Imagine the world without anger, without greed. We have the power, the tools, the skills and the resources right now to build a peaceful world, where people live in harmony with the Earth and each other. This blog explores ways we are doing just that, one post, one change, one day at a time. Join me. Tell your stories. Ask for help. Spread your ideas for making the vision real and, well, ordinary.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Food shock

Manna to a fast-food child?
Image: © L. Kathryn Grace
Call me a bleeding heart. A few weeks ago I fought tears as I watched a family of four checking produce prices on one of those television news magazines. The camera caught the daughters racing to the fruit and veggie aisles, the younger begging her mom to buy her an apple. Her older sister told her to put it back. It cost too much.

Mom and Dad could buy fresh fruit and veggies only if they could get enough to feed four people for the same price they would pay for a fast-food meal at a local drive-through. At $1.49/lb, the apples didn't hold up to that 99 cent burger, fries and Coke meal.

The child who craved the apple has Type II diabetes, the kind that used to afflict older people. Like so many of today's children, her life expectancy is shorter than her parents'. Her dad has diabetes too. His medications take a huge chunk of the family's income, far more than they can afford. So they take all their meals in the car, driving through, paying at the window, 99 cents each. Maybe Dad gets a bigger, slightly more costly meal.

If that wasn't bad enough, today I watched British Chef Jamie Oliver's video of his visit to a first grade classroom in Huntington, West Virginia. In the town some call the unhealthiest city in the United States, where almost half the grown-ups are obese, where diabetes and heart disease stalk nearly everyone, Jamie Oliver asked six year olds to name the shiny, red vegetables in his hand.

No one knew.

Not one child.

How about this one? He held up a potato. No takers. Big, purple thingy? Maybe it's a turnip. Oliver gave them a hint. First word in its name is egg. "I know, I know!" said one kid in the back. "Egg salad!"

Beets, mushrooms. Cauliflower. Not one child knew the name of even one of the foods Oliver showed them. Not one.

See for yourself.

If these children have never seen a tomato, let alone tasted one, when will they discover its mystery, that it is a fruit disguised as a vegetable? And if they've only tasted greasy pizza, hamburgers that look like they were cloned in a plastic food factory, and syrupy soda pop, how many severely delicious delights have they missed already in their young lives?

Have their taste buds, unaccustomed to the nuances of fresh, whole foods, atrophied? If you sliced open a tree-ripened pear and handed it to them, then handed them a tea rose, would their olfactory glands be developed enough to tell the difference? Would they smile and inhale deeply? Could they revel at the spurt of sweet, flavorful juice of a just-picked, perfectly ripe strawberry, warm from the sun? Will they ever have the chance to experience a strawberry that actually has flavor and juice?

Building Ordinary is going to take a lot more work than I thought.

Thankfully, Oliver is on the job. So is Chef Ann Cooper, and Chef Alice Waters with her Edible School Yard project, and so many others, perhaps you among them.

In his TED prize acceptance speech, Oliver says if one of us teaches three others to cook a few simple, inexpensive meals at home, and they teach three others, who teach three others, in just 25 turns, everyone in the country will know how to cook affordable, healthy meals at home, and we can begin to give our children the gift of a longer life, perhaps as long as we older Americans can hope to live.

So to get started, I will begin sharing, now and then, some of the cheap, extremely simple meals we eat in our house.

What about you? Got any ideas for teaching three people to cook inexpensive, wholesome meals at home?

We make peace in a million small ways every day.
All text and images, unless otherwise noted, copyright L. Kathryn Grace. All rights reserved.

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Wanda said...

I was just complaining--yes, complaining...because I do that--a couple days ago about how sweet restaurant food is. Used to be Italian restaurants served savory sauces. Now? Not so much. Sweet. What do they do? Add sugar? Something's gotta give. Sweet is killing us.

Kathryn Grace said...

Yes, indeed, Wanda, sugar on everything. Chefs are responding to our sugar addiction. Way back in the 80s I participated in a campaign asking McDonalds to stop sugaring their french fries! Perhaps it has something to do with the tremendous food marketing campaigns to children, now in the third generation of TV-influenced food habits. Take a look at this short piece by foodie Marion Nestle.

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