Monday, May 2, 2011

The Revolution Begins at Home

I've snarked before about crappy meals and how our kids get fed them on a regular basis, and if I've learned one thing in nearly nineteen years as a parent, it's that your kids learn how to eat from you. If you have a pantry full of HoHos and Cheezy Poofs, you can't complain when your kids eat HoHos and Cheezy Poofs. I'm as guilty of it as anyone else - I grab convenience foods in the store too, because let's face it: they're CONVENIENT.

On the flip side, I also try to eat healthy for myself, and I'm trying to instill that in my kids. My point that I make to them is that snacks aren't bad in and of themselves, but there's got to be some moderation. For every HoHo you eat, you should be loading up on fruits and veggies as well. A treat should be... well, a treat. Not something you gobble up four times a day every day.

I've been feeling pretty inspired lately, and after watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution a few times, it occurred to me that one of the best ways to get my kids more aware of our food and where it comes from would be to actually get them into the kitchen. If we're going to be mindful eaters, then following a meal from its inception all the way to the table is a good way of understanding what, exactly, it is that we're putting in our mouths. So I have a new policy in Casa de Wigington. Once a week, Zac and Breanna will each be responsible for executing a meal to serve for dinner. Doesn't have to be fancy, but it has to be made from scratch. I'll help and supervise, but their job is to be the chef for the day.

Experiment Number One: I decided to start off easy. Breanna likes the idea of cooking, but I was concerned that anything too complex might be overwhelming and scare her off. Her favorite food is pizza, so we agreed that pizza would be her debut meal. Although I let her use a pre-packaged crust mix, she made the crust herself, mixed it up, and rolled it out. We made our own sauce, chock full of garlic and oregano, we cut up toppings and grated cheese. In the end, we had an absolutely amazing deepdish pepperoni, bacon, onion and mushroom pizza. And the best part? Her reaction when she ate it: OMG THIS IS GOOD.

Things she learned:
* How to chop without severing fingers
* The difference between olive oil and canola oil
* Why certain types of cheese is wetter than others
* That homemade food kicks ass and takes the same amount of time as opening a box

Experiment Number Two was this evening. Zac's favorite meal to order in a restaurant is a chicken Caesar salad, so I decided this would be his meal to prepare this week. He's a bit reluctant about this whole cooking thing - in fact, when I told him he was making dinner, his response was "Jesus Christ. Thanks, Jamie Oliver."

So, Zac got to work and learned how to make croutons from scratch (gluten free bread - yay!), how to brown chicken and season it, the reason we don't use the sharp edge of mommy's good knives to scrape the cutting board, how to grate Parmesan cheese, and raw meat handling safety.

We both agreed that raw chicken is disgusting, but then again, this goes back to "where does my food come from?" Looking at raw chicken in a pan is very different than those chicken nuggets you pick up in the drive-thru. At any rate, we've successfully completed another meal, prepared by an eleven year old with minimal fuss, and we're having chicken Caesar salad with a side of Italian bread. All in all, I can't complain, and I'm proud of the kids for doing as well as they did.

So, once again I say, anyone who thinks kids won't eat good food simply hasn't offered it to them. They'll eat it, and what's more important, they'll recognize that it's good stuff.

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