One of my favorite things to do each week is to go to the farmer's market. It has become a ritual that calms and excites me all at the same time. I watch the hustle and bustle of patrons going from stand to stand. I listen to the noises that surround me - vendors yelling prices, dogs barking at one another, the loud whispers of local gossip. The colors and smells still astound me.
This isn't the way I was brought up. My mother used to crazily clip coupons each week and then we would cart off to the grocery store stuffing our carts with mainly processed foods. The only meals that were ever really made from scratch were the Italian recipes she had learned from my grandfather.
My father and then-stepmother didn't cook much either but they did introduce me to an array of different cuisines at restaurants. By the time I was out of middle school, I had tried most of the ethnic foods available in the metro DC area.
And maybe that is why I started cooking for myself as early as middle school. There was a need when I was at home (at my mother's house), to have something more than just Stouffer's. Any fresh ingredients that were in the house were gone before my mother would come home from work. I would make myself a meal when I got home from school and then claim that I was "not hungry" when it was time for dinner. In high school, when it was my "dad's weekend," I would go to the Asian market and bring home the tools and ingredients needed to make sushi much to my current stepmothers dismay - weeks later she would find sticky sushi rice stuck to some strange place in the kitchen.
When I go the grocery store here, I am the minority. My stack of groceries always takes longer since the cashier has type in the product numbers for produce. I also look around me in amazement - some families are pushing two to three carts full of highly processed food. I can never find a vegetable in their cart. I always wonder if they know that my produce probably costs a lot less than their carts and carts of pre-made meals. I wonder if they know how to make a meal from scratch - or if they even care?
Listen, I am all about convenience. I understand that this is part of the reason for the way people buy the way they do. We always have frozen pizzas on hand just in case I mess up dinner or have to work late. But most of the meals I make during the week take me less than 30 minutes to do. I hardly ever have to use that frozen pizza and we like making our pizzas from scratch anyways. (And a food saver is a wonderful invention! I will make healthy meals and freeze them for another time. Take that Stouffer's!)
So I guess you are wondering what started this rant. Well, when I was at the farmer's market yesterday I heard a little voice beside me say, "Mommy, can we get some yogurt." I looked down to see a little girl no older than 5 and her little sister that looked to be about 3. Their mother handed them some cash and told them they could go pick out their flavor and get it themselves. I was amazed. The children were just thinking about the yummy snack they were going to get but what they didn't know was that their mother had already empowered them with the knowledge to make healthy choices for the rest of their life.
I cringe at the thought of having picky chicldren. I love eating all sorts of food. I also want to teach my future children to make healthy choices naturally. I have heard all sorts of information but here is what I think my game plan is:
1. Make my own baby food. Maybe I am being a little ambitious here. But if I can prepare food for my husband and I every day, can I not just take the basic ingredients used for that? This way I can introduce new flavors as the doctor allows. Besides, baby food in the jars is expensive!
2. Make different types of food at home but also take them to all different kinds of restaurants when they get older. I definitely want to introduce them to different cuisines.
3. Enforce the two-bite rule. My current step-mom started this a few years back with my brother and sister. If they said they don't like something but my step-mom knew they had never had it before, they had to try at least two bites of it. Since they were/are both stubborn, this normally ended with them saying they didn't like it but sneaking bites when they thought no one was looking.
4. Won't be a short order cook. I am not cooking different meals for different people. I will always make sure there is something on their plate so that they like so they won't go hungry.
5. Cook with them! This seems fun, although messy, and it gets them interested in what they are eating.
I am not a parent so maybe some of this stuff won't work. If you don't have kids, are there any things you are excited to teach your kids about food? If you are a parent, what have you found works for raising adventurous eaters?