Rachel's Table

Cheerleaders on a Plane

I was on a plane yesterday with five eighth grade competitive cheerleaders, placed by the Airline-Powers-That-Be right smack in the middle of them and their mothers.  With all their giggly-ness and be-dazzled electronics, I knew I was in for a bumpy ride. I was surprised to find that what annoyed me most about this chorus of ribbons and warm up jackets had nothing to do with girlish gushing about Zac Efron or Taylor Swift. It had to do with one particular girl, talking the entire plane ride about one thing: McDonalds. This girl with the innocent blonde ponytail pestered and tormented her mother the entire ride, asking incessantly to be whisked off to McDonalds as soon as the plane hit the tarmac.  She even asked this when shoving an entire fast food burrito into her mouth while simultaneously drinking a Coke, making the plane smell of guacamole, and watching Mean Girls on her sparkly pink laptop (I’m NOT joking).

This got me thinking. . .is this what the youth of America eat? Do they crave fast food and only fast food? I cringed in my tiny airplane seat. I remember in my younger days cringing for a different reason—when a friend decided to make her own baby food for her son. I rolled my eyes as she shoved cooled organic sweet potatoes into a blender. What a waste of time, I thought. I understand now. I don’t have children of my own yet, but I know that when a little one makes an appearance I will be certain to feed her the most nutritious food I can find. If that means pureeing mounds of sweet potatoes and carrots, I will find the time to make it happen, just like I’m finding the time to plan ahead so I can eat locally (and more nutritiously) throughout the week.

I will also be sure to educate my child on the merits of local food versus the evils of fast food. Coincidentally, on this same plane ride I was reading Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw. In his chapter called “Lower Education,” Tony sardonically educates his three-year-old on the dastardly deeds of Ronald McDonald. He figures the only way to combat his daughter’s inevitable and marketing-induced craving for all things McDonalds is to use scare tactics, like telling her how children are never seen again after ordering a Happy Meal (Ronald is the prime suspect, of course). I’m not sure I would ever go to these lengths, but then again I admire Tony’s no nonsense approach.

I understand why people go to McDonalds. You can buy an entire meal, drink included, for $3.00, and it only takes five minutes in the drive-thru. It’s an easy way to fill a kid’s stomach after a long, exhausting day. I’m sure that the mothers on that plane were exhausted after spending the weekend at cheerleading competitions, applying make up, curling hair, and listening to the tribal-like chants of cheer teams from across the nation. But do you know what that mother said to her lovely daughter? “You’ve been eating junk all weekend, tonight we eat at home.” Go, Mom!


  1. thisbirdflies

    I agree! I never really realized how blessed I am to have a mom who fought to make me and my brothers eat healthy stuff until I started working at an afterschool program. The junk those kids eat and the way it effects their bodies is alarming. I know I’ll definitely be going the distance to make sure my kids eat right. 🙂 it will be worth all the fighting in the long run

    • When I was a kid, I thought my mom was so mean because we weren’t allowed to drink soda. Now I’m thankful for it! I was a teacher for a few years, and yes, junk food affects thosetiny littlie bodies and brains for the worse! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. As a mom, I firmly believe that fast food is addictive. My ex-husband would feed our daughter McDonalds a lot–because it was inexpensive, it made her happy and it irked me. He left to work overseas for a year and I tell you, it was horrible. She is a very sweet gir, but she would scream and cry for McDonalds and if we so much as drove past one, she would have a complete, nine alarm meltdown. For about three weeks. Then, it was all over and she was fine. It was horrifying. Now she is old enough to have real conversations about food, and she has been active in our local food journey. Those few weeks were an eye opening experience though.

    • It doesn’t help that McDonalds markets to three year olds either! They know to get them while they’re young. That’s why moms like you have to work extra hard to educate your little ones on what food should actually look and taste like. I had a friend whose daughter saw a carrot and asked what it was. She had never seen one in “real life” because she was always served the tiny baby carrots out of plastic bags. That opened my eyes!

  3. That is terrifying. I rarely eat fast food, like once a year and it’s usually a frostie from Wendys. This story really made me appreciate how my mom never fed us fast food. I’m going to thank her when I see her later!

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