|Ho ho.. yeah, whatever.|
"No, honey," I say with strained patience. "Today's not a day for that."
She is not amused.
"Okay, if you want the ginger cookies, you have to put the chocolate chip cookies back," I say. You're supposed to give them choices. The chocolate chip cookies stay; ginger cats go back on the shelf.
A few steps and, before I can intervene, she's grabbed a package of puff pastry twists. Into the cart they go.
"Those are yucky," I say. "They're not good for you."
She purses her lips. I worry a tantrum may follow. She looks at the new package of cookies and reaches for it. Then she looks at the label on the front.
"It says no animal fats and no high fructose corn syrup," she reads. "What's wrong with that?"
Shopping with your mother is like being out with a daughter who won't allow you to tell her "no."
We are what you might call a multi-generational household. Adrián and I have lived with my mother since moving back to Los Angeles in 2007, at first out of housing-bubble-induced necessity, then out of a growing sense of horror at how the woman feeds herself. The woman never met a saturated fat she didn't like, never turns down a processed food product, practically weeps if a meal doesn't include red meat. We plan to break ground soon on an addition that will allow us to house three generations (four will have lived in it, since it was my grandparent's house when I was a kid) and let us reward my mom's hospitality by allowing her to babysit two squalling twins.
Say we make a tasty chicken stew with fresh vegetables from the back yard -- "nothing for me dear, I already ate," she says. If we're lucky, she'll eat a few spoonfuls. Or if we serve her a small bowl of Greek yogurt with honey and fresh berries for breakfast: "I can't eat that much," she'll say, staring at the three tablespoons of yogurt and half-dozen raspberries. But let us place before her a plate of cha siu pork at Sam Woo's Barbecue and she develops the appetite of a 300 pound man who hasn't eaten in a week. I wonder how this woman ever encouraged my taste for fruits and vegetables. Hell, sometimes I wonder how I survived to adulthood if this is how she fed me.
Incredibly, the woman is surprisingly healthy, in spite of what we hope was a brief encounter with breast cancer over the summer (she's fine, knock wood).
"Look at the back," I say. "It's made with palm oil. Palm oil is saturated. You'd be better off eating a stick of butter."
That would actually suit her just fine. Palm oil doesn't. She puts the pastry twists back on the shelf.
Parents are children with training wheels. But I've won this one, for now.