Thanks to Cooking Manager and Israeli Kitchen, I watched a clip of Jamie Oliver’s presentation at the TED awards. And while I really admire his push to change lives through healthy eating habits, I think he’s waging an unfair fight. Individual people, no matter how famous, going up against the USDA and meat processors and corn subsidies and agribusiness are not going to be able to change the industry.
There are billions of dollars at stake, on both the food end and the health end.
If change comes I think it will have to come from some collective change of heart on the part of the US government, fast food businesses, and major food processors. (We are, sadly, very far removed from the farm, most of us.) There are people who are slogging though to try to raise awareness by documenting what is delivered via school cafeterias and via consumer relations departments. It’s not pretty.
I think the best that we can do now is be aware of the problem and try to equip our families to make healthy choices. I don’t always make the best choices, but now that my kids are becoming more aware of what we’re all eating I want to try to do better.
I am swimming upstream a bit myself in Israel, where the common answer to food in afterschool care is “put some chocolate on it.” AM gets a chocolate spread sandwich every day at 3:30. Miss M gets pears or apples some days, but chocolate wafers on other days. Why is this necessary? My sister-in-law explained the chocolate sandwich as something that isn’t meat and isn’t dairy and that all the kids will eat. But if parents are already expected to send a sandwich and a fruit or vegetable for the morning snack, why couldn’t they put together an afternoon snack as well? I don’t object to something a little more “snack like” than the sandwich and fruit of the morning (like pretzels & raisins or peanut butter & crackers), but now at least half the time he comes home after eating a chocolate sandwich and whatever other crap they’re peddling and isn’t hungry for dinner.
When does this start to undermine what I am trying to demonstrate through cooking at home and building meals for them to take to school?
I don’t have answers, just mulling.
Anyway, Jamie Oliver has an idea that parents should teach ten recipes to their children. I have been thinking about which recipes I’d pick for a few days now, and I honestly don’t know. My kids’ palates are works in progress, especially Miss M, who has a tendency to reject foods based on sight or even upon what the name sounds like. Fun times!
But AM likes to taste things. He doesn’t like everything, but he’s generally willing to try.
Instead of specific recipes, I think I’d want to teach methods. By the time my kids leave the nest, I’d like them to know how to:
1. Cook eggs in a style they like. At this minute Miss M likes scrambled; AM likes hard-boiled. Eggs are inexpensive protein, easily obtained, cook quickly, and don’t require specialized equipment.
2. Make different types of grains. This is mostly an issue of proportion of boiling water to grain. And paying attention. (Setting timers if necessary.)
3. Make a kind of breakfast food. We often serve breakfast for dinner, because it can be a fast way to get whole grains, eggs, and milk into them. French toast made with whole wheat bread or whole wheat banana pancakes are, I think, very accessible and pretty healthy.
4. Make a kind of poultry dish.
5. Make a kind of fish dish.
6. Make vegetable stock and two kinds of vegetarian soups. Easy to feed a crowd on the cheap; an excellent way to start a shabbat meal; easy to stretch for more people or more meals.
7. Make two kinds of dessert from scratch: something with chocolate and something with fruit.
8. Make two kinds of salad dressing. Some day they’ll eat salad, right? Bottled salad dressings are full of garbage. Have you ever read the back label? Horrifying. Having a vinaigrette recipe in your back pocket makes you look like a gourmet.
9. Roast vegetables. This method can be applied to so many kinds of veggies. Plus olive oil = shiny coat.
10. Put together a balanced meal, by some standard. Nothing too exacting, but some semblance of protein + carbs + vegetables. Different colors and textures and tastes.
Oh, and number 11, which is to be able to make substitutions/modifications for health or kashrut. Within reason, of course. If bacon is the star of the dish, perhaps look elsewhere.
(Wait, and also some kind of pasta sauce. There is always hope that some day Miss M will not eat her pasta plain. AM, however, likes walnut pesto.)
Too bad we’ll have to wait years to see if I have any success. Although I am pretty confident that one of my children will be able to accomplish this, no problem. It’s the one who waits by the stove as soon as I pull out my cutting board…
Thoughts? I do have some favorite recipes that would apply to this list of methods, but they’re my favorites (or Taxman’s)…if the kids don’t like them, what’s the point of teaching them? They won’t stick.