Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Card carrying member of the clean plate club

It was not an easy club to be in, but through the forceful voice of my father and my mother’s excellent cooking magic, I was a proud member of the Clean Plate Club for most of my life.
And for most of my life, I honestly thought this was something my dad made up so that I would finish my food and make me feel like I had been inducted into a secret society that was full of healthy people who had eaten copious amounts of vegetables and pot roast.  And eggs, in their entirety.
It was the morning of the fifth grade science fair.  My father had requested fried eggs and as I joined the breakfast table, I did my usual thing and dipped my toast into the yellow yolk and left the white part on the plate.
He wasn’t so happy.  Growing up in a family that barely got by, every ounce of food was precious.  “Eat the white,” he said.
“But daddy, I don’t like the white,” I replied which was pretty stupid because there was no way I was going to win this battle.
“Look,” he said, taunting philosophy, “when you are served a hard boiled egg, you only eat the white and not the yellow.  Now you’ve got a fried egg and eat the yellow and leave the white.  It doesn’t make sense and it’s wasteful.  Eat it.”
My future as a scientist hung in the balance.  The countless hours I spent drawing a poster on the magnetism of the Earth was pretty important stuff…but was it more important than forcing myself to eat the rubbery white part of a fried egg???
Mostly because I didn’t want to fail the fifth grade and I knew for certain that I would be sitting at that table until I ate the egg, even if it took three days.  Eventually I got it down (turns out it wasn’t that bad) and went on my way, having cleaned my plate like a good little girl and kept my club membership.
Turns out my dad didn’t make it up at all.  The Clean Plate Club was actually a concept that started in 1917, went by the wayside, and then was reintroduced in 1947 when food was in short supply after World War II.   The campaign encouraged children to leave no scraps behind, to not be wasteful, and to take only what they could eat.  Sound reasonable?
Today, some people think that the concept of the Clean Plate Club is leading to childhood obesity due to our ever-increasing portion sizes and psychological eating disorders.  I understand what they’re saying, but as a parent I find myself gently persuading my children to join the high ranks of this esteemed organization because I have learned that I just don’t appreciate wastefulness. 
I couldn’t imagine how full the landfills would be, overflowing with half-eaten eggs, if I had chosen my stubbornness over the science fair.


Published 6/19/14

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