If our first language is touch, our second is food.
Lately, I’ve been learning more and more about food, largely with the help of my WildFit friends. One of the keys to my learning has been a new awareness of the food messages American TV bombards us with. Especially, our kids.
One of the things I noticed is the tremendous power of those who sell “breakfast foods.” Think about it. The vast majority of what we think of as breakfast is hugely processed, overly sweet, and filled with chemical colorings and preservatives. Leading, I suspect, to health problems and issues with attentiveness and concentration in school kids.
Example? Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes contain milled corn and sugar. Lots of sugar. That’s it. (Plus some miscellaneous vitamins and a bit of salt.) Hunt around. There are many, many more examples!
And “food” like that is what our kids want because TV tells them to want that. And their friends want that. And they, most of them at least, want to fit in.
Blessedly, there are other messages as well.
Today I was watching Chopped. Specifically a bunch of re-runs of Chopped episodes with kid chefs. Kids who know how to blanche broccoli rabe. Kids who freak out because the candied secret ingredients will ruin their food. Kids who help each other out in the midst of the battle.
I am encouraged.
Food is an important, complicated issue. Perhaps, especially so for grandmothers. I want my girls to learn our family traditions, many of which, historically, have had to do with food. (Possibly, too many.) I want them to experience the creativity of food. The imagination. The problem solving opportunities. The deep satisfaction of feeding those we love well.
I also want them to be healthy. To help change the world for the better. To stand against GMO’s and artificial anything and processed pretty much everything, if that’s what they believe. I want them to know that food comes from the earth and what good, organic, clean dirt feels like.
Complicated just a bit more by the fact that nobody in our particular family thinks about food in the same ways!
So, what do we do, if we care about these issues?
Here’s where I am. Not that you should be in the same place. I’m simply hoping that my process may help you find yours.
Ask yourself, over and over, “What am I trying to accomplish?” (This works for renovating the kitchen as well as for menu planning. And just about everything else!)
I don’t think there’s one answer that will work, universally, for everyone. Knowing that is a good thing!
We only have one planet and we’ve spent the last few generations polluting and exhausting it. Less of that would be better for all of us.
All those food ads on TV are designed for one thing and one thing only. To get us to buy more of whatever it is. And eat more. And buy still more. Sugar and caffeine are two things that help that process work even better.
Cook with your kids. If you haven’t started yet, start now. Even if they’re infants and that means just having them safely in the kitchen while you cook.
Use the highest quality ingredients available to you. One of the things this means at our house is supporting local, sustainable farming. And gardening. In the front yard.
Let them touch and taste, safely.
Challenge yourself to list at least as many “Family foods” that don’t involve sugar as those that do. Mix it up! We don’t want them to equate sugar with love. Really.
Then, an example…
Say you want to pass along Great Great Grammy’s apple pie recipe to your grandkids.
Try to pick an occasion when the rest of the menu is heavy on veg and quality protein.
Hunt and gather together. The garden? Orchards? Farmers’ Markets? Make it an adventure! (Definitely organic for the apples!)
If you’re not comfortable with making pie crust, or you’re crunched for time, buy it. It’s not the end of the world! (The noise you hear is generations of the women in my family spinning in their graves.) Better yet, learn together! It’s really easy.
Cut the sugar! Don’t cave to artificial sweeteners. In most recipes, you can cut the sugar by about 1/3 with no problem. This is a good thing!
Let them get involved! Giving your kids a chance to get up to their elbows in accomplishment beats perfectly crimped pie crust every time! (What are you trying to accomplish?)
Take pictures. Make a video. Appreciate their help. Tell them how much fun you had hanging out with them.
Make the tradition more about creating together than about the specific food.
Next time, soup! (They get to pick the veg?)
As the last of these words are written, a slow, silvery rain is falling in my garden. The sun is setting behind my neighbors’ house. The grape vines have about twice as many leaves as they did yesterday and I, somehow, am remembering an old African-American proverb I love:
Each One Teach One
It originated in the US, during the days when people were enslaved and it was illegal for Africans to learn to read. When an enslaved person learned to read, it became his or her duty to teach another.
It feels like a helpful thought to me as I learn to make food choices driven by what I’m trying to accomplish, for me and for all our kids and for the planet.
Part of my mission is to teach more than one. Together, we can change things!