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.
I know it might sound obnoxious at first and that I sound a little like Martha Stewart with that headline, but I like the idea of raising gourmet kids. By “gourmet,” I don’t mean kids who demand white tablecloths and truffle oil. What I mean is simply someone with an appreciation of good food. Here’s how Webster’s defines it:
I will never forget the day I explained to my then four-year-old son that steak is really cow. First he cried, then he asked why we don’t eat dogs like our lab Lewis, or at least the lost dogs at the pound. I didn’t have a very good answer for that one. Which really got me thinking.
Anyone who’s ever endured spending an hour or two with kids after they’ve been trick-or-treating or collecting candy at a birthday party probably doesn’t need a medical study to tell them that there is a link between kids’ diet and behavior.
A few months ago I wrote a blog post about how the more I learned about industrial agriculture and food processing, the more I felt like Neo in the movie The Matrix. Once Neo is exposed to the reality of his world (that humans are actually raised purely to create energy for machines, and a virtual reality has been created to placate the people in their “pods” so they never become aware of their predicament), he can’t go back to his previous existence — even though he probably really wants to.