious battlers of the undead hordes. So you can see why I had to jettison my usual understatement today. Now you know why I couldn’t contain myself.

Back seat

Life in the back seat can get pretty dull when you can’t reach your weapons. (Image: Russell Lee, US Farm Security Administration)

The great bovine penis debate

A couple of weeks ago, my wife took the boys to a free dairy farm event. I didn’t go, because I had to work, and also because when I was a child I got to go to a free dairy farm event every day. It was called chores.

After the event, my wife called me to tell me about it. Big Brother and Big Man had each taken a turn at milking a cow. Buster refused. “Do you know why he wouldn’t milk the cow?” she asked.

I can think of lots of reasons a boy wouldn’t want to milk a cow. When I was Buster’s age, I didn’t want to milk cows either. Unlike me, Buster had a choice.

I started through my litany of reasons: It’s not really that fun; you can get kicked; fresh, warm milk isn’t very enticing, unless you’re a barn cat . . .

Sensing I was going off on the wrong track, my wife stopped me. “He wouldn’t milk the cow because he said the milk was coming out of its penis.”

She tried to explain to him that cows don’t have penises and that the milk came from the teats, but he wouldn’t be persuaded. I’m not sure I blame him. For a six-year-old boy, penis talk is old news, but having your mom discuss teats with you can shut your mind right down.

If he truly believed it was the cow’s penis, I applaud his decision not to tug on it.

Nothing for me, thanks.

“I don’t care what your brother told you, you’re not leaving this pen until you eat your breakfast!”

One morning, about a week later, I’d given the boys some cereal and gone to put some clothes in the washer. I was summoned from the laundry room by a loud argument. In the dining room, Big Man and Buster were hotly debating the origin of milk. Buster was trying to convince his little brother that milk comes from a cow’s penis.

This did not bode well for the continued consumption of their cereal, so I intervened.

“Cows are girls, so they don’t have penises,” I explained. I believe this generalization is still valid in regard to the four-legged world. “And besides that, have you ever known of any animal that had four penises?”

“Yeah,” Buster replied. “A cow.”

“They’re not penises,” I reiterated. “They’re teats. That’s why milk comes out instead of pee.”

“Yeah, they’re teats!” Big Man, the younger but more reasonable brother, backed me up. “Cows have teats!”

I didn’t know if we convinced Buster, but at least I was confident he wouldn’t scare Big Man away from his Cap’n Crunch. I went back to the laundry before the neighbors overheard me shouting anatomical terms at my children.

I heard the patter of little feet follow me. Big Man entered the laundry room. My little font of scientific reasoning gazed up at me, his face bright with sacred knowledge. “And you know what else? Girls don’t poop!”

So there’s that.

Belief

“It’s hard to know what to believe anymore.”

*Photos: Ben Shahn/US Farm Security Administration

Stumped!

I must be part Amish. The English would have rented a stump grinder or other motorized technology their loose morals allow them to operate. Not me. Because I am righteous, fearless of hard work, and also unwilling to part with my money, I did it old school.

Weeks ago I documented the pioneer spirit with which I chopped down our dead maple tree. The plan was to replace that tree with a new one. The plan was not to wait so long to do it, but we hearty woodsmen have to roll with the punches.

The first step was removing the stump. After six weeks’ meditation on the subject, I decided the way to do this without spending money was just to dig the thing out. I was under no illusions about how difficult it would be to dig up a tree stump.

Yeah, I may have been under some illusions about the difficulty. Illusions can become a burden to the psyche. They’re tricky little bastards, and so are tree trunks. Tree trunks can mutate into philosophical quagmires.

I got my shovel and dug around the stump, and I got my ax and hacked off roots, and this all went well for about 10 minutes. I’m not saying I stopped after 10 minutes; it’s just that the digging and hacking grew tiresome. I persisted, because I’ve never been one to surrender to the reality of a situation without a fight.

My tree stump spiritual adviser.

Big Man came out to help after an hour, at which point I was ready to accept advice from a four-year-old. Being a man of action, most of his ideas involved more digging and hacking. Since a preschooler’s digging and hacking can quickly become unfocused, we hit upon a new plan. We got some wedges and split the stump in its hole. Amazingly, this kind of worked.

Having mostly cleared the hole, it remained to locate and new tree. It can be handy having a garden you abandoned when children stole your free time. In this forsaken spot, a sapling had sprouted where it had no business. Its leaves look Maple-ish, but I can’t prove its pedigree – it’s my first week as an arborist. I guess we’ll find out.

Plants grow best in my garden when I let them fend for themselves.

Maybe we’ll find out. We might have killed it in transit. Its roots were twined in the neglected chicken wire surrounding the neglected fence around the neglected garden. Some of its thicker roots were casualties of our tug-o-war with the chicken wire.

Dead or alive, we dropped it in the hole. We added all three shovelfuls of fertilizer our composting barrel has produced from eight years’ worth of vegetable contributions. Then, we filled in the dirt and gave our new baby a long drink of water.

Possibly a Maple; possibly a tall weed; possibly dead.

If we planted a dead tree, we’ll just try again. We have all kinds of little ones growing where they don’t belong. We’ll keep trying until we get one to prosper or the rest of our yard looks civilized. Either way, it’s a win.

The result of all this hard work on my delicate blogger’s thumb.