Ralph and the Cap’n

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It’s not often you see the names Cap’n Crunch and Ralph Nader mentioned in the same sentence. In fact, I’d be willing to bet it’s never happened. Until now.

Here’s how a man who wants to be president helped me deal with an ongoing battle to get my kids to start their day with something more substantial than Fruit Loops in their stomachs.

While doing background research for this week’s story about Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, I came across a quote of his in a recent Rolling Stone article that hit particularly close to home.

Responding to a question about massive grassroots protests against such groups as the World Trade Organization, Nader observed that "Opposition to corporate power is going mainstream." As proof, he pointed to a recent conversation with former drug czar Bill Bennett, one of the nation’s leading moral conservatives.

Bennett, according to Nader, agreed with his observation that "corporations are on a collision course with conservative principles."

Why? "Number one," said Nader, "corporate welfare grates on them. And number two, they hate the violent, pornographic exploitation of children. Nobody ever envisioned that corporations would be selling to two- and three- and four-year olds by separating them from their parents, by teaching them to nag their parents into buying the most awful things to eat and drink."

Don’t I know it.

"They psychoanalyze these kids," explained Nader, "figure out at what stage they’re lonely, when the peer group dominates, et cetera, getting the child development psychologists to consult on how to best enter their minds and bodies."

That night, at dinner, I read this to my kids, aged 10 and 12, hoping to get them to understand, at least in part, the forces acting on them, and why we are so frequently at odds over what food will be going down their little gullets.

The battle is constant, a war of attrition they are slowly winning. For a while, my wife and I had the upper hand. When the kids were still infants, there were no arguments. We’d buy organic vegetables, cook and puree them, then put dollops of mashed broccoli and carrots into ice cube trays for freezing. We’d heat and serve it, and they’d gobble the stuff down without a word of protest.

That, however, all began to change soon after they learned to talk.

Nowhere has the tug of wills been more pronounced than in the cereal aisle of the grocery store. I say Wheaties, they scream for Fruity Pebbles. I reach for corn flakes, they grab the Lucky Charms and Cocoa Puffs.

"No," I command.

"Please, please, please, pleeease," they beg. "Just this once."

I give in, and the next time I look the only things in the cupboard are Sugar Smacks and Frosted Flakes. It makes me want to keelhaul Cap’n Crunch and fricassee that damned Trix rabbit.

Feeling on the verge of total defeat, I brought the issue up with Nader when we finally met.

"Do you have a TV?" he asked.

"Well, yeah," I replied, sounding more than a little guilty.

He didn’t say it, but I could almost hear the word "duh" echoing through his brain. "Then the first thing you have to do," he said, "is lock that thing up." —Curt Guyette


Kids can win a classroom visit from a Detroit Lion (and a bunch of other cool stuff) in National Coney Island’s latest contest. To enter, fill out a ballot at your nearest National Coney Island restaurant before Sept. 27. … Feast on fall delights at Morels (30100 Telegraph, Bingham Farms) on Wednesday, Sept. 27 and Thursday, Sept. 28. This Fall Feast is $36.95 per person, and includes roasted duck risotto, Michigan corn chowder and other autumnal delicacies. Call 248-642-1094 ext. 3 for reservations. Got a food tip? Write to Eaters Digest care of the MT, or e-mail [email protected]

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