The other morning I tested my knowledge of my family's current tastes in food. I did this accidentally. I overslept.
Since it was a school morning and I was supposed to drive the neighborhood car pool, our house was in a frenzy.
I was put in charge of making the kids' breakfasts and throwing together their boxed lunches.
This was not my normal morning duty. Usually I am in charge of throwing clothes on the kids. I did have some experience making their breakfasts and packing their lunches. But it wasn't recent experience. It was almost two weeks old.
And in dealing with kids I have learned that their allegiance to a food can change faster than yuppies change their choice for president.
For instance, as I heard the 11-year-old come thundering down the steps toward the breakfast table, I told him I had his two favorite cereals, Honey-Nut Cheerios and Rice Krispies waiting for him.
I got a scornful look, the kind that says "You're out-of-it old man." This is a look I am seeing more often these days, as the kid practices becoming a teen-ager. The cereal of choice, I was told, was no longer the one with the weird-looking bee on the box, Honey-Nuts, or the box with the three guys in weird hats, Rice Krispies. He now preferred the tiger, Tony, and the cat's Frosted Flakes. Muttering, I poured the kid a bowl of the favored flakes.
Next, I had to guess what the 7-year-old would eat for breakfast. If he ate at all. Some days he tries to "Go Gandhi" on us, and fasts. On these occasions, my wife and I spend the morning trying to get some morsel in his stomach before he heads out the door.
I thought of making pancakes, his all-time favorite food. But I didn't have time for that. According to the schedule, the car pool should have been on the road by now.
Under pressure I grabbed an old standby, frozen waffles, and shoved two in the toaster. However, having gone the frozen waffle route, I now had to make another crucial decision: To butter or not to butter.
There was a time, back in the days of butter and syrup, that this kid wanted his waffles coated. But then he got off the syrup. Or was it off the butter?
My mind raced as I tried to remember his latest culinary preference. I went with butter, but hedged my bet. I put the pats of butter between the two frozen waffles, like the filling inside a sandwich.
I waffled, but it worked. The kid didn't complain about his breakfast.
Instead he and his brother immediately began critiquing my lunch-making.
I was slapping together peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I was told I was doing it all wrong.
The 11-year-old wanted sandwiches made with designer peanut butter, the kind that is ground at the grocery store. I told him I had used the correct peanut butter. But he told me that -- horror of horrors -- I had mixed this precious peanut butter with jelly.
This young man preferred his peanut butter sandwich straight, untouched by jelly. I wanted to argue with him, but I didn't have time. Instead I served up another sandwich, this one jelly-free.
I was slipping the cast-off, jelly-loaded sandwich into the 7-year-old's lunch box, when he looked up from the breakfast table, and protested.
While he liked peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, he said he didn't like ones made with the kind of peanut butter his big brother preferred. Instead this little brother, wanted his sandwiches made with his "special" peanut butter -- Skippy -- crunchy not smooth.
I looked at the clock. I looked at my child. And then I did a terrible thing. I lied.
I told him that his sandwich had been made with his preferred peanut butter.
I stuffed the sandwich in his lunch box, shoved the lunch boxes in their school bags and raced out the door.
I got everybody to school on time. I am waiting to be questioned by my children. I am trying to think of what I will tell them.
I have thought of taking the adults-know-best line: Telling these kids their ideas about the differences among types of peanut butter are perceived, not real. I have thought of telling them that rather than basing their choices on quick appeals to their emotions, they should look at hard facts and consider the "greater good." This sounded a lot like the soliloquy I break into when I read about the whipper snappers who vote for "protest" candidates in presidential primaries.
On reflection I don't think this is a good approach. For the most part, the only people who listen to "the wisdom of the elders," are folks the same age or older than the folks doing the talking. Instead I think I will tell my kids the straight truth: When it comes to making your peanut butter sandwiches, you can't trust anyone over 30.