Mr7's most fervent wish was that we go to Maccas for his birthday lunch. Just as the marketers planned he wanted to go there for the toy in the Happy Meal, with the meal itself being very much a secondary affair.
Now, I have a confession. This is not the very first time ever Mr7 has been to the Golden Arches. Of late, I have had two different mum friends tell me with clear (and justified) pride that their children had never been there. Ever. And I felt a little bit sheepish, a little guilty and defensive.
While not serial attenders, we are possibly of the triannual variety give or take a few. And when we do go I become a bit of a kid again. Fries, burger, chocolate Sundae. All that sweet and salty loveliness. And now with free wifi too.
On our return trip from Canberra a few years ago, we found ourselves passing through the outer south western suburbs of Sydney and were in need of a meal. 4 kids, long car trip, tired. You guessed it. Maccas again.
Inside, I noticed the table opposite us was celebrating a birthday dinner. Not a child's birthday. But an older adults. It was a happy affair, and had the air of being a special occasion. Which made me think. About food and snobbery and money.
I forgot to mention that at our birthday lunch today Mr12, recent convert to ethical food production, refused to eat a single thing. He even carried a copy of Fast Food Nation with him just in case we missed his point. And I respected him for his stand. But I also wanted him to understand that being able to choose to buy all your beef grass fed, your eggs free range and your milk organic, is a privilege. A really expensive one.
We have two Whole Foods within close proximity of our home. It is the mecca of the organic free range ethical and environmental food movement in the US. However, it fails in one area. And I don't think this failure is a coincidence. The CEO of the company bans unions*. Oh, the irony. It is almost too delicious.
When I explained this situation to Mr12 he was shocked. It was a tough lesson, to learn that things are not so black and white and also for him to understand that my value system puts the health and well being of workers at the top of the chain. That smug glow that you get on your way out of Whole Foods cannot be sustained if you care about the people who work in the stores, the people who don't get paid enough to be able to afford to shop at Whole Paycheck.
Just for the record I refuse to shop at Walmart. And they also now sell organic product. Why? They have the worst record in the area of industrial relations and workers rights that I have come across* (with, quite shockingly, Whole Foods coming in as the 2nd worst large corporate offender in this regard although on an international stage McDonalds may be the worst offender of all***).
I am proud of my Mr12 but I also want to make sure that an ethical stance does not come with a large dose of arrogance. Eating well is a great thing, for our own health and the environment. But for some people, and in a global context more so, eating at all is a great thing.
* You can read more about Whole Foods and their anti-union stance here http://www.counterpunch.org/sharon05082009.html
** Insight into what it is like to work at Walmart and in low wage America from acclaimed journalist and author of Nickel and Dimed Barbara Ehrenreich
*** And to read a comprehensive international review of McDonald's union busting activities read this http://www.mcspotlight.org/campaigns/tactics/unionall.html