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This time of year, people tend to go in one of two directions, eating-wise: Either they double down on their dedication to a healthy diet and forego every sugar cookie, candied pecan, and cheese plate they encounter—or they say some version of “screw it” and dive head first into the buttered mashed potatoes (or cookie platter).
Learning to love—no, crave—the only non-controversial food group.
I was cooking up some turkey bacon for my kids’ breakfast when my husband read me the headline about the World Health Organization’s (WHO) decision to designate processed meat as a “Group 1 carcinogen” (that’s the same category as cigarettes). Up until that moment, I’d been pretty proud of the recent addition of bacon to our morning repertoire and was pleased to cut out carbs and replace them with “healthy” protein. Now I was throwing my hands up in frustration. Was I poisoning my children?
I admit I’ve got some serious hoarder tendencies, especially when it comes to food. While I’m not especially proud of my mismatched assortment of Pyrex and Tupperware, I have to say that opening the door and seeing those myriad containers of leftover food makes me feel good.
“This food comes from the earth and the sky. It is a gift of the entire universe and the fruit of much hard work; I vow to live a life which is worthy to receive it.” — Grace of the Bodhisattva Buddhists
At the beginning of every yoga class, while we’re sitting in sukhasana, my yoga teacher always says to “give silent gratitude for all the blessings in our lives.” And, even though I am mentally not quite “there” yet — I’m still trying to find my “sit bones” and thinking about my grocery list and how I forgot my daughter’s gym shoes and did I shut the garage door? — usually, I do it. Images of my kids’ faces and my cozy brick house flash through my mind, and if I take time to really think about it (and not about the location of my cute new flats that I hope the dog isn’t eating right now), I realize I have so much to be grateful for: my close, loving family, my friends, my health, my readers, my Dutch oven, fire-roasted Hatch green chilies, pasture butter and the fact that I am rarely hungry.
As a kitchen coach, I probably get asked that question more than any others. If I’m in an expansive mood, my answer can quickly veer into eye-glazing territory. I’m pretty passionate about organic food and tend to get long-winded when discussing things like the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15, the reasons why we want to avoid GMOs, the potential health risks of chemical pesticides, and, finally, how to clarify priorities since organic can be expensive.
But if I’m ever pressed to pick one single food to buy organic, the answer is quick and easy: apples.
I hope my kids learn to cook. And love to it as much as I do.
I truly believe that one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is an appreciation for food. And by food, I mean real food — food that doesn’t come out of a can or microwaveable container. This hope is not just for my children; I hope more and more kids everywhere grow up with a renewed understanding of where food comes from and a respect for the plants and animals they eat.
Instead of citing studies about the rise of childhood obesity and rambling on about why teaching our kids to cook will make the world a better place, I’ve written a hopeful little story (with respectful credit due to Laura Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond, authors of many beloved children’s books, including, of course, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie). I hope you like it.
Well, October has ended, and I don’t know about you, but I am a little “pinked out” these days. Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate that October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and of course it’s wonderful that organizations like the Susan G. Komen Foundation have raised hundreds of millions of dollars for breast cancer research over the years. I hope that cancer research eventually finds a cure for this awful disease, and I fully support getting out and racing for a cure and even buying a pink umbrella or Cuisinart if you’re in need of a new one.
But the cynical side of me — and the side that’s a mom of a young daughter — is a bit irked that the commercialization of breast cancer has overshadowed any talk of prevention, specifically the lifestyle choices we can make to help protect us from the disease.
For as long as I can remember, corn has been one of my favorite summertime foods. As a kid, I loved to sit on the picnic table in our backyard shucking ear after ear of the patchwork white-and-pale-yellow Olathe sweet corn my mom would bring home by the bushel. Later I’d slather it with butter and salt and sink my teeth in the way my dog attacks a meaty beef bone.
When I got my braces in fifth grade, I learned to eat corn on the cob one row at a time to minimize the hardware-cleaning process (corn was officially forbidden by the orthodontist, but I really think I outsmarted him on this one; don’t ask about my Milk Dud incident). I always thought eating something as nutritious as a fresh vegetable — especially since I loved it so much — was worth it.
For one in seven U.S. children, including my two, spring brings more than baseball practice and dirty feet — it also brings sneezing, congestion, itchy eyes, sore throats, coughing, and runny noses. Seasonal allergies (also known as hay fever or allergic rhinitis) occur when something in the air, such as tiny tree particles, grass, weeds or pollen, comes into contact with nose membranes and triggers inflammatory chemicals called histamines.
I think it’s safe to say that one of the things we modern-day moms do a bit more than our moms did is baby our kids, especially when it comes to what they eat. Some of this is good, of course. Regulating intake of sugar and processed foods is probably not something best left up to people whose idea of a balanced meal is beef jerky and fruit snacks. But at some point, kids need to learn to make their own good choices, right? When and how we do that is each family’s decision, but for me the food thing was getting ridiculous.