Children and Food Remembrances

This post got me thinking about children and food remembrances.

When my children were very small, I liked to keep a vegetable garden, and have them help me with choosing the items to plant. I would then force my then-seven-old son to labor on the plot, showing him which things I considered weeds and which were our dinner. (My daughter, at four, mostly planted flowers around our plot.)

I wanted them to see that food doesn’t come ready made from the local grocery store, that someone somewhere has to put a little thought and effort into making a plant come to life so that it will nourish us. They were surrounded by children whose parents’ idea of making a dinner from scratch involved microwaving a frozen entree. Everything else was McDonald’s and pizza. This may seem convenient to some, but it really doesn’t take much more effort to make something from raw, fresh ingredients. OK, so I’m a food snob, too. I like my food to taste different from the norm. And now, I am concerned about the additives that are put into food for whatever reason. Less is more.

One time, I asked my son where raisins come from. He didn’t know. I told him that they are really grapes shriveled in the sun. Of course, he didn’t believe me. So I took a grape and put it on a sunny windowsill. I told him and his sister that we were going to watch this very carefully over the next week or so and see what happens. It turned into a raisin, and he was totally awed.

The first time I made pumpkin pie from scratch, they couldn’t believe it. “Pumpkin pie comes from the store.” They thought it was a completely different animal than a carving pumpkin, and thought that a pumpkin’s only job was to be a jack-o-lantern. No, it isn’t. Sure you can buy a pumpkin pie from a store, but it’s not the same. When kids are little, they will go on fall field trips to the neighboring pumpkin patches. We took the little pie pumpkins, and I showed them how to cook the pumpkin down and make a pie. They still like for me to bake my pumpkin pies from scratch.

So it is with fire, too. The first time we had a cook out at the beach was for my daughter’s fourth birthday. All her little friends gathered around in awe over the use of charcoal and kindling. They all believed that barbecued anything came as a direct result from a gas grill.

We had always bought brussels sprouts. (I made them eat them by claiming they were round space ships. Broccoli was considered small trees, and asparagus were long space ships.) The first time I brought home a stalk of brussels sprouts from the farmers’ market, I thought they were going to go crazy. Now I always manage to grow a few out in the yard.

I always plant herbs, chard and lettuce in my flower bowls. It elevates them from the slug-filled ground, and the squirrels and rabbits are either too short or too stupid to jump into the flowers and find them. When I need a bit of lettuce or want some chard for my soup, I just go outside and pick it.

I’ve been canning tomatoes for the last couple of years, and I send some jars to my son in San Francisco. He appreciates the lovely tomato goodness in the dead of winter when he wants to make a pasta sauce.

All of this attention to food takes very little time and even less effort.

I just wanted them to know that our food doesn’t have to come in cardboard or as a frozen block.