As I’ve mentioned more times than people probably care, I’m expecting a baby in June. Considering the impending change in my life, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we’ll raise our kid and what we’ll teach him. While we’ll spend plenty of time reading to him – I’m hoping that we’ll raise a full-fledged bibliophibian – parents teach their kids an immense amount beyond what sets the foundation for formal schooling. In fact, I believe the lessons we teach our kids about food are some of the most important we pass on. Just a few that I hope he learns from us…
1) Sharing food with others is a great joy in life.
I always grew up with a family dinner around the kitchen table. Because my immediate family is small – I’m an only child – it was especially important for us all to be together. Even now, Chris and I often head out to the diner after he comes home from work because it’s such a good feeling to share a meal together, no matter the time of night. Similarly, even though I sometimes grouch about making food for pot-lucks, I truly do enjoy sharing that food with others. In that tradition, I fully expect to have regular family meals and hope that our little boy gains an appreciation for them.
2) Cooking food doesn’t have to be scary.
This lesson is a given considering Chris’s profession, but it’s not for most people. I didn’t start cooking until I was an adult. This was partly because I never asked my parents to teach me but also because I was scared of knives and stoves. For example, the few days we actually cooked in home economics, we were constantly warned to keep the knife down (good advice) and say “knife knife knife” (really stupid advice) when walking. Of course, they gave us knives that hadn’t been sharpened in ages, which you’re actually more likely to cut yourself on. Most importantly, they didn’t teach us how to hold them properly or show us how to curl our fingertips under when holding a piece of food to protect them if the knife slips. With a lot of careful supervision, our boy should be comfortable and safe around the kitchen.
3) Growing food is fun.
My mom loves telling the story about filling little Shannon’s brand new sandbox with clean, beautiful sand. But when she looked outside, I was completely ignoring my new toy and digging in the weeds next to it. I still think I made the right decision. Sand is great for building castles, but just can’t hold up to the earthy goodness of soil. It will be a long time before he can actually grow plants with me, but I’ll be sure to show him what I’m doing from the beginning and the joys of working in dirt. Best of all, you get to eat the results!
4) Vegetables can and should be delicious.
They’re the best when you grow them yourself, but can be tasty if they’re fresh and prepared correctly. While there are some people who are sensitive to the texture or have an inherent dislike of a specific type, I think most people who say they don’t like vegetables do so because they’ve never had them done well. Sauteed, baked, roasted, grilled or blanched, there are plenty of ways to cook vegetables so that they maintain or even gain flavor. While you’re not supposed to add salt, fat, or spices to baby food, I hope we teach him the power of a perfectly-cooked vegetable as his tastes evolve.
5) We need to care about the people who grow and prepare our food.
This is an obvious one when he’s eating produce straight from the garden, prepared by a parent. But no matter how much I get into homesteading, most of our food will come from somewhere else and I’ll still enjoy eating out. Just like many kids don’t realize carrots grow in the ground, our society makes it easy to forget people labor over fields often in terrible conditions to grow it for us. Similarly, while Chris and I have an intimate knowledge of the restaurant industry, many people have no idea how unglamorous it really is. It will be a long time before our little boy understands social injustice, but I hope to introduce him to the vendors at the farmers’ market and teach him to be grateful for everyone who has contributed to his meal.
I’m sure there will be many more lessons we’ll teach him, whether on purpose or not. But I hope that living by example will demonstrate that we really do put our money where our mouth is.
If you have kids, what lessons have you taught them about food? If you don’t, what do you wish kids today knew about food?