The Secret Life of Puff-Puffs

Most of us did not grow up with puff-puffs. At least that is what I call them. We had to make do with bland Cheerios because the honey nut version wasn’t even introduced until 1979. Still puff-puffs, which are seemingly pale, white-ish looking versions of Cheerios in various flavors and versions, are useful when it comes to babies. I saw them at my local discount grocery store and bought two containers, $0.99 each. They made me feel nostalgic when I handed them off to my daughter. The empty containers are useful too and I know from the depths of motherhood just what one sounds like when shook by an angry toddler on the verge of a massive tantrum when it has just three puff-puffs left inside. There is an entirely different sound made by those lone puff-puffs when the very same toddler is having a pre-dinner, hell hour melt down by the way. 

The puff-puffs know their limits.

The Grocery Outlet had strawberry-beet flavored puff-puffs which my grand-daughter Claudia, after taking a tentative nibble, decreed were pretty good all things considered. My youngest grandbaby loves them. Even if she is quite full, she screams for them and her mother complies. There is likely a complicated math formula existing that explains why mini-vans can weigh twice their normal weight after the third kid comes along. It is all because of discarded bits of puff-puffs, wedged year after year, in-between the car seat cushions. I always imagined that this happens after countless miles of moms driving along, throwing handfuls of puff-puffs back over their shoulders to screaming kids strapped securely into car seats kicking and crying and all because the dads refuse to take the kids to daycare even though it always makes the moms late for work and dad’s job is much closer to the babysitter. If dad drove them, I think, the kids would not be stuck for over an hour in traffic and famished but in my version of this, the dad always claims he has to get in early and work late. This when in reality, dad gets in early in order to swing by Starbucks and blow $9 to buy the skanky yet disinterested 19-year-old admin in sales a double latte with soy milk and extra foam. Dad is cheap in my head but not when it comes to trying to make time a 19-year-old. In my head, he knows exactly what she likes yet cannot remember that his wife of more than a decade is lethally allergic to shellfish. I then decide that dad leaves early to join a much younger crowd drinking at the local water hole blowing money on booze while pathetically pretending that he doesn’t have a wife and three kids at home and a mini van getting lousy gas mileage because of all those dried up bits of puff-puffs that have accumulated over the years. Oh sure, Mom keeps talking about taking the car in some weekend for a deep clean but frankly, she’s too embarrassed and let’s face it, Dad is a grade A jerk. Even the skanky 19-year-old admin in sales thinks so. 

Such is the thankless role I envision for puff-puffs. My daughter was fortunate, she at least got Honey Nut Cheerios or what I like to think is the 80s unhealthy version of puff-puffs. And even though Fruit Loops have been around in some marketed form or another since 1959, I never thought to press them into service as the artificially colored junk food alternative to cheerios. Those boxes of cereal are still expensive and not the nutritional bargain we were all once told they were. This is an option we never discuss in front of the baby of course. This is because the little blond bombshell that is my youngest grandbaby is completely entranced with puff-puffs, drooling with a single puff-puff rolling around in her tender teething mouth until it becomes mushy and literally dissolves on her expectant infant tongue. Then she demands another and yet another and the process never ends. At least until naptime. My daughter thinks they help with her chewing but I think she just likes the idea of something textured lolling around in her teeth-sprouting mouth, something vaguely sweet that mom continually feeds her, something that distracts her from her little aching gums. 

Who is to say if babies become jerks from an early age because of puff-puffs. It is entirely possible. 

Meanwhile, I continue to make frugal alternatives to expensive, store bought, baby food. I make all of the baby’s vegetables and fruits while making dinner. It’s easy and takes no time at all to puree up some fruit, strain it and can it for the freezer. I do the same with sweet potatoes and butternut squash, both which the baby has given her tiny seal of approval to eat. Each jar costs me pennies to make versus the dollars each jar would cost should my daughter buy them from the store. Somebody gave her a couple of dozen old baby food jars which she turned over to me. While making dinner, I sterilize a few, choose whichever fruit or vegetable needs using up and then jar everything up in the freezer for safe keeping. This has been ensuring that I don’t waste my bounty of summer fruits and vegetables. Nothing goes to waste. In return, I manage to distract the baby from her true love, puff-puffs although only for a short time.

Point to all this is that homemade is clearly better and much, much cheaper in the long run. I also find I waste no fruit or vegetables using this, process as I go system while making dinner. The technique works for non-baby food consumers as well. Every evening as you prep dinner, take a quick look around the fruit bowl or vegetable crisper to make sure nothing is going to waste. You will save money in the long run.


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