I still haven't completely digested all of the thoughts swirling around my head in regards to food in our country and the way we eat, but I think I've figured out a process for writing my thoughts down. One topic at a time. I feel like if I try to write a grand opus I'm never going to accomplish anything.....it's much easier and more comprehensive to tackle one issue at a time. So, here goes.
Dan and I watched Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution this Friday. I can not tell you how happy it makes me that my husband not only tolerates my crazy and obsessive need to immerse myself in whatever it is that I currently am on fire about, but he SUPPORTS me too! He watches the documentaries and shows that I watch, he engages in lengthy conversations with me and he encourages and helps me to make the changes that I feel are necessary for our family. I am truly blessed to have a man who loves me as much as Dan does.
Anyway......back to Food Revolution. I'm finding the show to be a bit redundant, but I understand that they are trying to hammer home a point and sometimes the general public needs to see something over and over again before it really sinks in......"yeah, this is bad." Everyone was super concerned about the fact that forks and knives were not given out to elementary school children, although I agree that they should learn how to use those tools I came from the generation of the spork, so not using proper cutlery doesn't shock me one bit. What did shock me was that 5 and 6 years olds were not able to identify basic raw vegetables. My three and a half year old may not be able to identify a raw beet, but she knows what a cooked beet looks like, and she certainly knows what a potato, cauliflower and tomatoes are. How is it that these children have no idea what vegetables look like? Why is it that they have no idea what salad tastes like and are shown taking their very first taste and spitting the salad out?
I think it all comes down to the fact that Americans don't cook anymore. It was something that Jamie briefly mentioned on the show on Friday and it has really stuck with me! People are not being taught how to cook anymore. My mother's generation had electives in high school, and college courses they took on how to cook. It was more how to be domestic and be a good house wife, but culinary skills were taught. Over time domestic classes, or home economics classes were dropped, probably due to lack of funding, but also because women started going into the work force and domestic skills weren't as necessary. Regardless of the reason behind it, people....mainly women, stopped being taught how to cook. When I was in junior high and high school 11-16 years ago (yikes!) I had a half semester of home ec in 7th grade and a half semester of home ec in 9th grade as an elective (so some people didn't even get that class) where I learned how to sew a small stuffed animal, and bake a cake.....that was the hands on learning I got.
I'm not going to blame Americas lack of cooking skills on the education system, although I do believe that there is a lot that they could be doing to better the situation. Where my blame goes is to parents.....everything goes back to parenting doesn't it? Before you go after me and send me a bunch of hate mail I want to make my stance very clear. I feel that it is a parents job to teach their children and give them the tools they will need to be successful adults. Successful is subjective, so fill that word in with whatever you think it should mean. Why have kids if you don't want to take part in teaching them? However, I understand that sometimes the hand we are dealt makes it difficult to be as involved as we'd like to be in teaching our children. I understand that, really I do! But as parents, it's still our fault when our children fail at basic life skills. They belong to us, not the school district, not the church, not the neighborhood, it's OUR job.
I was lucky enough to be raised by a woman who cooked. My parents were even part of a gourmet cooking club from my earliest recollections to today. My mom never forced me to cook, but when I was young she encouraged me to help her in the kitchen, and she signed me up for cooking classes when I wanted to take them. I got to a certain age (probably early teens) where I wasn't interested in cooking and I pretty much didn't cook until I got married. But, I had my mom there every day, in the kitchen cooking meals for our family and being an example of a cook. We rarely ate out, we rarely got fast food and we rarely heated up prepared foods. Today, if you take a look at my 2 brothers and me, we all cook, we all enjoy cooking and we all have an appreciation of good food. I can't help but think that my mother is the reason why! She showed us through example what it means to love your family through cooking. AND, she worked outside of the home through my entire youth!!
Like I said, I was lucky to have someone to teach me the fundamentals of cooking, but I went for so many years without actually cooking that I had to learn a lot on my own. I've had to learn my own rhythm, my own short cuts and develop my own tastes.....not to mention having to learn to cook for someone else, thank goodness Dan is easy going when it comes to food and will eat anything, but I do try and please him with my cooking! My point is that even if someone didn't have the foundation that I had growing up, they can still learn to cook. It always annoys me when someone tells me, "I can't cook." Well, I can't do calculus, but if I felt it was important for me to know, it sure as heck would be something that took time for me to learn, it would take repetition and dedication and I would definitely suck at it at first, but over time I would get better. Same with cooking. You can't expect to be able to cook well unless you put the time into learning! It is not a natural ability that you are born with. Get a cook book that interests you and start cookin'.
Back to kids and cooking. I think a really easy solution to teaching our kids about food and healthy eating is to be an example for them. Obviously that means that we are going to have to eat healthy foods instead of unhealthy ones, but it also means we will have to sacrifice time and be in the kitchen. I don't always have my kids help me cook, sometimes it's just easier to do it myself, but both my girls know how to crack eggs and stir and I let them sprinkle and pour....anything that is easy enough for them to handle and stay out of trouble. I try really hard to always say yes when they specifically ask if they can help and even when they aren't helping me I talk to them about the foods I am chopping, let them nibble on bites of bell pepper or let them smell the spices I am using. I try and keep them involved as much as possible, mostly to fill that bad evening time where they are bouncing off the walls and I am ready for the day to be over, but also because I want them to have an appreciation for food, I want them to enjoy cooking when they grow up, and ultimately I want them to learn to be healthy.
Do I always feed my kids well balanced nutritional meals? No. I buy the occasional frozen pizza, my girls eat fruit snacks and hot dogs, but I'd say that 85% of the time they eat good foods and when I buy those bad foods I make sure they are the best bad foods that I can buy, 100% kosher beef hot dogs, real fruit fruit snacks, freshly made frozen pizzas. Anything that I can buy whole grain I do....pasta, tortillas, breads, rice, flour, crackers etc. my kids don't even notice the difference and at least it's something! I buy 100% juice and water it down to more than 50% water and they don't get soda....EVER. I try my best to stay informed and make good decisions and I want to make changes in the way we eat, so every day I'm learning something new that will hopefully benefit my family. I don't know how far I'm going to take all of these changes.....I'd love to say that we will buy only local, only organic, that we won't ever buy snack foods, or fast food but I can't say that with 100% certainty. We'll take baby steps and see how they affect our life and then we'll take the next step. At least it's moving forward!
Our country is suffering and a lot of it has everything to do with what we are choosing to fuel our bodies with. I'm glad that Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution is on TV. It may be reality TV, and it may be tweaked so that it's more entertaining, but at least it's being put out there. Maybe people with nothing better to do on a Friday night will tune in and their eyes will be opened. Our kids deserve better than what we are giving them. Let's give them some tools they will need for life........let's teach them to cook!!