Archive for the ‘Food and children’ 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.

Family dinners are a the mother lode

August 28, 2012

I’ve just finished going over the manuscript for “Raising Able: How chores empower families” for about the 25th time to prepare to publish it on Amazon’s Create Space, where it’s available on Kindle and print-on-demand.

It has caused me to re-read the book, published more than two years ago. There are some great stories and examples to prove that family chores, family dinner and family meetings provide a solid foundation for your crew, for life.

YES it takes time to plan dinner and make it. Get them involved. See this blog post for ideas on how to make it easier. This photo of my gang on the blog along with ideas to make family dinner easier, especially as school starts and schedules start to collide.

Family dinner is one of the most important and powerful traditions. Here's the author of "Raising ABle: How chores empower families" sharing a dinner with her four grown children and their boyfriends and girlfriends.

The lure of family dinner never wears off. This was taken at our daughter’s apartment where she had cooked us dinner.

My tips to make family dinner easier:

1. Plan dinner in the morning or the night before if you work outside of the home. Make use of a crock pot, time bake and kids at home after school to put on the potatoes and make pizza dough.

2. Involve tots-to-teens in every step of planning, preparation and cleanup. Use family meetings to plan menus and volunteer to cook and cleanup.

3. Eat family-friendly meals and encourage and expect them to try new foods, within reason.

4. Encourage them to start cooking independently as soon as possible. Buy ingredients they need, experiment and have fun. Don’t complain about the mess! Compliment the chef. Eat their food with gusto. You’ll be developing confidence and a lifetime skill and avocation.

5. Learn to stock your pantry, freezer and fridge so you can cook from what’s on hand. Learning to cook from what’s on hand is an art, too.

Bon appetite!

 

One more thing on a parent’s TO DO list

May 29, 2012
Children, tweens, teens, teenagers and preschoolers can learn about manners at home from parents. it takes repetition. It takes family dinners. Parenting is about repetition. good parenting is about doing things over and over. "manners and kids" is important. Do not underestimate it. Teach manners at home during family dinner.

Teaching your kids manners takes repetition, modeling and reinforcement. Nothing about good parenting comes easy, free or cheap.

Yesterday a young visitor shook hands when we were introduced. “Wow, a firm grip and you’re looking me square in the eye,” I said, returning the courtesy to the 15-year-old.

I turned to his parents and said, “Nice job. He knows how to greet people. My brother Jim taught me a long time ago, Firm grip and square in the eye.” This simple gesture says, “I care about how you feel.” That’s the essence of manners.

My seventh grade science teacher Mrs. Lewis used to bemoan about misbehaving students, “Lack of home training.”

I agree. Don’t go overboard, either like a manners cops, demanding a please-and-thank-you every other minute. All I ask is for kids to make eye contact and pleasant conversation; to unobtrusively say, “No thank you” if they don’t something; and to chew with their mouths closed.

Like most good parenting habits, teaching manners requires role models, repetition and reinforcement. Family dinner is an ideal place to model, repeat and reinforce consideration for each other and the cook. It’s not a chore to teach manners, it’s a practice.

When the snacks were gone and the gathering nearly over at 4 pm, I set out a wedge of gourmet cheese. An 11-year-old asked nicely, “Is there any real food?”

I offered my standard option to those who don’t want what is served. “Would you like a peanut and butter and jelly sandwich?”

Hungry from swimming, she accepted. I put some frozen bread in the toaster and got out the peanut butter and jelly. She assembled it, said, “Mmm. Good jam!” and ate it unobtrusively.

That’s my kind of kid. Appreciative, asked nicely for what she wanted, and accepted what was offered. She showed good home training.

Manners are like exercise — do regularly for the best results. And keep at it.

Thanksgiving: The ultimate family dinner

November 14, 2011
Manners are a big part of family dinner. Children tweens and teens can learn to behave at family dinner table at Thanksgiving. Good manners start at home. Make it a game. Make it fun. Thanksgiving can be a relaxing time for families. Manners are a good chore to have in Mass., CT, MA , NH, RI and VT.
Children can live up — or down — to our expectations.

Just looking at the table pictured above would have given me a stomach ache if I had to bring my four kids there.

The best way to prepare for such a situation is to practice. If you’re worried about Thanksgiving at the home of a friend, relative or to a restaurant with your kids, start with a rehearsal.
Have a family meeting. Ask the kids for ideas on how to behave at a fancy meal. Write down every idea, however ridiculous, and take the best ones seriously. Then announce you’re going to have a rehearsal for Thanksgiving, using their suggestions. Would they help? Set a date and plan a simple meal, maybe a roast chicken.

Enlist their aid in getting out a nice tablecloth, the best china, silverware and glassware. Remember, a broken spirit is more permanent than a broken goblet. Let them drink from a special glass and use cloth napkins for the evening. Propose some toasts. Exaggerate. Go overboard on the manners. Use an English accent. Make it fun. Kids love fun. Whenever you can make something fun, you will have them eating out of your hand.

Parenting is all about setting reasonable expectations and managing people’s behavior — getting them to do what you want, when you want, just like at work. The best managers are kind, firm, clearly spell out what they expect, and if necessary, train you on how to do it.

Clearly spell out what you expect from your kids on Thanksgiving at Aunt Sue’s. Then practice it. Encourage the behavior you like by saying what they did. “What a nice way to ask for the mashed potatoes, Megan! Of course I’ll pass them to you. Where did you learn such lovely manners?”

They won’t be perfect, and you always remind them on Thanksgiving when they slip, “Remember how we practiced? How can you ask nicely for the mashed potatoes?”

A dress rehearsal combined with realistic expectations from parents will make the day go more smoothly.

Plant seeds, have hope

July 11, 2011

exploration, children, toddlers, babies, natural exploration, natural and logical consequences, helicopter parenting, learning, education, allow them to find their own way, according to the latest research. Babies & children can benefit from parents getting off their backs!Look dad, here’s my piecrust!

Summer can be an ideal time for kids to do chores regularly without the interruption of school and other activities.

Make time for regular family meetings and ask them what jobs they want to do. Allow them to stretch. It’s fun to let them cook and enjoy the results. My motto is “It’s hard to hurt homemade food.”
My friend Carol, who is like an aunt to our four children, remembers Kristen’s first attempts at making pies. Carol told me, “Her pies weren’t that good, but you said, ‘Mmm,Kristen, this is good!'” An expert pie maker, Carol kept quiet and ate the pie. Kristen eventually mastered pie crust and makes fabulous pies today. Mastering the art of pie crust gives young cooks the idea, “If I can make a pie crust, I can cook anything.”
Kristen is spending the summer as an intern at Franconia Sculpture Park north of Minneapolis, Minn. In addition to helping resident sculptors and doing her own sculptures, Kristen takes turns cooking dinner for 13 to 15 people.

She has called home for a few recipes and said, “Thanks Mom for teaching me how to cook. I’m one of the better cooks and I can time everything to be done all together.”

I smiled and remembered how I taught Kristen to cook.

At 4:30 or 5 pm, I’d call up to her bedroom where she would be sequestered reading. “Kristen, come help me fix dinner.”

Long silence. “Kristen?”

“Do I have to?”

“Yes. I need your help.” I still hate to cook alone.

making pie from scratch is a way for kids, tweens and teens to learn how to cook. summer vacation is an excellent opportunity to slow down and cook with kids and allow them the independence to cook whatever they want. Allow them to make cookies and other goodies. It will teach them how to cook with confidence. Encourage their cooking efforts. Parenting is about building confidence.
These strawberry rhubarb pies were really delicious.

“I’ll be down in a few minutes.”

Ten minutes later I’d call up again. “Kristen! You said you’d be down in a few minutes!”

Five minutes later she wandered down reluctantly. This is how Kristen learned to cook — reluctantly.

It’s an example of how tweens and teens can resist being included in family time, but they still show up. They like to be invited, to be wanted and included, BUT they can’t show too much enthusiasm because of their age and hormones.

What are your kids doing this summer now that they might have some extra time? If they want to stretch and learn new skills, like making pie crust, appreciate and encourage their efforts. Have patience and hope. You’re planting seeds that will blossom in ways you can’t imagine now.

Big Red is Dead

September 14, 2010
eating meat means someone has killed your meat for you. My birds have had much better lives than factory raised birds.

If you eat meat, someone is killing for you. My chickens have a way better life than any bird callously raised in a factory. I'm pulling feathers off. Denali is eviscerating at right. Mark is carrying a bucket of dressed chickens. Bruce is behind Marc tending the big pot where freshly beheaded chickens get dipped to loosen their feathers.

Having grown up in a small city on a bus route where the air never smelled as good as when we went camping, raising backyard chickens is  not in my paradigm.

My chicken career hatched at a localvore potluck dinner when Brad, holding a chicken ordering list, said with conviction, “Raising chickens is easier than raising children and dogs.”

I had done both, and added “husband” to the short list of unfamiliar creatures I was expected to nurture, feed and love with little experience. The localvore movement swept me away into a chicken odyssey that cold night in January.

After much investigation I got seven pullets (5 months old) from a new chicken friend. Four of the birds turned out to be roosters. The only place for loud, aggressive, feed-eating, non-egg producing roosters is — the  stew pot.

My good friend Denali joined my chicken exploits, and in her inimitable Denali way, immersed herself in chicken husbandry. She organized this butchering party to eliminate roosters and avoid consuming factory-raised meat.

What I love about raising chickens is the intimate connection to life and my food. I wish I’d raised chickens alongside of my children. It offers a plethora of experience, knowledge chores and family bonding opportunities.

BC — before chickens — my chicken knowledge started and ended at the grocery store. I’m still at a loss when they act sick. I have friends, Internet resources and books to guide me. I don’t worry about my ignorance so much.

I’m an able chicken raiser. It is WAY easier than raising able children and dogs. As for the husband — he’s in a class all of his own.

The new era of picky eaters

August 13, 2010
making pizza together is a wonderful family activity. everyone can customize their own pizzas. The family works together as a team to create something delicious. Family dinner is an essential part of family life. Family dinner prevents drug abuse. Family dinner connects parents with children. Family dinner is essential for teenagers.

The pizza was delicious and fun to make together. Everyone could customize their own pizzas.

Homemade pizza is one of my favorite meals to fix with my children. It’s easier than you think, especially by using store-bought dough, jarred sauce, a bag of shredded cheese and scavenging leftover bits of vegetables and meat from the fridge.

I’m always surprised by the dietary restrictions of Millennials. Here are some NO’s I’ve heard from visiting 20-somethings. NO dairy, wheat, meat, pork, onions, mushrooms and more. Some have double-prohibitions, like no meat or dairy, essentially a vegan diet.

I can justify the allergies. And it’s good for the planet to avoid meat. Pizza is a wonderful easy way to satisfy everyone’s palates.

However, many families create a cafeteria-style dinner every night to satisfy each person’s dietary restrictions and preferences. It’s feasible for a small family. With four children, such a nightly quest would wear me out and encourage high-maintenance picky eaters.

Nurturing high-maintenance picky eaters is more work for parents. It teaches children to expect special treatment. Children and young adults miss out on the adventure of trying new food and expanding their repertoire of possibilities.

We’re lucky to have such abundance that children have the luxury of enforcing restrictions on what they will and will not eat.

Do you have picky eaters? What strategies to you use to encourage adventuresome eaters?


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