A Story You Will Read Aloud (I Did), About A Cheese Sandwich

Dear Readers: This is not only an incredible story — a boy’s cheese sandwich is confiscated by the food police — it is also the best writing I’ve read in a long time. That’s why I just read it out loud to my husband. It begins:

A Britain in which the cheese sandwich is subject to intolerance and abuse is a Britain that no right-minded rennet-lover would ever care to inhabit. It is a Britain that no one could have imagined possible.

Yet the impossible has happened: staff at a nursery in Pemberton, near Wigan, have confiscated a cheese sandwich belonging to a two-year-old pupil, Jack Ormisher. Its failing was to contain neither lettuce nor tomato.

Enjoy! (With cheese sandwich in hand!) — L

51 Responses

  1. Well from a Brit abroad all I can add is a cheese sandwich should not contain lettuce or tomato but pickle, and Branston pickle at that!

  2. I’m with Sharon on this. Branston Pickles and good cheddar cheese. Yum. The bread can be whole wheat doorstops though.

  3. The only thing I put on my cheese sandwich is mustard.

  4. In a piece in a local paper that has more of the centre’s side of things seems a little different (see: http://www.wigantoday.net/news/nursery_in_sandwich_health_row_1_757984 ). Their version seems to be more along the lines of staff informed the boy his cheese sandwich was unhealthy and the boy got upset and refused to eat it.

    But that still means they are going through kids lunch boxes and having a go at the kids for any item they bring in that isn’t on their approved list. I can see that a school might have concern for a kid if s/he came in everyday with just chocolate in their lunch box, but that would require a quiet word with parents and an offer of help, not heavy handed terrorizing of children.

    The only good thing that I see over this debacle (apart from the great writing above 🙂 ) is that I haven’t seen a single comment on any story related to this incident that supports the nursery. It’s definitely not a part of the culture of the people of the UK that this sort of thing acceptable.

  5. Wow, silliness! The crime is the poor lil boy didn’t have tomato soup to dip his cheese sandwich in.

  6. I am glad to live in the good ‘ol USA!

  7. Mwaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahahahaaaaaaa…

  8. @Cassandra: When my daughter was in daycare, I made all my own baby purees. I used organic frozen veggies and a blender, froze them in an ice cube tray and sent the correct portions in her diaper bag in reusable containers.

    The staff threw them out and fed her Gerber instead, because they didn’t like the look of my homemade food. It happens in the USA as well.

  9. tomato make the sarnie soggie so I have marmite with my cheese

  10. I wonder what the reaction would have been to some of the sandwiches I ate as a kid. With the zero tolerance for nut allergies today any peanut butter combo would need scrutiny. That includes PB and marshmallow fluff, banana, honey, molasses or dates. All with too much sugar as well.
    As for produce between bread, at one point my preferred lunch had veggies and a spread to moisten it. It didn’t make me too popular eating sweet Bermuda onions with mayo.

  11. As much as this story annoys me, I also find it oddly inspiring. Our lives must be awfully safe and comfortable if the greatest menace a 2 year-old faces is a cheese sandwich. My grandparents, who saw children suffering from a severe *lack* of fattening food, would grin.

  12. Why is bread and cheese inherently unhealthy? Seems a lot better than chicken nuggets and tater tots that are regularly fed children as school lunch. I’d think that cheese and bread, plus a side of fruit, would be a reasonable lunch for that age of child! The mind boggles.

  13. For many of my vegetarian students, cheese is a needed part of their diet.

  14. Unless you stuff your kids faces with food all day long, a cheese sandwich is not going to be unhealthy to a 2 year old.

    You need fats and diary as much as your vitamins. The key word is moderation. Those people need to stop seeing things in black and white. How unhealthy something is depends not just on the foodstuff itself, but also the context in which you eat it. One egg isn’t bad, but if you eat 5 of them every day, you need to rethink things.

    My mother made an effort to make me eat cheese when I was young and I’m glad she did. It’s a lot more healthy than all those sugary things you can put on your bread. And I know for a fact that unused calories nestle themselves on all the wrong places of your body…

  15. I just put on a grilled cheese sandwich to show my solidarity with my oppressed fellow humans.

    This has really gone too far. That it is in Britain reminded me of a recent experience where I was invited to watch a show involving a British cook named Jamie Oliver who was supposedly an activist for better foods in school cafeterias. Sounded innocuous enough. But it was not. It was insidious. At one point he hung over the lunch of a small girl who was eating a lunch her mother had prepared for her. I agree what she was eating was not ideal, it was her mother’s choice though. Oliver said “Serving this to a child is child abuse.” I was absolutely outraged. No, that is not child abuse, and to even remotely compare a packed lunch to child abuse is a horrible, offensive attack and affront to children who have actually suffered real abuse. It is offensive that this sadistic power mad lunatic Oliver’s propaganda is transmitted on public airwaves at all.

  16. Nearly every culture that has cheese has something resembling a cheese sandwich–think of quesadillas, or pupusas, or paneer parathas, or pizza bianco… okay, now I’m hungry. (Not to mention risotto! mac-n-cheese! cheese grits! cheese polenta! cheese raviolis! cheese pierogies!). ALL these diverse cultures can’t be wrong about the basic goodness of the cheese/starch format. Cheese is a decent source of calcium, and as someone else mentioned, kids need SOME fat to grow–it’s not an evil to be avoided in every instance.

    Our school “encourages” healthy lunches–but I think a violation will get you a note from school at most, and usually just a verbal reminder to the child that they shouldn’t bring cookies or candy for lunch next time. (It’s mostly a visual issue–if it looks like a granola bar, even a chocolate-covered granola bar, nobody says a word.)

  17. Take this silly sandwich story as a healthy warning. The PC police are more prevalent and powerful in England than the average American knows, yet in many ways that is the path we are following.

  18. I was just about to eat my favorite sandwich, lightly toasted bread, a smear of mayo and Velveeta cheses thickly sliced with heirloom tomatoes. (Yes I KNOW it is bad for me)
    I quickly put the tomato away and ate the sandwich straight, in support of the little boy in Britain!

  19. I don’t really see the point of saying ANYTHING to the child about their lunch. Unless the kid is in grade 7 or something, their parents are probably packing their lunches. Why schools would place division in the home, when there is already enough natural threat, is me.

    On a side note, I often feed my 1 year old daughter cheese sandwiches, and I even use the Kraft slices…what does that make me?

  20. Hmmm. A society that manages every tiny detail of a child’s life clear down to forbidding him his cheese sandwich? But out-of-wedlock sex is everywhere resulting in diseases, poor self image, and teen moms raising kids. Now, what kind of society is this going to look like in a few years?

    An article in the Telegraph begins:

    “Half of all babies will be born to unmarried mothers by 2012 if present trends continue, says new research that suggests the rapid erosion of moral and religious taboos.”


    And the good ole U.S.A. is following their lead.

  21. Ploughman’s lunch: Bread, cheese and onion. And just what did poor jack get for lunch that day? Did the nursery replace the sandwich with another or an apple. But then if you had bread cheese and apple (on the side), wouldn’t that count the same as bread cheese and lettuce. Or did poor Jack just go hungry. Now that’s sounding right out of Charles Dickens. As we say in Oz, “Poor B…..”

  22. Wasn’t the point of them taking away the sarnie that it was considered ‘unhealthy’ *unless* it also contained saladleaves and/or tomatoslices? (tomato makes cheese soggy though – ugh!)

    So they took away the sarnie because it didn’t tick their boxes.

    Reminds me of a story I heard. An outraged ex-nurse told that in the seventies, maternitywards in Britain had lists/statuscharts for all patients. On it were boxes the staff had to tick to show what had happened to each patient. Standard boxes included the stiching of snips that were made when the mother wasn’t dilated enough. The nurse found out that the staff would, after the birth, routinely ‘snip’ the mom and stich her, even when she had been dilated enough. When asked about this, the staff replied that it ‘needed to be done’ because ‘it was on the list’.

    Sounds idiotic, doesn’t it? Almost like one of those urban myth things. But no, this was on a BBC programme about Britisch hospital care from the fifties to the nineties.

    Thinking about it, it doesn’t seem all that strange to me.. First something is unavailable to the public, say healthy food or emergency care when giving birth. It is seen as something that should be available to all citizins. Then it does get available, and then there’s the phase where it is rammed down people’s throats willy nilly, even when it’s counterproductive or even stupid to do so, simply because it’s deemed a panacea to all ills.

  23. Wait, they took away the sandwich because of what it DIDN’T contain? Good grief. That sounds almost like a parody of extreme revolutionary logic from a comic book — “the state does not approve of your proletarian meals, therefore you will starve!”

  24. Apart from the fact that everyone’s opinion is different regarding what constitutes a healthy meal, what is accepted as scientific truth today may be disproved tomorrow. The problem arises when government — the monopoly on violence — enforces a Procrustean solution of “one size fits all”, metaphorically (and sometimes literally) stretching people on a rack or cutting them to bits in order to force a round peg into their square hole.

    If the school you send your children to doesn’t respect your choices regarding what to feed your family, then you need to decide whether or not you have the courage of your convictions.

    “Come out of her, my people, that you partake not in her sins nor receive of her plagues.”

  25. “You can’t have any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?!”

    Lord help them if they did that to my 2-year-old. Someone needs a psychological exam over there.

  26. I’d bite their fingers off before I let them take my cheese.

  27. No wonder a professor of mine recently pointed out that eating disorders in kids, especially in the UK, has gone up dramatically in the past ten years!

    Strangely when I started to eat the “healthy” way when I was younger I actually gained weight and had more health problems. As a kid I ate cheese,eggs, potatoes, drank soda ( only twice a week on weekends when I was running off the calories) , etc, and I was never overweight. In reality I was so thin that people thought I wasn’t eating enough!

  28. Another bunch of yahoos. Really? A cheese sandwhich?! They did more harm by telling the boy it was bad for him, because he didn’t end up eating lunch, and caused him mental anguish. He’s a 2 year old for pete’s sake. Most parents would be ecstatic that he’s eating anything at all. Kids at that age can be very fickle.

    Those guys would have a heart attack if they dealt with the kids I grew up with in elementary school. Ketchup and mustard in milk, peanut butter, mustard, and pickle sandwhiches, mustard in frank and beans, and yes…there was also grilled cheese and sandwiches.

    Talk about holier than thou attitudes. I hope that parents aim to do something about this.

  29. Yeah, someone explain to me how my generation ate generous amounts of carbs and fat three times a day and hardly any of us were fat. I used to eat a whole box of mac & cheese daily (for lunch) and I was never fat. The science is bad, as I’m sure they’ll figure out after they have thorougly traumatized the current generation.

  30. I’m kinda on Scott’s side. I watched Jamie Oliver and was applauding all his work in the schools. I also agreed that the brown bags contained deplorable things. But when the principle explained regretfully that they “have to let them eat what they bring from home.” I took issue. Of course you have to let them eat what they bring from home! THE PARENTS ARE IN CHARGE!
    In our school system, the cafeteria serves that horrible overprocessed food yet send parents a list what they cannot put in their child’s lunch bag or serve at parties. Of course we ignored it. Most of our home lunches are healthy but we also throw in a cookie or cupcake. We are not victims who sigh then grudgingly do what we’re told. The school backed off. They depend too much on happy parents.

  31. Did you read it in a British voice?

    Cuz that’s how I’m hearing it in my head. I’m doing Jeremy Clarkson, but then, that’s the voice I _always_ hear in my head reading the Times online.

    Awful story; well-written. Thanks for passing it along.

  32. SKL: “someone explain to me how my generation ate generous amounts of carbs and fat three times a day and hardly any of us were fat”


    – Fat doesn’t make you fat.

    – You ate less carbs than people these days.

    – Specifically, you ate less sugar.

    – Modern vegetable oils also play a large role. While they were pushed as a “heart healthy alternative” to “artery clogging saturated fat”, it turns out they’re one of the dietary factors contributing most to the skyrocketing rise in metabolic syndrome.

    – Every subsequent generation eats more carbs in general, more sugar specifically, and more vegetable oil. Result? More of us get fat and sick — in all developed countries, not just America. (See the recent rise of infantile obesity in Japan, now that their fructose consumption is starting to rival America’s.)


  33. We had a similar issue with my daughter’s preschool recently. Their literature all said, “no peanuts” so we didn’t send her with peanuts or peanut butter. Instead, we sent cashew butter, since it wasn’t forbidden. She was sent home with an uneaten lunch and a note that said, “because of our no-nut policy, your child wasn’t allowed to eat her lunch in class today.” I was outraged, and went to the director for an explanation. I was then given a lot of runaround and no clear answer, and left with a very hungry and very upset daughter. I told them in no uncertain terms that they need to clarify their “no nut” policy instead of just saying “no peanuts” and if the situation comes up again, they should CALL the parents (my husband was in the building and could have brought her something else!) or give them something else to eat, instead of just leaving her hungry all afternoon.

  34. Ok, let’s think here. Just how much nutritional value does a piece of lettuce have? … Next to nothing. A slice of tomato is nice, but for a 2-year old?? My just-turned 2-year old is only now discovering pasta sauce.

    Two-year olds need whatever you can get into them, especially good stuff even if it doesn’t have everything you’d like them to be eating. (I have one that would rather go play than sit in his chair and eat. He is not in any way chunky, so people who talk as if *all* toddlers or children are in need of ‘diets’ really drive me to distraction.) My kid loves brown rice, peas, carrots, pasta (now with sauce), cheese, yogurt, etc. He’s not a picky eater, and will try anything. But he has friends who are pretty limited as to what will go into their mouths. Mine doesn’t get too much in the way of sweets except on special occasions– as it should be. Next, they’ll want to take away whole milk from kids over the age of 2 (mine *needs* the extra calories, thank you). Staff should at least discuss with parents before assuming the role of parent.

    This is ridiculous. Schools, even nursery schools, should be concentrating on play/learning/socialization– leave the parenting to the PARENTS. (That said, I know kids in his school have had substitute lunches provided them due to showing up with meat– we have a dairy-only facility as the school is located in a synagogue. As long as its cheese/dairy/veggie, the lunches are fine, and the staff try their best to keep the kids to their own lunches.)

    The kid is TWO– while my child will eat spinach/articoke cream cheese sandwiches, I can’t think of any 2-year olds I’ve known who ever had lettuce or tomato in a sandwich. Good grief.

  35. Yeah, iceberg lettuce is worthless. Putting these kinds of food restrictions on a 2-year-old is moronic. My friend has a picky 3-year-old, and her doctor told her to feed the kid whatever high-calorie foods she will eat. Bread and cheese qualify. Lettuce does not.

  36. I’m glad my kids’ daycare provides all the food. Nothing to argue about. My very picky eater started losing weight after starting “school,” because 98% of their offerings were on her “oh hell no” list. So I provided some non-perishable stuff (cereal bars and apple-berry sauce cups) which she was allowed to eat rather than starve. Eventually they started offering her bread at every meal, which she will usually eat, along with milk or juice. So if she went to this militant “no cheese and bread” school, she would probably be dead by now.

    Bread diet aside, she’s exceptionally strong and athletic. Maybe, just maybe, her body knows how to get what it needs.

  37. Childcare workers dont get paid at all well, have poor working conditions (shift work, high kid to carer ratios, monster kids, monster parents etc) and are relatively poorly educated. Invariably there is a high turnover rate of staff. This means every few months a particular room is likely to have a whole new team. So you can’t expect that the carers are going to be entirely 100% up to snuff on what each kid wants to eat . Hence all the blanket policies, implemented by people who in the big scheme of things don’t particularly worry or care about what a parent reaction to a request about a cheese sandwich. Pay carers more, educate them and increase staff to kid ratios so that the good /smart ones stick around . Help them help your kids.

  38. The only thing better than this incredibly well-written article is the fantastic FRK comments. Q, if you are ever in Houston we must have lunch. I’m thinking of that cheese-stuffed pastry called a burrek at my favorite Bosnian restaurant. Or perhaps some Tex-Mex quesadillas, or a few slices of cheese pizza.

    A childhood without frequent winter lunchs of a grilled Kraft American and Wonder Bread sandwich and Campbell’s tomato soup fortified with a scoop of Minute Rice is not a childhood worth living. Hell, I’m 51 and that’s still what I crave when the temps drop into the 30s.

  39. I can’t think of any 2-year olds I’ve known who ever had lettuce or tomato in a sandwich.

    My nieces. One of them actually took lettuce (romaine – I loathe iceberg) out on the bus and started snacking on it. Strangely enough, this actually embarrassed me. I felt like That Mother* who won’t let her poor kids have chips. (In fact, my nieces rarely DO have chips because their mother and father don’t want to spend money on it and neither do I nor their grandmother, but that’s beside the point.)

    *I’m aware I’m not their mother, but the people on the bus probably weren’t.

    Damaged Justice, I gotta ask… when has a state ever literally as opposed to metaphorically (your words, not mine, which is why I ask) stretched citizens on a rack or chopped off their limbs to make them all the same? I’ve never heard of this, but I want to stay away from there!

  40. Lettuce is nutritionally void.

  41. Jeez, my two-year old LOVES cheese and I give it to him every day, almost. And he loves cottage cheese, and yogurt, and sour cream, and ice cream, and pudding… any sort of dairy product you can imagine.

    And, he’s perfectly healthy and happy. Normal weight, active, strong, energetic, no bowel problems, nothing.

    These people need to get a grip. How is it better that the kid ATE NOTHING than to eat something that wasn’t “good enough?” Seriously?! Forcing a two-year old to miss a meal is going to do horrors for his mood and self-control!

  42. Andi, it depends what sort of lettuce you’re eating.

    Romaine lettuce, for example, one leaf will provide 10% of your daily vitamin A intake and – as I know from the coumadin clinic – 8% of your daily vitamin K, so you have to be careful how much of it you eat if you’re on certain blood thinners. Vitamin K has something to do with how your blood clots.

    And that’s just one leaf! It’s also filled with antioxidants, which I guess must be something valuable, because it popped up when I googled for “romaine lettuce nutrition facts”, but you know, I never have figured out what antioxidants do in your body.

    A leaf of red leaf lettuce has 30% (wow!) of your daily RDA of Vitamin K, and 25% of your vitamin A. (I always KNEW I liked that stuff best!) It also has 1% of various other assorted vitamins and minerals – calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese, thiamin, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin C. I have no idea what half of this stuff DOES, but it’s not exactly “void” of nutrients. Heck, the vitamin A alone makes it worth eating!

    Iceberg lettuce is an abomination and disgusting.

  43. since they took the peanut butter out of our schools, the cheese sandwich is a staple in our house! My daughter eats no meat, and hates how lettuce soggies up the bread. besides, what’s than a hot Toastie cheese sandwich made with Sage darby, on twelve grain bread? Unless its a bit of five year old cheddar with some homemade hot sauce on sourdough, again toasted.

  44. oops should read better than a toastie…

  45. Uly, methinks DJ’s usage is an example of what goes on here:



    Presumably DJ meant that it goes beyond rhetoric into physical action, which is not the same thing as “literally.”

  46. You know, I don’t get uptight about the metaphorical use of the word “literally”. Saying you LITERALLY exploded is no different than saying you REALLY blew up at someone.

    But he contrasted it specifically with metaphorically, and… I boggle.

  47. Communicating clearly is not necessarily quibbling over semantics.

  48. Yeah, but you weren’t clear. Seriously, what did you mean by literally? It sounds stupid, but I honestly can’t figure it out, and it’s just bugging me! Did you mean literally in a literal sense, or in a figurative sense… and if the latter, how does that differ from metaphorically?

    (Strangely enough, I’m asking out of genuine curiosity. I’m being kept awake wondering.)

  49. Rule of thumb: If it isn’t literally “literally”, it was probably meant as a metaphor.

  50. Good Morning… this web-log is good!! Im pretty sure I will come back to see interesting entries

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: