It happened again. I was shopping in a grocery store when I looked over to see a mother and child reading a nutrition label on a box of graham crackers. I emitted a silent hallelujah! They were so intent. Crouched together shoulder to shoulder, it was a delight to observe.
She was pointing out that when you're looking at a nutrition label you start at the top with the serving size. "Once you know that you can figure out the amount of sugar for each cracker," she said. He seemed to understand. He appeared to be a new reader, and it clearly pleased him to look for and find words he recognized on that label.
As I observed them in the store, I realized this mother was providing instruction on basic nutrition as well as offering a reading and mathematics lesson, right there on aisle 5.
Do you want details? A serving size of graham crackers is eight sections of cracker (or two full crackers). The fact that they break into small sections for easy management in a small child's hands is a factor I had not considered previously. (So clever on the part of those Nabisco folks.) Per section, each cracker has substantially less sugar than I would have predicted. I calculate 1 gram of sugar for each little hand-held cracker. By comparison, many kids' cereals have 26 grams of sugar per serving, and some cookies pack even more.
I am guilty of obsessing about this particular food item today, but honey-made graham crackers were the ultimate treat in our household when I was growing up, and I'm delighted to see them hold their own in a nutritional assessment done by a 7-year-old.
Observing the beckoning blue-and-yellow box in that little guy's hands made me nostalgic. Does that ever happen to you? I wanted to purchase a box of crackers and head home to make the luscious lemon pie my mother used to make, the pie that demanded a thick graham-cracker crust and lots of lemon-tasting.
Once the pie was recalled, it did not take long for full-force graham-cracker nostalgia to set in. I was soon envisioning cozy campfires with s'mores for the asking — you recall them too, I suspect: crispy graham crackers, melted marshmallows and thick squares of chocolate. Stick-to-your-teeth delicious.
I hold nostalgic moments dear as I age, and I appreciated this little guy and his mom providing me with impetus for fond reflection. It was like a gift. But the real gift was observing mother and child using life to teach important lessons.
Not surprisingly, after much discussion the mother and son made the graham cracker purchase. I was tempted to tell them that if they made s'mores it could also provide the opportunity for her to instruct on the importance of brushing your teeth after eating. But I feel sure they figured that out on their own.
And, yes, I bought a box of graham crackers too. Deferring on the pie-making for now, but planning to succumb to other eating options. One cracker at a time.
Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor in public health and human sciences. You can reach her at 541-261-2037 or Sharon@hmj.com.