Saturday, September 12, 2009

Raising Foodies

What is a foodie?

epicure: a person devoted to refined sensuous enjoyment(especially food and drink); a person with a special interest or knowledge of food, a gourmet; an informal term for a particular class of aficionado of food and drink.

Food is such an issue for Americans. We love it; and that's a huge understatement. I haven't researched it, but I bet 1/4 of our commercials are about some food item, no matter what the source - tv, magazines, billboards, etc. And we are critical and demanding because Americans are relatively wealthy. In societies where food is scarce, no one is selective. They are grateful to have a meal of any kind.

A friend of mine who grew up on the mission field in New Guinea tells of the times his father would go to the refrigerator at the end of the day, open the door, and say, "Would you look at this. We are filthy rich!" He could only say that because they actually had a refrigerator and it actually had something in it. Obviously, most natives of New Guinea did not.

Most of my generation remembers growing up hearing phrases like, "You need to eat everything on your plate. Don't you know there are starving children in ___________?" No longer. Today you might here,"Oh, you don't want ___________? How about some _____________? I could make you a ______________." We are rich, picky, and obviously, not very hungry.

I want my children to enjoy food as a gift from the Lord. God is the one who creatively designed all the plants and animals that we eat (unless you are a vegetarian). And he in turn, having made us in his own image, made us to create wonderful things - including great food from those very same resources. One way to instill this in children is to let them cook with you in the kitchen. Children have an incredible imagination. Even if they are using a recipe, they are still able to create and have a sense of satisfaction! Sadly, we have become such a "busy" society, few have time to stop and spend and extra half hour in the kitchen to allow their children to be a part of the process. The goal is just to get it done and on the table. (I know, I've been guilty of this myself!)

Another way we like to cultivate this attitude is by making meals a big deal. Not necessarily a big event, but special. A time where the family is together and shares their day. Kind of like a meeting place for the whole clan. When we do, we try to partake not only of physical food, but spiritual food by spending some time doing a family devotion. It certainly isn't always perfect, and we have seasons in life that come woefully short of this goal, but we keep going back to this concept.

I want my children to be grateful for whatever God provides at each meal. Food is plentiful now. But what if America experiences an economic collapse? What if a severe drought or natural disaster causes a crop failure that is massive enough to affect the entire harvest of a particular item? What if my spouse should loose his job or have a cut in income? Suddenly, our food budget or shopping ability is compromised.

Since our family started purchasing a box of produce from the farmers, we get lovely, organic vegetables and fruit, but we don't get to choose what we get. At first, I heard a lot of complaints at the pick-up site from customers. Someone didn't like broccoli - could they trade it for more carrots? Another had never eaten bok choy - what were they suppose to do with that? One felt that there was too many potatoes and not enough apples.

The farmers don't really get to choose either. They work hard for days on end, braving the elements, fighting the destructive bugs, trying to stay afloat when market prices plummet, and then they wait to see what makes it in from the harvest - whatever God provides. That is what gets passed on to the consumer. Their prospective is much different since they live close to the land and have first hand knowledge of how this all works. My girls still didn't quite get it though until we had our own garden and got lots of tomatoes over a two week period. Suddenly we were up to our ears in them. Their comments began to turn toward the familiar "Tomatoes again?!" My reply was quick and yet patient. This is what God provided this week. (I did try to be creative and I put some up as well lest you think I was drowning them in these red gems. And obviously we ate other things as well!) Finally, I think it is beginning to sink in a bit. Even if they don't "like it", I think they at least understand better.

I want my children to be willing to share their food if necessary. I don't think I need to say too much more on this subject if you've been reading here during the week, but for those who haven't, read my post Sharing the Bounty. Allowing them to make cookies or another treat and take some to a friend or neighbor is one way we like to cultivate this principle. My oldest has begun to have sleepovers where she and a friend cook something fun together and then share it with both families. We benefited from this last week - cinnamon rolls from scratch! Whether it's sending home an extra plate with someone who stops by to making a meal for a family where there has been a surgery or death, allowing children to be part of the process helps them to appreciate the effort and love that goes into sharing a meal as well as the joy in being the giver.

I want my children to be willing to try new things. Some children are introduced to a new food so seldom, they are thrown into total shock when it is presented in front of them. If new foods or meals prepared in new ways are closer to the norm rather than the exception, their willingness to at least try an item is met with much less resistance. We began introducing "adult" foods to our children at a very young age, so at our home, mac and cheese, pizza, fish sticks, and such are the exception and considered a real treat. (I admit it. All those calories, carbs, and fats are tasty, just not super healthy.) And, I don't make a different meal for the kids. Eventually, they will get hungry and eat it. If you think that is cruel, well... think of what some kids are eating in third world countries.

I want my children to grow up eating closer to the land. Mmmm. Now that's different you say. Well, only in the last 50 years or so. Before that, most people had family gardens, raised a few chickens, did a bit of canning, went on an hunting trip or two when necessary. Some even raised a pig or turkey for slaughter. (Ohhh, I hope Cass Sunstein didn't read this paragraph!).

About ten years ago, I started making changes in the way we ate. It's been a long road, but how we shop, prepare, and eat is drastically different than the way many of us grew up. I'm hoping to teach my daughters how to make meals so that this is natural to them, not a whole paradigm shift.

So, do I want my children to be foodies? Sure, but somehow I think it is a whole different mindset.


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