A while ago I posted Healthy Eating With Kids and then realised that my children’s diets, healthy eating, learning to cook well and growing my own food or finding fresh (from relatives gardens, farm shops and markets) are all growing into real passions for me. I think all of these aspects of food are closely linked.
I am finding more and more mother’s complaining that their children are fussy eaters, do not eat what they are given or constantly pester for junk food. A lot of the time these children come to my house and actually eat rather well. It’s not an issue, no-one is pleading with them, they are just doing what the other children are doing. Sometimes I can be a little facetious about this, refusing to give them coke even when their parents allow them to have some to stop them whinging – it just infuriates me when parents allow themselves to be bullied by their children.
Something else that is yielding good results is going back to nature. The children love the idea of growing food in the garden, picking it to eat or to use for cooking. I always tell them, “you helped me make dinner by bringing me peas” or “I’ll tell Dad you helped me make the sauce” when they bring in the mint. I can't wait for the weather to turn warmer so that we can start planting again. When they are involved in the process of bringing the food from the earth to the table, they become enthused about it. This process also includes the cooking. I am loathe to let the kids loose anywhere near knives or the cooker, but they can still bash the ginger in the mortar and pestle, stir the mixture in the bowl, or shell the peas.
We also like to talk about our food. The other day I bought some French Golden Delicious apples. These are my mum’s favourites and were very common in shops here until a few years ago when they seemed to disappear. I discussed this with Little Man who loves fruit and he was intrigued. This is not to say that we should become obsessed about food or greedy for it, Islam says:
Al-Miqdaam ibn Maadiy-Karib narrated: I heard the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wa salam) saying: "No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath." [Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasaa’i, Ibn Majah – Hadith sahih]
However, the current state of affairs where we cannot cook properly, are eating poor quality, low nutrition food and making ourselves ill contrasts strongly with our elders, both in Britain and in Pakistan, who grew their own food, had hearty, wholesome, simple diets and were clearly slimmer, stronger and healthier than us. We have to consider which legacy we want to pass on to our own children.
I recently came across a New York Times feature on wellness for children. More than the article, I found the comments from other readers very useful, one example that stood out was:
"As I read this, I was taken back to my childhood. I often cooked with my grandmother, who I lived with for many years. I don't remember ever being told to leave the kitchen. In fact, I often was put in charge of making at least one thing and setting the table. As I grew older, I made dinner at least one night a week. It was considered a treat in my family to cook for everyone.
I also don't remember being allowed to be picky about food. Food was put on the table and you ate. It wasn't that my grandmother demanded you eat. As Tara points out, demanding even that one bite may get you into trouble. It was simply that this is what we were going to eat so we ate. The only time we picked what we wanted to eat was one Sunday morning a month--we could eat a cereal that we'd picked at the supermarket on Saturday.
But in general, if we didn't like something (liver for example), we could explain why and that was it. If we were still hungry, we could have whatever fruits or veggies were left.
I don't have children yet, but my best guidance will be remembering how my grandmother brought me into the kitchen, taught me how to make good food and to enjoy the process of making--not just eating--food. She would have shaken her head over the fact that we even need this kind of advice. But I'm happy that the column reminded me of what my grandmother seemed to know intuitively."