Friday, February 24, 2006

On the Op/Ed page of the Feb. 24th New York Times, Alice Waters speaks to the need for instilling good eating habits in children, because, as she says, "children's eating habits stay with them for the rest of their lives." Waters, who is owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant and Cafe and the founder of the Chez Panisse Foundation, created the Edible Schoolyard program in the Berkeley area 10 years ago. Children become involved in this school-lunch initiative which weaves a garden of fruits, vegetables and herbs into their daily classroom activities. As she states in her NYTimes piece "We're not forcing them to eat their vegetables; we're teaching them about the botany and history of those vegetables. We're not scaring them with the health consequences of their eating habits; we're engaging them in interactive education that brings them into a new relationship with food. Nothing less will change their behavior."
Her Edible Schoolyard has become a model for a school lunch initiative that spans the Berkeley district. My goal is to build upon the belief that engaging children in interactive education will bring them into a new relationship with food - to nurture that love of food here at home.
Children learn to eat healthy through hands-on experiences that are sensory filled - as opposed to listening to how nutritious a food is for them. This weekend, it will be a family experience where we all participate in the making homemade pasta. Regardless of the results - tasty or not; perfectly shaped or not - we will enjoy the experience of making it, eating it and talking about it.
I'll let you know how it turns out . .

A great resource for learning more about whole grains is the Whole Grains Council. Last year the Council introduced the Whole Grains Stamp, created by the Council and Oldways Preservation Trust, as a quick and easy way to identify healthy and delicious whole grains at the store. To view the stamp, visit, or While at the Oldways site, check out the EatWise program for teachers and parents. An 8-lesson curriculum, called High Five, was created "that wakens children's excitement and interest in their food. It teaches children about healthy eating, simple cooking and cultural models for meals." You can order the curriculum for $20.

Until next time, enjoy Food and the Family!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Food, Family, Friends and Fun

I’m exhausted, physically and mentally, as I step into the kitchen for what seems to be the 15th time in the same day. This time, it’s to search through the refrigerator and pantry to figure out what I am to make for dinner – I’ve two kids to feed (a 1 year old and 2 ½ year old), along with a hungry husband. (and a circling cat who is relentless until I feed him as well). Unfortunately, the kids need to be fed before my husband comes home, so that often requires separate preparation of a well-rounded meal that includes some sort of protein, healthy grains, and a vegetable. (We do plan several nights during the week when we all gather together for a meal).
I’m just coming to the point where Nicole, who is 1, can eat the same foods as my son, Grayson – good news because this cuts down on the different versions of meals I have to fix. Every day I’m in this position I vow to myself to create meals ahead of time, so that all I have to do is heat them up and serve them. This is a dream that has not become a reality. Sure, I occasionally pre-make meals, but they need a bit of variety, so I can’t serve them the same thing again and again.
Kids or no kids, the “what’s for dinner” dilemma is common, especially with today’s workloads and other commitments.
We aren’t a fast-food family (except for the occasional In and Out burger), and refuse to fall into the fast food trap so many families fall into. Our goal as parents is to bring up our children in an environment where they learn about the foods they eat -- An environment where experimentation is important, and where preparation and consumption are part of the whole experience. Our ‘kitchen’ isn’t fully organic, but we tend to lean towards purchasing organically grown vegetables along with meats and dairy that are free of growth hormones.
Grayson, who will be three in May, is already a fixture in the kitchen when I’m cooking. And, I am hoping that some day soon, Nicole will join us in the kitchen. Whenever possible, Grayson participates in the food preparation. To me, this is an important step to opening up the world of food to children. No, he’s not there all the time, but enough to have the desire to help.
He helps count the scoops of coffee every morning, he helps stir ingredients together for pancakes, he is a great ‘help’ when kneading dough for Pizza Friday. Even if he is observing, he is learning. I name ingredients and gadgets, and am sure to impress on him the need for being careful in the kitchen – i.e. what is off limits to him. As a result, he tells Daddy about the flour, salt and yeast that we used to make pizza dough, and that we mixed the ingredients with a whisk and a wooden spoon. When not helping with preparation, he is a perfect helper when the table needs to be set.
When we sit down together, we make it a point to talk about our days – what he did at preschool, how Nicole mastered another word . . . If we are eating pasta, we talk about the pasta shapes and how some pasta is made in Italy – which is a great way to start talking about food traditions in other countries. Regardless of the age of children, there is an opportunity to teach them about food, traditions and togetherness.
Edible tidbits will provide Moms and Dads with ways to get children involved, how to create healthy meals – quickly, and how to build lasting traditions in the kitchen and at the dinner table.
For those no-children households, Edible Tidbits will offer you information on choosing ingredients, the latest in gadgets, even product spotlights from time to time. All in all, my goal is to offer up ‘advice’ to anyone who is looking to make life in the kitchen simpler – without sacrificing taste or quality. Food should be enjoyed with family and friends – with its preparation just as enjoyable as its consumption.
I am not a formally trained chef (although I did spend a week in Arles, France at a cooking school) I am simply a mother of two who learned how to cook and bake at home from my mother and grandmother. I am also a writer, who has had the opportunity to experience the food cultures of other countries and who has an ‘insider’s’ view to those kitchen tools that make life in the kitchen much easier.
My experience in the food and kitchenware industries (see my bio) gives me the advantage to preview new items for the kitchen, see food trends in the making, and give a unique perspective on how to make life in the kitchen easier and more enjoyable – with family and friends.
I hope you enjoy my thoughts.