I just returned from the museum with J. and the boys. We’re nearing the end of our 10 days of happy happy family time — no work, no school for the boys — and, naturally, we’re needing to find a few things to do with ourselves now and then. L. in particular is antsy; his body may be slow, but his brain is quick, and he likes to go out and explore the world and learn new things as much as possible. So we decided to take them to a museum they’ve never been to, largely because it’s a REAL museum — one with glass and artifacts and “PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH” signs everywhere.
In short, to the outside observer, we were either optimistic, or completely out of our minds.
It actually worked out brilliantly. Word of advice to other parents out there: It is actually possible to have small children at a “grown-up” museum and have an enjoyable time, especially if one of those children happens to have received a real, working camera for Christmas and wants to photograph everything he sees. I mean, if you think about it, many natural history-type museums have cool fossils and bones, interesting dioramas about which you can make up stories with your kids, and plenty of taxidermy on display. At this particular one, L. and P. were fascinated with the skeleton of a right whale and with the reconstruction of a mother and baby mastodont. There were also antique fire engines, a relic of a subway car, and lots of other cool things to look at. We explored for a couple of hours and then headed up to the top floor, where, it was promised, we’d find a restored carousel (fully operational) and the “museum cafe.”
Before I continue, I should note that I — the Red, Round, or Green Momma — committed cardinal sin #1 of Leaving the House With Small Children if You Happen to Care What They Eat. I did not bring snacks and drinks that I felt were appropriate for my kids. I figured that a) they’d had good breakfasts right before we left; b) there would be no food or drink allowed in the exhibit halls (I was right); and c) if there was a museum cafe, it wouldn’t be too hard to find something for them to eat when it was time for lunch.
So there were no healthy snacks in our bag when we got off our carousel ride, and L. proclaimed that he was hungry. He should have been. It was after noon by that point, and both of my kids prefer to eat lunch at around 11:30. We’d just been having enough fun exploring the exhibits that no one had paid attention to the time. L. wanted to go on the carousel again after lunch, which we figured would be fine, since there was a cafe right on the same floor. With carousel rides going on every 15-20 minutes or so, we could go eat lunch, then come back whenever we were ready for another ride, before heading home.
We trekked back to the cafe area, having made this promise to L. and P., and found…a Subway.
The museum did not, in fact, have a “museum cafe.” It had a cafeteria area with a fast-food line; the only choice in that line was Subway. In other words, it was “eat fresh” (snort) or leave.
J. and I were relatively disgruntled by this prospect. I mean, okay, it wasn’t McDonald’s (which I pointed out to J., when he adamantly said “I definitely do NOT want to eat at Subway”), and at least it meant sandwiches, not pizza or fast-food burgers, would be our lunch. But my issues with Subway are as follows: 1) They use HFCS in their bread. Honestly, people, I know it’s prevalent in breads these days, but it’s not necessary, and I like to avoid it when I can. 2) Despite the “eat fresh” motto, most of their meats and vegetables seem as though they have been sitting out for quite a while. 3) Tubs o’ sandwich products. I hate watching someone build me a “made to order” sandwich out of little plastic bins of pre-sliced, strangely uniform, meats, cheeses, and vegetables. I have no way of knowing how long that all has been sitting there, and the fact that it all looks the same (same little precise triangles of cheese; same little disks of meat) gives me pause. 4) Why, oh why, does something as simple as honey mustard — which should have precisely two ingredients — have to contain mayonaisse? And probably, if I looked at the ingredients list for that particular honey mustard, a lot more than that.
Sigh. However. We had promised another trip to the carousel. Our children had behaved beautifully all day. We were all hungry. We were in a city I did not know well, meaning that it would be no mean feat to go out and actually find an alternative lunch spot; and even if we could, by the time we’d sat down and eaten something, P. would have been well beyond naptime and the meltdown would be in progress. So I thought to myself, “Okay. It’s just sandwiches. Not great ones, not ones you’d prefer to eat, but sandwiches. And you’ll get water for everyone to drink. It’ll be fine.”
We did just that, ordering kids’ sandwiches on whole wheat for the boys and 6-inch subs on 9-grain for me and J. And here’s the thing. They weren’t that good. They were okay, don’t get me wrong — they did the trick, and we got back to the carousel with something in our bellies, and nobody has yet turned green or started twitching or developed a third eye or anything like that. But they were not good sandwiches. P. refused to eat anything but the bread from his, after tasting the turkey and cheese. L. had requested ham, which he ate, but he actually said he didn’t really like the bread — more than half of that went into the trash. J. and I ate most of our lunches, but only out of hunger; I found the “oven roasted chicken” extremely suspect (fake grill marks? Really?) and oddly both bland and salty, while J.’s sandwich was smothered with the offensive “honey mustard” he’d requested, not realizing, I think, that it would be a “dressing” as opposed to actual honey + mustard.
So here I sit, two hours after eating that lunch, and I’m hungry. L. is ravenous and having a healthy snack right now. J. has already munched on some things. We’re all eagerly sniffing the air for the scent of the turkey that’s in the oven at the moment. And I can’t help but think that it’s a shame that Subway is marketed as the “healthy” alternative for a quick meal in this country; it’s supposedly “better” for you, it’s supposedly a great weight loss aid, but nobody actually asks whether or not it’s GOOD. Taste-wise. Quality-wise. Long-term health-wise.
Judging from the looks of the mannequins in the “native populations” dioramas, everybody in that Subway line would probably have been better off eating the mastodont, the caribou, or just about anything else in the Hall of North American Wilderness. One black bear sub on stone-ground cornbread, please, and hold the honey mustard.