Wednesday, August 24, 2011

REALITY

I don't want to eat dinner with Dash and Bella every night. Sometimes I just crave leaning over the kitchen sink with a peach. I'm sick of bombarding my kids with the napkin-in-your-lap-elbows-off-the-table-SIT-DOWN-mouth-closed-while-you-chew-just-try-something-green-just-try-it-once-please requests. It's harder to cook and eat with my kids than without them. It takes more time. More energy. And all those salt-grabbing hands and incessant questions.

But I'm never frustrated for long because my kids are spilling over with something awesome: a love of the family meal and the feeling that the kitchen is the coolest place to be in the house.

Dash will yank me down to his level, give me a rosemary-scented kiss, and whisper. "Mama, I've picked some herbs. Let's make some salad dressing. My recipe."

Or I'll exhale a "wow" as I watch Bella separate an egg. Such ease as she jiggles the delicate yolk in her hand. And the pride she takes in watching the clean white slip down through her fingers into a bowl.

So we have a little gardening and a lot of cooking going on at our house. But imagine an organization that does this on a national level and reaches out to thousands of kids and their families. Alice Waters (of Chez Panisse) and her Edible Schoolyard Project are doing just that by teaching kids to garden, harvest, and cook. And for all you naysayers who believe these aren't valuable skills (I'm not naming any names), try writing a recipe and notice the direct application of science, math, and English. And, of course, there's the ultimate payoff of giving a kid the tools to feed himself and his family healthful food. And then passing it on to his kids. And so on.

This Saturday, August 27th (in conjunction with Chez Panisse's 40th birthday), you can support edible education by Eating for Education. Eat out at one of the participating restaurants and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Edible Schoolyard Project and other school garden programs around the country. Or host your own dinner and gather up some donations.

Or just let this community inspire you. Bring a child into your garden. Pick some mint together. Let him crack an egg. Let her snip some chives. Whisk with his hand on top of yours. Start small.

And if you need an extra push, here are a few things I've learned after cooking with my kids almost every day for two years. And some tips on getting (and keeping) your kids' butts in the kitchen.

THERE'S NO NEED TO REINFORCE KIDS' FOOD DISLIKES BY SAYING THEM OUT LOUD.  LET THEM EXPRESS THEIR AVERSIONS. AND THEN JUST SMILE AND NOD.
This month, Dash wouldn't eat corn because "it's so disgusting."

But he really wanted to eat this.
"Mama, we're going to eat the frog's legs AND tongue. But mama, how do we NOT eat their germs?"

I would have asked the same thing. Look at that slimy tongue covered with germs. This little dude had spent the night at the bottom of my grandmother's pool. 
EVEN IF THEY WON'T EAT IT, THEY STILL MIGHT WANT TO TOUCH IT.
Bella hates the smell, the look, and the taste of oysters. But she was fiercely committed to learning how to open them. She quietly left the room when Dash started using his front teeth to beaver-scrape the gooey bodily remains out of each shell.
LET THEM PLAY.
Dash's shucking technique was far inferior to Bella's. He didn't protect his hand. He had the wrong angle. But I let him try. The last time he and I ate oysters together, he was not solo-wielding the shucker.
IF THEY MAKE IT, THEY JUST MIGHT EAT IT.
Warm cabbage and potato salad with anchovy vinaigrette?

"Yes, please," said Bella.

8 comments:

  1. Remember Phyllis, The days will come when you'll be eating most of your meals without your kids around. Leaning over the sink with a peach is one of the delights of my life, and I treasure the few meals I get to share with my grown-up kids these days. Thanks for your great blog.

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  2. You lean over the sink with a peach and I would be leaning over with a forkful of cold spaghetti.
    That sauerkraut, potato salad sounds great.

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  3. Phyllis, I could so relate to what you wrote... I do treasure slurping up random eats all by myself, but that kid magic is irresistible and fleeting. You express the emotions of motherhood so beautifully (as always)!
    xxoo
    E

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  4. Thanks for raising awareness about Edible Schoolyard and telling it like it is about mealtime with kids and kitchen as extension of classroom. Love!

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  5. I love cooking with my kids! You made a lot of great points. I can especially relate to the 'if they make it, they just might eat it' section!
    And thanks for the info about the Eating for Education. Unfortunately, I didn't see any Kansas restaurants participating :(

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  6. Hi Phyllis, I recently interviewed one of my fav local finds down here in Oz, and discovered a great Chickpea, Almond Cous Cous Salad you may like to try. You are so honest and so inspiring, I love your blog.

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  7. You nailed it Phyllis! Getting the kids growing and making their own food, then having FUN at the table is the best way to get them to eat healthy! I'm giving profits back to The Edible Schoolyard. I am honored to do what I can to help grow a healthy generation of kids.

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  8. I love your blog. You inspire me to let my girls cook. I try to get over my "Ineedtogetsupperonthetable" hurry and just let them explore, help and learn. Thanks for the inspriation

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