Archive for the ‘family dinner’ category

Take time to cook and eat together

May 29, 2014

In the following interview from the Boston Globe, author/activist Michael Pollan talks about the importance of food in our lives. By taking time to cook with your kids, you’re spending time together, teaching them a life skill, and increasing the likelihood that they will eat what you prepare because they saw what went into it. Let go of the mess in the kitchen. It’s an investment on so many levels, including health. Remember to use family meetings to decide together on menus and meal plans.

Take it one step further and plant a few tomato and cucumber plants in a pot on the porch or in the garden.

  • 28 May 2014
  • The Boston Globe
  • By Michael Floreak GLOBE CORRESPONDENT Interview was condensed and edited. Michael Floreak can be reached at michael floreak@gmail.com.

Cooking is time well spent

 Author lauds the social and health benefits of preparing family meals

Michael Pollan’s 2006 book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” detailed the complex system of farms, feedlots, and food science laboratories that deliver food to the modern dinner table, and helped fuel a growing food movement. His newest work, “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation,” recently published in paperback, turns his attention to how plants and animals are transformed into meals and explores why cooking is important.

After “Omnivore,” Pollan focused on the human end of the food chain, looking at food choices and their impact on health. “I realized cooking was the answer to a lot of questions that I’ve been exploring in my work,” Pollan, 59, says. For “Cooked,” he apprenticed with a series of culinary experts— from a North Carolina barbecue pit master to a celebrated baker— to understand the ecological, nutritional, and cultural impacts of cooking from scratch.

“I got into this as someone who was very interested in the environment and how we engage with the natural world,” Pollan says. “I like to cook and I knew how to grill, make pasta, pretty basic stuff. But there was a lot for me to learn.”

Q. How did it happen that you turned your attention from agriculture to cooking?

A. I began to realize that if people insist on having their food cooked by fast food corporations or processed food corporations, we weren’t going to build this alternative agriculture system.

Q. Why is cooking important to one’s health?

A. The best marker of a healthy diet was whether the food was cooked by a human being. Even poor people who still cook have healthier diets than rich people who don’t.

Q. Explain how cooking and health are so closely linked.

A. If you cook, you’re not going to have french fries every day. Homemade french fries are delicious, but they’re such a pain to make. There are things built into the process of cooking that guard against those very tempting, but ultimately not very healthy, foods. You don’t even have to worry about what you’re cooking because you will naturally gravitate toward simple things. You will not make a lot of junk food.

Q. You also talk about the social benefits of cooking and eating together.

A. Cooking isn’t just about preparing the fuel for your body. Cooking is a social act and it has been since we started. Go back 2 million years, and we discover the power of fire to change food and make it more delicious, easier to digest, safer. But as soon as we do that, we have to learn how to share. Cooking gave us the meal and the meal gave us civilization. And that’s what we’re now blithely giving up. Forty-six percent of meals in America are now eaten alone. We have this centrifugal force that’s driving us away from the table. And a lot of that goes to food marketing. They make more money if we eat individually.

Q. While you were writing the book, your son suggested taking a night off from cooking to have “microwave night.” How did that work out?

A. What a surprise. To get four entrees on the table took 45 minutes, which is plenty of time to cook a very nice meal. We just never got to sit down at the table at the same time because we were each in a different stage of defrosting and eating. It was the most disjointed family meal we had in a long time and no time had been saved. We have to reexamine this assumption that convenience food is really convenient.

Q. What do you say to the argument that cooking is also expensive?

A. I dispute that. You have to pay those people to process food. It’s very labor intensive on their end, so therefore they charge. Cooking is economical. There’s still a lot of healthy food in regular markets as long as you shop the periphery and avoid the processed foods. It is more time-consuming. We have dropped the amount of time we spend on cooking by about a half an hour since 1965. I think it’s important to look at what you’re doing with that half-hour and whether it’s more valuable to you.

Q. Clearly you see that cooking is time well spent.

A. My contention is that as a way to spend a half-hour or an hour of your leisure time, cooking is a really good way to do it. It has all these benefits, but it’s actually intellectually very engaging. It’s sensually very pleasurable. It’s a great way to reset. But the key is not doing it alone, I think. Get your family involved. Get your kids and your partner in the kitchen. Make it a social event.

What I wish I knew as a young mom

September 6, 2012
What I wish I knew as a young mother- spend more time, less worry. love them, set limits and love with logic. Limits set kindly and firmly are the most important. I had NO IDEA how much parenting support groups would help me be a better mother

This is three families at a cottage off the coast of Maine. My family is in the front two rows. Our friend Bruce is on the second row in the plaid shirt and Colin is wearing the baseball cap.

There’s so much to know to be a good mother that young moms can’t know it all. They can learn it from their kids and from other moms. Here’s ten things I wish I knew, or I discovered along the way.

1. Time is short, even though it feels long when they’re young. Cherish their childhood. It will be gone faster than you can believe. I know everyone says this and the days are long.  Go the extra mile even when it’s hard.

2. Motherhood means sacrifice. You will eventually have more time for you. See #1. Learn to give as much as humanly possible. They’ll always want more anyways!

3. Take care of yourself. It took me a few years to learn this one. Self-care makes you a better mother. Spend some time and money on YOU. Then you have more to give.

4. Don’t fool with regret and guilt. Do your best. There is no perfect mother out there. As long as you get it right at least half the time, you’re good. Get help! See #5.

5. Other mothers and experienced mothers can help. Parenting support groups saved me and showed me how to have a respectful and healthy relationship with my kids, without yelling, threatening, spanking, bribing and punishment. It was an investment of time and effort that paid off.

6. HAVE FUN. Your kids will cherish the good times and hopefully forgive and forget the not-so-good. Kids thrive on fun. Laugh, play games, tell stories, play Charades together.

7. Kids don’t have to have it all. Learn to say “no” in a kind and firm way. Encourage them to earn money to buy more stuff. Show them how to have fun without spending a dime.

8. Kids are wonderful teachers. They are patient and kind. They will reflect back who and what we are. Sometimes the reflection is painful. They are flexible and can learn from us, especially through our actions. My kids let me make the same mistake over and over again until I figured out a different way.

9. Having family meetings and having kids do chores and family dinners are like putting money in the bank, an investment in everything you want your kids to become in the future.

10. Don’t sweat the small stuff. When my two young sons discovered a mud bath and got really dirty, my choice was to reprimand them or surrender and get out the camera, quickly, and laugh.

It takes a team to raise a child

June 15, 2012
Father's  Day is to honor fathers and the chores they do for us. the commitment they make for us. this is the father of my children, who is willing to be silly

The best father I know, Reliable Bob at the annual Country Fair selling trash and treasures.

Jane, the lead female character in “Lie Down with Lions,” a 1986 Ken Follet book,  is torn between two men. In a dramatic chase scene through the Afghan mountains with one of the men and her baby, Jane is contemplates who to choose: the good man or the evil spy. She has only two diapers for the baby for the arduous journey.

At the end of the day of he man she camped out with in the mountains washed out the diaper at the end of the day. This simple gesture, when she was mentally and physically exhausted, meant a lot to her.That scene illustrates the demands of parenthood, how one person can’t fulfill a child’s every need, and the value of partnership. I loved that scene because his willingness to wash out the diaper said something about his character and commitment.

It’s always easier to face a challenge together. I remember one night when Bob and I had one of our famous “in-house dates.” I fed the four kids early with one of their favorites — chicken nuggets, and put them in front of a movie while we shared a special dinner with candlelight and wine. Then we put the kids to bed and watched an adult movie. Voila, dinner and movie, without going out.

When we went upstairs at 11 pm to check on the kids, both boys had vomited in their beds. The only thing worse than one boy vomiting in their bed is two boys vomiting in their beds. It was disgusting. We cleaned up two beds and bathed two boys when all we wanted to do was to fall into bed. Teamwork made it tolerable, and a shared memory that strengthened our long-term bond.

Happy Fathers Day to all you guys out there. Plant the seeds of your love to grow as the tree commitment, to stay rooted when the hurricanes and tornadoes threaten to uproot a marriage.

Mother guilt & father guilt are delivered with the baby

January 23, 2012
every mother and father, mommy, mom and dad have experienced guilt when we realize we have messed up with our children. It goes with the territory of parenthood. Parenting is about learning and forgiving our selves even when we're not perfect.
Every parent strives to be good and create happy memories like the one above. All we have to be is good enough. There is no perfect parent or perfect childhood.

“I’m a bad mother,” said “Zoe” a  young mother of three children, 7, 5 and 2, at my “Act Don’t Yak” workshop on how to cut the yelling last week in Littleton.

“Zoe” repeated that statement several times during the workshop on positive parenting techniques. “I’m doing so much wrong,” she said sadly.

I empathize with Zoe’s guilt, pain and desire because I have lived it. I started taking parenting workshops when I recognized what I was doing wasn’t working.
RECOGNIZING is about 80 percent of the process. Buddhist nun Pema Chodron says that after recognize comes refrain, relax and finally, resolve.
This means we parents must manage our emotions — including guilt. We only have to be parents for 24 hours when the guilt sets in, along with new empathy for our own parents. It hurts to realize that WE have messed up because we care about our kids so much and we want the best for them. We all mess up.
I usually start my programs with a story of one of my major mess-ups. My story of a horrible-no-good-terrible-day frees up parents to share theirs. And all parents have those moments, words and days that we regret.
Zoe resolved to start the journey to change, to take more workshops and improve her parenting skills. It will take time, attention and worse, backsliding and starting over again after failure.
That’s where self-encouragement comes in. Sarah, the mother of six, shared at a workshop how she handled a difficult situation with her teenage son. We gave her feedback on what she did right — which was a lot. Sarah walked away feeling better about how she responded to the situation. This is priceless. We can practice self-encouragement when we recognize-refrain [the hardest two to achieve] then find the path to relax and resolve.
Taking a step back from parenting at a workshop allows insight, camaraderie with other parents, laughter, forming a positive parenting plan and starting self-encouragement to better manage the inevitable parent guilt. I hope to see you at one — with a friend.

FREE talk tonight at West Elementary in Andover, MA

November 16, 2011

Come for a free talk on positive parenting 7:30 pm, West Elementary School, 58 Beacon St. in Andover, Mass., sponsored by the Andover townwide PTA.

The focus is how chores teach self discipline, nurture self esteem and strenthen the parent-child connection for life. Hear more about encouragement, family meetings, mutual respect and natural and logical consequences.

You will go home with some new ideas and reminders about creating and maintaining positive parenting practices.

Bring friends!


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