Thursday, August 17, 2006

Gimme what?

This post is from my blog. It's been a couple weeks, but I am still laughing about the incident.

Okay, okay. It's a proud mom story. Bear with me, please.

So, we're at this petting zoo, like an educational farm. We go there often. The kiddo gets to walk a lot and see lots of animals and plants that you find on farms, feed baby goats, drive little tractors ... It's fun, actually. Alright, I am a bit too tall for the tractors, but I get to push and make engine noises at least. The baby goats like me.

We're sitting in the garden area, near the vegetables. And, this family comes along, our kids end up sitting next to each other. The mom looks at my kid and holds her hand up in the classic "Gimme Five!" position, but says, get this, "Gimme a McDonald's Happy Meal!"

Blank stares from us both. Clearly the woman is insane, or Happy Meals now cost five bucks. Which is even more insane.

So, she ups the ante, "Gimme a Happy Meal with FRIES!!!"

I finally realize she is serious and talking to my child.

"Uh, she has NO idea what McDonald's is, or a Happy Meal," I said. "She thinks a slice of whole grain bread and edamame are a treat."

It was the other woman's turn to stare at me like I was from another planet. Here, we are surrounded by corn and okra, cabbages and tomatoes, and about twenty other veggies growing in the little farm patch. Surrounded by fresh meat, still on the hoof or claw, and eggs under the chickens in the chicken house.

"Oh," she finally says, "that's nice."

Then they quickly left. In case what we have is contagious, I suppose. I hope it is.

True story. Frightening, huh? No, not me. The Happy Meal lady. If you are not scared, perhaps you should be. According to the article "Rethinking First Foods" by Pamela Paul, published in Time magazine's June issue, French fries are the number one vegetable eaten by toddlers in America. In fact, according to the FITS study cited in the article, by age 12 months 13 percent of toddlers are eating French fries every day. FITS stands for Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study. This study tracked diets of over 3,000 kids.

My child has had fries exactly twice in her life. She actually likes roasted potatoes better, with rosemary and olive oil and shallots. In fact, she eats every vegetable I have ever put in front of her (or, I should say, us) except Brussels sprouts. Who can blame her there?

How is this possible? What is the amazing secret behind this culinary miracle? Are you ready for this? It's not exactly a huge revelation, certainly not the cover material for Parents magazine. No "Ten Easy Ways to Hide Healthy Food in Junk." Nope, nothing that fancy. Okay, here goes: You have to eat your vegetables, too.

Amazed? Astounded? Or disappointed? C'mon, they're good for you. You wouldn't be pushing them on your kid if they weren't, would you? It's that simple.

Think about it. They imitate everything you do. Right now, my little one thinks helping Mommy mop the floor is the most fun thing to do all day. The window of opportunity is open, but not for long. Food preferences are set in children as early as age two. They aren't born with a natural hunger for Happy Meals, either. It may seem like it when it comes to the control games at the table. You go with what works just to get something, anything, into them. It's an easy sell. But you end up selling out your own child.

Want to win the control game? Relax. It's not human nature to starve with food in front of you. You can win by not winning the control game. Turn the table, so to speak. When you place a new food in front of your child, make sure there are other favorites on the plate just in case. Let your child see you enjoying the new food. Let her feed you a bite of the new food first before she has to try it. See? Now, she feels like she is in control. New foods are fun. It may take a few tries to warm up to a new food or texture. If it doesn't work the first time, try it again another day.

The point is to enjoy the time together. Interact. And turn the TV off. You will be setting a lifetime precedent of bonding over the dinner table. It's an ancient art these social units called families used to practice in order to remember who belongs to the family unit.

I know, I know. Life is busy. Fast food is fast. Even stay-at-home moms have a rough time finding a moment to make dinner.

I work, too. By the time I get done at work, through traffic, make the pick up, and get home, I have a hungry child clinging to my hip. I've got fifteen minutes to produce a meal, one-handed and exhausted. And yet, my child has never had fast food.

You can do it. Leftovers are a Godsend. Make extra helpings on the weekends when you do get time to cook. Freeze individual portions. It is possible. Even if it is lunchmeat, frozen veggies, slices of fruit and a half slice of whole grain bread, it's a balanced meal. And tastes better then imitation-chicken-flavored lumps fried in old grease and trans fats. Read the ingredient lists. They are posted online at the food chain web sites.

Once you do, you'll realize maybe I am not the crazy one afterall.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Eat Local Challenge

For the occasional reader who wanders into the "kitchen," my apologies for not posting as much lately. I have been busy working on the Eat Local Challenge web site along with all the other authors there. You should stop by and see what's been cooking, and read some of the work by the talented authors there. Also check out one of my latest recipes for Vegetable Parmigiano. It uses a few pantry items and some of the best of the summer produce that is in season right now.

I am currently working on two more recipes that use some of the same fresh herbs, tomatoes, squash, onions, garlic ... I will post those soon. One is a Mediterranean Ratatouille with Saffron rice, the other is an "Italian meatloaf." Both are kid tested and crowd tested and passed muster. Look for those recipes as soon as I get the instructions written!

I am way behind on posts. There's a ton of content coming as soon as I get it all put down into coherent thoughts here.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Time to get out the ice cream maker

You know, if you are going to eat ice cream. Eat ice cream. Not cloned fish protein. That's not ice cream. There is so much to be said for eating well, as well as in moderation. Below, from a NYT article:

"Almost all commercial ice creams contain industrial ingredients that mimic the luxurious effects of butterfat and egg yolks: some are natural, like carrageenan, extracted from algae plentiful in the Irish Sea; others are synthetic, like mono- and diglycerides.

But using new technologies can be risky for manufacturers. The other new method for making supercreamy ice cream was caught up last month in the global debate over genetically modified foods. In June, Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch conglomerate, applied to Britain’s Food Standards Agency for permission to use a new ingredient in its frozen desserts — a protein cloned from the blood of an eel-like Arctic Ocean fish, the ocean pout.

Instead of extracting the protein from the fish, which Unilever describes as “not sustainable or economically feasible” in its application, the company developed a process for making it, by altering the genetic structure of a strain of baker’s yeast so that it produces the protein during fermentation.

This ingredient, called an ice-structuring protein, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and is used by Unilever to make some products in the United States, like some Popsicles and a new line of Breyers Light Double Churned ice cream bars."