It all started innocently enough. A friend posted on Facebook, asking for easy dinner ideas for picky eaters. I wanted to help, I started racking my brain for kid-friendly foods. Seeing as I'm a "baby-free expert" I came up blank.
I suggested the crock pot, I had a few other semi-lame suggestions. There were a number of suggestions from real-life working moms. Some of them seemed okay, some of them... There's no way to finish that sentence politely. I was flabbergasted. Disgusted is a strong word but I'm going to use it anyway. One recipe that I would never disclose called for a cup of soy sauce. A CUP! That's 5 days worth of sodium if you're under 40 years of age, 8 days if you're over. That is mad crazy, yo!
A number of recipes called for jarred sauce, something that is not allowed in our house as my husband is Italian. But other than those pureed tomatoes the suggestions were surprisingly void of veggies. Void of variety - pasta, meat, tomato sauce. Pasta, meat tomato sauce. Pasta, meat, tomato sauce, cheese. One recipe called for canned pineapple, and then there was the cup-o-soy sauce. But every recipe involved some "convenience food" - jarred salsa, packets of taco seasoning. Nothing personal.
I mean that, nothing personal...but you're robbing your kids. Nutritionally speaking you're doing them a disservice. A colorful, diet rich in grains, plant materials and various sources of proteins is healthy for our bodies. And you're robbing them of texture, variety and the spices of life. By not introducing them to the wide variety of foods the world has to offer you're possibly condemning them to a life of chicken nuggets and french fries. We all know a person like that, with only a handful of foods in their comfort zone. If those five foods are pasta, ground beef, cheese, tomato sauce and canned pineapple that person is looking at a pretty unhealthy life.
When I was a kid (yeah, I know. F when you were a kid, Miss Headbanging Child-Free Expert.) When I was a kid I ate whatever my parents ate. The idea of making a separate meal for me never entered the house. Even when I was a baby, I ate what they ate, they just put it in the blender. Pigs ears, sardines, squid, smoked bacon fat, smelts, little neck clams, wild boar - I ate all of those things as a kid. It never occurred to me not to eat them. I did draw the line at tongue, I remember that. And I ate liver until I found out no one else did. But that's the key right there. People do what they can get away with. Yes, even kids. Especially kids. They're constantly testing their limits, and yours! They're kids, that's their job. But it's your job as a parent to see that they get their nutritional needs met and that you expose them to the world through it's bounty.
Food is history. You can follow ingredients and spices around the globe for a peek into our past. It's an opportunity to learn about humanity. It sustains us, nourishes us, fuels us through our day and into the next. Food is nostalgia, memories. A familiar taste can bring comfort, quiet and bliss. Food is love. Sitting and sharing a meal with family is an immeasurable, priceless experience. There will come a time when they're all grown and gone, when getting together for the holidays isn't easy or even an option.
And where do you want them to be? Opening a jar of sauce?
I'm being harsh, I know.
America's children are obese! Unhealthy! Big fat tubs of lard! Pasta, meat, sauce and cheese? Are you kidding me? Hey, it's not my fault. I'm not a parent. I'm not the one who signed up for the humungo responsibility, YOU ARE! Step up! Put some steamed veggies on that plate, some brown rice. Salmon, green beans, whole grain bread, sauteed spinach, summer squash - you may have to expose your kids to a different food 10-15 times before they try it, but SO WHAT? No kid presented with a balanced meal night after night has ever starved to death.
What you feed your kid tonight will stay with them for the rest of their lives. How's that for a profound scare tactic? But it's true, both nutritionally and emotionally. Growing bodies need trace amounts of every vitamin and mineral. Eating the rainbow is the best way to do that. Vitamin supplements usually come out in the same pill form they went in as. And emotionally speaking, our brains bond flavors with memories. When I taste liver I'm back in my high-chair. When I eat steamed little necks I'm in my backyard, showing my friends how to pull the icky black part off so you can dip the clam in the hot water and then the butter and slurp it all up in all it's buttery-salty-sweet yumminess. I wonder if they go back to my yard when they taste steamers today?
Do you see what I'm saying? Kids are people. These memories are the things that make life worth living. You can't deny them that. When they're 40 they'll thank you for making them try lamb or quinoa or chitlins as a child. I promise. But you have to do your part. You signed up for it. You wouldn't introduce them to only 5 letters of the alphabet, would you?