Posted by: stacylynn12 | February 28, 2011

Food

Food

This is a story about food.

You might wonder what a post about food is doing on a family travel blog.  The answer is simple; food connects us.  It connects us to our neighbors, friends and families when we take the time to lovingly prepare a meal or share eggs from our backyard chickens or when we exchange veggies from our gardens.  I consider it a gift when I have an entire day to devote to preparing a meal for a special occasion.  Food connects us to people across the globe who we will never meet. To the farmers that grow the grapes we eat in the winter and to the workers that harvest the coffee beans we love so much and the cocoa beans we craft into the chocolate in which we indulge .  

Traveling gives me the opportunity to learn about different cultures through their unique cuisines.  If I’m lucky, I learn something about how to cook them.  At a minimum, I get to enjoy something delicious, authentic and perhaps exotic.

Eating abroad sometimes challenges my senses.  Can I really put that in my mouth?  The answer is often… no, though I’m working on being more open to the opportunities presented by different culture’s cuisine.  My most adventurous eating was in Nepal where I dined on yak meat that I’m sure I saw in the unrefrigerated doko basket of a villager days before, covered in flies as he headed up into the mountains.  I don’t worry so much now about leaving my chicken on the counter for a few hours to thaw.  Oh, and then there was the yak butter tea, which is as nasty as anyone who has ever tried it says.  Or perhaps, with my mind more open I would say…”It’s an acquired taste”.   I’m sorry to say I was unable to convince myself to try the snakes (still slithering in the white plastic bucket), or the roasted beetles that I saw in the market in Thailand.  Though, really, talk about fresh, local and organic!

Some of my most delightful memories of travel revolve around food.  Sitting on a roof top restaurant at Bodhinath in Kathmandu, Nepal – sipping the most delectable Chai tea and eating heavenly Tibetan Momos.  In India – drinking fresh coconut shakes at the Bluebird in Goa; sipping mango lassies in Rajasthan and eating a simple breakfast of yogurt with bananas and honey while overlooking the Ganges in Varanasi.  Oh and how I loved the coffee in a baggie in Bangkok.  Divine.

Even a simple meal of beans and rice is transformed into something magical when prepared by a local woman in Guatemala.  She has been nourishing her family for generations with this humble combination.  I could go on… the memories associated with food are prolific. 

There is great power in food.  I am undeniably privileged to be able to walk into our local food co-op where I purchase some of the most expensive food there is to buy.  I do this because I genuinely believe whole, fresh, organic food is best for the planet and our bodies.  It tastes better too.  It’s also better for those people on the other side of the world.  Why should I sit in my cozy Seattle kitchen (where I routinely forget how lucky I am and take running water, ample electricity and heat for granted) drinking coffee that someone in Guatemala was paid $1-2 per day to pick.  I have power because I have the money to buy this food.  I also have the power, and I think the responsibility, to buy only shade grown, fairly traded coffee.  I choose this example because most people are familiar with these labels for things like coffee and chocolate.  As I sit here on my soap box I feel a bit snooty.  “I buy fair trade, shade grown, sustainably harvested, organic coffee… do you?”   Blah, blah, blah… what a liberal, tree hugging, yuppie. 

The truth is, thinking about all people receiving a fair wage for hard work so they might in turn provide for their families and caring for the environment so that it can indeed sustain us,  should not be an elitist concept.   Travel connects me  to those faces and those places.  When I travel, they become real and my choices seem more important.

Simple nourishing food should not be a privilege.  It should be a basic human right, available to all.  Unfortunately, it is a sad truth that many people in our country and abroad cannot afford to buy the food of which I speak.  It is cheaper to go to McDonalds for a burger or buy a bag of Doritos than it is to buy a few organic apples.  And because this processed food is so cheap we look in comparison to the fresh, local food and exclaim how expensive it is.  We must adjust our perspectives on how much food should cost.

And now, please take an intermission.  I know, it’s a long post.  But I’ve got more to say and since I’ve not posted anything in quite a while, perhaps I can hold your attention a bit longer….

Ok, here we go.  This is the part of the story that inspired this post.  Read on please…

Once upon a time my now 5 ½ year old loved vegetables.  He devoured asparagus spears like they were little sugar coated candy sticks.  I watched in awe as he ate a huge plate of salad and then asked for more.  I wanted to pat myself on the back when he pulled carrots from our garden and ate them, only barely dusting off the dirt. 

As any parent will tell you, watching your kid eat veggies without whining, fussing, making faces or gagging and crying (as I did when I was served veggies as a kid) is cause for celebration. 

Now his  3 year old brother is following in his footsteps.  He chows on red and yellow peppers, cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, salad… you name it.  Except tomatoes.  He hates them.  Except of course in ketchup.  He seems  amazed each time he eats the stuff since he knows it’s made of tomatoes.   

And then there’s fruit.  The little one eats so much fruit that I recently asked our pediatrician if a kid can eat too much of the stuff.  Apparently you can but it’s hard to say no when your kid comes to you and says “Can I have a fruit?”.

But back to the 5 ½ year old.  It’s as if he has all of a sudden decided that no parents should have 2 veggie loving children at one time.  He’s  on a veggie strike.  I can now barely get him to eat a carrot stick.  It’s driving me crazy and since we try our best to avoid bribes and rewards in general, I can’t even pull out the “dessert” card.  Arrgh.

Instead of bribes and rewards, we have tried to teach our children about why we eat certain foods and avoid others.  We use the term “growing food” and talk about how our bodies need lots of growing food before we have a sweet treat so our bellies won’t get sick.  We have a colorful nutrition chart in our kitchen that shows pictures of various foods under the headings of the vitamins and minerals they contain.  I could go on but you get the point.

Since the strike began I’ve found myself fretting and trying new tactics of which I am not proud.  Under the guise of “education” I tell my little protester that if he doesn’t eat his greens his body will not grow as strong as it might otherwise.  This may be true but I am subtly attempting to put the fear of god in him and it’s not working.

As it turns out, I am the one doing the whining, fussing and face making and on top of that I’m starting to nag and annoy him and me as well.   

So we’ve come up with a plan.  He agrees to try what’s put on his plate.  If he doesn’t like it, he doesn’t have to eat it.  I agree to try to “sneak” veggies in where I can. I make chocolate beet muffins, steam kale and puree it into his smoothies and sprinkle spinach under the cheese on his pizza.  He’s come up with a code word.  He wants to call veggies “ice cream”.  This make for some great comic relief when the 3 year old is in earshot.  It goes like this…

The protester – “Mom, does this have “ice cream” in it?  Wink, wink.

Me – “Yes!”

The 3 year old – “Really?”

Me – “No, not really.”

The protester – “But Mom, you are supposed to say yes or I won’t eat it.”

You can see how it goes round.

I’m looking forward to seeing how food influences our travels.  I hope it opens the eyes and senses of my children and they begin forming positive memories of their own.

122 days and counting….

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Responses

  1. WOW…the B-man has found his own version of gagging and crying! Joyce, I think you have got your revenge!
    One comment about the ‘Food should not be a privilege’ paragraph. I don’t know this first hand of course but there is another aspect to consider here: simple access to fresh whole foods. People, parents, and kids in inner cities with no transportation, no local food co-op, farmer’s market, or even a decent grocery store do not even have the option to choose good food. I absolutely agree, it should be a basic human right, available to all. Unfortunately for many, there isn’t even an option.


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