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Funbag

My Son Eats Wrong

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Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And buy Drew’s new novel while you’re at it. Today, we’re talking about cold cuts, figs, biddies, strange dishwashing habits, and more.

Your letters:

Chris:

I’m the parent of a 14-month-old girl. She’s smart as hell and adorable as fuck but she won’t eat for shit. She’ll eat Cheerios, crackers, rice, and pasta. Literally nothing else. If I present her with new food she’ll toss it on the floor. If I try to force feed her or sneak it into the food she likes she’ll spit it out. My wife and I are at a loss.

OK, imagine your situation, but for 11 years. That’s my older son, who still subsists on little more than chicken nuggets, fries, breakfast bars, grilled chicken, baby carrots (they have to be super skinny ones), buttered noodles, Kraft Mac, pizza, chips, and, strangely, smoked salmon. Plain smoked salmon. Not on a bagel. Not with cream cheese. Just plain smoked salmon. When he was a baby, he used to take bites of my bagel every Sunday morning. Somehow the bagel and cream cheese part got cut out of the equation. He won’t even eat bread anymore. Any bread of any kind.

The good news for you is that YOUR kid is still extremely young and unlikely to remain fussy. On average, you have to serve a kid certain foods 12–24 times before they get a taste for that food, and even after you cross that threshold it’s not guaranteed. But my daughter used to be fussy about all that shit back in the day. At 14 now, she eats pretty much everything we serve her. It just took time, and it took her watching my wife and me (and more important, her friends) eat different foods every day and then naturally wanting to try those foods herself. My younger son, now eight, was nearly as fussy as his brother for years on end. But just recently, he’s gotten into spring rolls, ramen, Panda Express orange chicken (probably not ideal), and homemade tomato sauce. His palate is growing up.

You just have to accept that it won’t happen overnight. Picky eaters are normal and universal. They are also different from what’s known as “problem feeders,” or kids who have some form of physical/psychological eating dysfunction. This is not an “eating disorder” in the two forms you’re used to hearing about, anorexia and bulimia. This is something else altogether. In a lot of ways, my wife and I failed because we tried forcing the kids to eat whatever we were making for dinner that night. But when the kids outright refused, we caved and made them whatever they wanted instead, so that they wouldn’t turn into cranky monsters for the rest of the night. Now, every night, I’m making two dinners, if not three on occasion. I have boiled two different kinds of pasta because the family couldn’t agree on just one. Does this make me want to die? It does.

Right before quarantine, we had a breakthrough with the 11-year-old. We finally nutted up and took him to a nutritionist. Turned out the boy was eating wrong. The mechanics of his eating were abnormal and crippling his ability to taste food properly. He took bites using the side of his mouth and not the front. He let the food hang out all over his tongue rather than, in what is usually a natural instinct, shifting the chewed food to one side or the other. And he didn’t THINK about what he was eating in ways that helped him develop. Everything was, “I like this,” or “I don’t like this.” He wasn’t saying WHY he disliked a food. In fact, it hadn’t even occurred to him to think about it.

So, at every appointment, the nutritionist gave him a series of foods on a paper plate. She didn’t tell him what the food was, and I wasn’t allowed to tip the boy off. He had to look at the food and describe its appearance, then touch it and describe its feel, then smell it and describe its odor. And then he had to take a bite, from the front, and describe how it tasted in greater detail than just GOOD or BAD. She even made him watch episodes of Chopped so that he would get a better understanding of how people describe what they’re eating. He was eating new shit at every appointment, almost certainly because his mom and dad weren’t the ones asking him to eat it. He was biting right. He was describing foods with more nuance. I was overjoyed. We knew what the problem was, and we were making progress in opening up his mind to new foods. He wasn’t gonna grow up to be the kind of mouthbreather who eats like the president.

And then the fucking virus hit.

We couldn’t go back to the nutritionist and still can’t. My wife and I tried doing the mystery food exercises with him but he lost interest. All the progress we had made, not to mention the investment we had made paying all those appointment fees, disappeared. I was heartbroken… but NOT defeated. I still know what the problem is, and I know that the boy WANTS to expand his dinner options, even if he doesn’t quite know how to yet. So we can fix it. If we have to wait out the virus to do it… well, we’re ALL still waiting this thing out to get back to what we want to do. I can deal. The other two kids turned the corner, so I’ve got hope.

As for your kid, talk to your pediatrician. They’ll tell you it’s normal for a one-year-old to be fussy, because it is. But if you feel like the kid is becoming malnourished (when this happens, she can be diagnosed with something called “failure to thrive,” which is the most damning name for a condition possible), then do your homework and see if you can afford a good nutritionist to make sure the kid knows HOW to eat. You’d be shocked at how many children do not.

David:

When making a sandwich with cold cuts, do you fold the slices like the food stylists do, or just stack them?

I fold! First of all, hand-curating™ each slice of meat gives me a chance to eat extra slices from the bag as I build the sandwich. Secondly, it makes me feel like I’m a CHEF, and not some sad divorced guy forklifting a stack of bologna from the package directly onto the bread. Third and most important: I want my sandwich to be high. I want the meat stacked to the fucking ceiling. When you get a good Italian sub and it’s cut in half, what do you see? You see ornate folds of meat, with tiny pockets of air to increase all the precious, tasty surface area. Now that gets me horny for eatin’! When you lay the cold cuts flat on a sandwich, it’s as if they’ve never been sliced thin at all. It’s a dead sandwich. Don’t you see what a lost opportunity that it, dear friend?

My only problem with folding cold cuts is when they’re too thick to fold (curse you, deli man!) and they come undone the second you release them onto the bread. Also, sometimes the bread and the folded slices sometimes don’t quite match, so you end up with a dense concentration of the meat in the center of the sandwich and then get just a few edges out toward the crust. I need thick piles of miles of meat the whole way through, and this is why I salivate over those Hardee’s prime rib sandwich ads even though I know their sandwiches are made with year-old roadkill.

Matt:

At what point do you think we’ll move on from the current design of “rectangle of glass/plastic” phones? I feel like size, materials and features will change, but this will be the common phone design until at least 2040.

It’ll be the common phone design until phones are replaced with brain microchip implants, or smart contact lenses, or an Apple Watch that’s actually worth a shit, or whatever the next generation of Lawnmower Man tech happens to be. No one is buying, like, a circular iPhone. Your hands would strangle you if you ever did. That rectangular phone is ergonomically sound and, most important, it’s the shape you want for the screen. You’re not watching a TV show shaped like a donut, unless it’s on Quibi.

My kids sometimes watch a shitty old Nick sitcom called Victorious (co-starring Ariana Grande before she became Ariana Grande), where everyone has a phone shaped like a pear. Instead of an apple. Get it? Anyway, whenever I watched the characters on that show dick around on pear-shaped phones, I got an allergic mental reaction. How can you use a phone shaped like that and not wanna die?

So you’re right, the design’s not changing anytime soon.

Tom:

You know how you’re supposed to drink eight glasses of water per day? Does La Croix count toward that total?

It does. Predictably, “Does seltzer count as water?” is an argument that we at the Defector staff have actually had. In earnest. I’m pretty sure Barry was the one who thought seltzer wasn’t hydrating, because Barry lives in a subway tunnel. But yes, seltzer IS water, which means that it confers the same health benefits as normal, disgusting flat water. And it needs to, because I drink 900 cans of Giant brand seltzer on a daily basis. First thing I do in the morning is crack one open. My wife says this is bad for the environment. My counterargument is yes, OK, but it tastes so good out of a can.

In fact, I still buy cans of seltzer even though we did the yuppie thing and bought a Sodastream during the pandemic. The Sodastream is a hilarious piece of shit. You’re basically paying $90 for a piece of plastic. The CO2 canisters do all the work. I thought these canisters would last, like, a year. Because of my seltzer intake, they last roughly two weeks. I have a problem. But at least I’m properly hydrated.

Jessica:

Everyone’s talking about The New Normal, Getting Back to Normal, and when things will Return to Normal. But what do you think WON’T return to its pre-COVID status?

Pretty much everything. You won’t believe me when I confess this, but the reality of our situation didn’t hit me until Styles P said it to us last week. He said this shit is forever now. It’s always gonna be like this: masks and distancing and worrying that you might murder your parents if you hug them. We could have been spared all of that if, you know, no Trump. But we weren’t, and getting the rona out of this country now is like trying to get all of the grease out of a running car engine. Like, I already know I can never go to Florida ever again, and I have already tacitly accepted it.

But let’s say a cure/vaccine magically pops up and everyone takes it and POOF! No more rona. Here’s what won’t return to its pre-rona status:

  • Work. Companies that realize they can get by with limited staffs and office space and superfluous travel expenses aren’t gonna magically pony up for all those things once the coast is clear.
  • School. Everyone hates e-school, but school districts know cost savings when they see them. Hence, e-school elements will remain in place in certain areas forevermore. Pretty much everything that will stay permanent in The After will do so because of money. I’m so worn out of being the IT guy in this fucking house that I want a nerd butler. He can live in the shed.
  • Going to the movies. Giant movie chains like Regal have already shuttered and may never open again. I already “took” my kid to Sonic the Hedgehog by ordering it on demand for a mint (Jim Carrey shockingly returns to form in it). It’s the same as buying a video game. And given that video games make more money than movies, I think you can see where this is headed.
  • Flying. Despite evidence that flying isn’t necessarily a heightened COVID risk, I’m still gonna be wary of getting on a plane. I still haven’t flown since the outbreak, and I dunno when I will. Also, where will I go? Who will have me? All that shit will remain in flux forever.

The good news is that, judging by the idiot states, Americans will very much get back to normal when it comes to eating out, attending concerts, and fucking other people. So that’ll be cool.

HALFTIME!

Josh:

What do you think is the most common junk (cheap or expensive) people love to waste their money on and rarely use it at all?

You’re reading it! HEY-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

Sarah:

I recently discovered a truly MONSTROUS fig tree in my neighborhood. It probably takes up 25-30 feet of curb space. I don’t see any fencing or signs discouraging fig-filching. Am I free to snag a couple figs whenever I walk by? What’s the ruling on fruit trees encroaching into municipal spaces? 

Grab a fig. There was a guy in my hood who used to grow blueberries in his front yard, but he had protective wiring around the bushes to keep out deer and other varmint snackers. My kids and I used to ask that guy if we could have some and he always said yes. But again, that was clearly his yard, and he clearly had taken measures to make sure not just anyone ate the blueberries. Also, he only had two bushes. He did not have a surplus of berries lying around. [Monty Python singing voice] Every berry was sacred.

A big-ass fig tree with an innumerable amount of figs, sitting out on the curb and hanging out all over the place? That’s a whole other story. There are random chestnuts that fall on the road in my hood every fall. Those nuts are all subject to the Finders Keepers rule. I grabbed one a few years back, so that I could roast it and fill the house with a jolly roasted chestnut scent. That chestnut promptly exploded in the toaster oven, pissing my wife off. But I didn’t STEAL that chestnut. That was mine for the taking. If I had planted a tiny flag that said REPUBLIC OF DREW into that lone chestnut, no one would have contested it. Same deal with stray figs that are ripe to pluck. Grab a few of those and then be on your way. No one will fucking notice, unless you live in Texas and there’s some toothless hick guarding the tree with a shotgun because it’s his POPPITY.

Found fruit is the sweetest fruit of all. One time my family went to Maine for a week in the summer and we took hikes in Acadia National Park. Wild blueberries grow all over the mountains there, which was clutch because anytime my kids started to whine about the hike (constant), I could just be like OOOH I SEE BLUEBERRIES and suddenly they were off. They had something to do, and the berries were tasty. Even the picky eater of the family wolfed them down. One time I found a RASPBERRY bush and it was like I’d struck gold. Will my family become artisanal foragers because of this? No. Is going to some fucking apple orchard for a cursory fall afternoon the same thing? No. It’s just nice to walk around a mountaintop and be reminded that food grows on this Earth of its own accord, and that you can eat it. For free. Makes you feel fully human for a second.

Amory:

I feel like half the pots and pans I see advertised state that they are dishwasher safe. Do people do this? It’s never even crossed my mind.

Oh, it’s crossed my mind. Why wash a pot if the peon dishwasher can do it FOR me? That’s just smart bachelor thinking right there. And, indeed, I have sometimes thrown dirty pots into the bottom rack to spare myself added labor. But my wife does not always care for this practice. She’s not convinced the dishwasher can get a pot/skillet all the way clean, and it may inhibit the water spray going on inside the dishwasher while it’s locked shut and doing its dirty sinful business.

I don’t care about either of these hang-ups, but I’ve relented because A) I’m a good husband, B) I have my all-powerful dishwashing gloves, so an extra pot now means nothing to me, and C) There’s never any room in the dishwasher anymore. The dishwasher in this house is always full. My life now consists of finding spots between glasses in the top rack to wedge small melamine bowls. Not a chance I can fit a whole stockpot in that machine. This is why I’m gonna make my nerd butler wash everything from now on.

Joe:

Americans have always romanticized certain crimes. The Sopranos, Goodfellas, etc have satiated our lust for murdery mafia misbehavior. Halloween, Friday the 13th, and every other slasher flick gets our slice-and-dice rocks off. So I’m wondering if grifting is the next big crime genre to hit our screens since half this mental country loves a terrible crook. Are we doomed to consume ‘The Griftfather’ or ‘I Know What You Did Last Swindle’ next year?

Aren’t Billions and Succession all about feuding white collar crooks? I think Hollywood already has you covered on the grifter front, amigo. There’s a reason I can’t open Twitter without a fucking Wolf of Wall Street gif popping up every time the page refreshes. I loved that movie, and apparently I wasn’t alone. So yeah, when Hollywood fully reboots, you’re for more of that kinda shit.

To that end, here’s a take for you: one of the reasons we’re presently fucked as a country right now is partially BECAUSE pop culture lionized antiheroes until actual heroes basically became nonexistent. Regular heroes like Superman are boring goody-goodies who aren’t complex enough characters to carry a large storyline. To make a series or a franchise last, you gotta have a main character who inspires both reverence and loathing: Tony Soprano, Tony Stark, Walter White, Elizabeth Jennings, Bruce Wayne, Omar, Dr. House, literally every reality TV show contestant, and on and on. So when every movie and show is centered around these antiheroes, the anti- part eventually goes away. They’re just regular-ass heroes now. You accept those people as your role models in you pop culture, and then you accept them similarly into your news cycle.

I have zero doubt that a lot of MAGA dipshits love Trump specifically because he reminds them of some zero-fucks-given badass they saw on the teevee. The tragedy here is that, as Roth has noted a zillion times, there’s no complexity to Trump whatsoever. There’s no inner conflict with Trump. He’s certainly not a badass. He’s a profoundly uninteresting person, just like the rest of his pathetic and useless family. I always figured that Hitler II would come in the guise of someone way more fascinating. I was wrong. We’re all gonna die, and it’s not even gonna make for a decent storyline.

So I have zero doubt that Hollywood will trot out a number of shows and movies going forward where the protagonist is Trump-esque in certain ways, but will be otherwise intriguingly flawed instead of outright defective. And then we’ll get an even shallower real-life man to come along and become Hitler III. I’m very excited.

William:

How do you feel about the term “biddy”?

My colleagues all use “weenie” in earnest, so I’m sure “biddy” isn’t far behind. Will I ever use this New Flanders-ism seriously? No. But I see potential in SPINSTER finding its way into the cultural rotation. My daughter wants to wear Doc Martens now. Everything comes back.

Brendan:

I recently got remarried and have discovered that my wife is a big believer in using a GODDAMN WASHCLOTH to do the dishes. Is this a thing? Do other people do it? Her mother passed this genetic flaw down and I have to say, like, what the fuck?

This is not a thing. Here is what you do: you buy a dish brush and you use that. If she wants to keep using a washcloth like she’s an Amish lady, whatever. But you should not feel obligated to use the same prehistoric methods.

My mom never has dish brushes around. All she has behind the sink is a regular sponge. A scouring pad too if I’m lucky. Meanwhile, there’s a dinner for 16 people I gotta wash up. It’s like trying to dig a tunnel with a spoon. I have tried explaining this problem to my mom, but it never leads me to a dish brush. Maybe I should use a full bath towel of hers next time I visit. THAT’LL LEARN YOU, MOM. I KNOW YOU READ THIS SHIT.

Jason:

I emailed you a while back (maybe a year or two?) asking if an average golfer who could precisely drive the ball roughly 400 yards 90% of the time would cut it on the PGA tour. You said no. I think DeChamBRO tipped the scales in my favor. What do you think and why was I right?

You’re still wrong. Yeah, DeChambeau can drive the ball across Lake Superior. But the reason he won the U.S. Open was because he had the short game to make up the difference anytime he landed in the rough, which was often. Your average long-ball exhibition bro can’t do any of that nitty-gritty work. DeChambeau, by contrast, studied the human anatomy to make his putting motion so consistent as to be identical on every stroke. And he had the talent to pull it off after drilling himself into oblivion. This is not an average golfer. This man is a freak. A freak who wears a silly hat, but a freak nonetheless.

The short game is the hardest part of golf. Ask any golfer. Putting SHOULD be easy and it’s a goddamn panic attack instead. One little hiccup and you’re fucked. If you drive the ball 400 yards straight, it doesn’t really matter where it lands. As you get closer to the hole though, the margin for error winnows down to nothing. So as much as golf purists clutch their docksiders and worry that DeChambeau “broke” the sport, he’s only been able to do it because he’s really, really good.  

Leigh:

You have 5 minutes alone with Obama in 2013. Can you stop Trump from happening?

Nope. No one could stop it from happening in 2016, man. No one may be able to stop it from happening AGAIN less than a month from now. What fucking chance would I stand trying to warn Obama, who was already an elegant pushover throughout most of his Presidency? He would have laughed me out of the fucking room, the same way he and his wife laughed at young voters on her podcast just two months ago. I think counting on Obama to save us from Trump, now or then, is just a liberal wet dream. I’m too hardened and cynical now to believe otherwise.

Email of the week!

Jakob:

I’m a somewhat new emigrant to the Boston area, and I recently found out that an acquaintance named their child Edelman. After miraculously managing not to laugh in the child’s face immediately upon learning this, it got me thinking—is there a worse example of a last-name-to-first-name eponym for a beloved local sports “star” (mostly due to their overwhelming whiteness)? For example, although I’ve yet to meet any, I’m sure there are at least a few 6-10 year old Scalabrini Fitzpatricks running around Boston right now. Also, am I allowed to never speak to this acquaintance again due to their horrible child-naming choice?

You are.