Monday, January 23, 2012

Allow Me To Introduce You Two: Brain, Food

"I was 32 when I started cooking. Up till then, I just ate." --Julia Child

I've decided that, when it comes to training on how to feed my family, I got shafted. (Sorry, Mom. Nothing personal). Actually, it's not my mom's fault. It's society's. My generation was reared during the rise of convenience foods, microwaves, working moms and pre-cable-television-as-a-safe-babysitter. And in fact my mom did her best: we were given raw veggies to munch on each afternoon while we watched the After School Specials on TV. She made a home-cooked meal every night. And I mean EVERY NIGHT. Roast chicken. Roast beef. Stew. Steak. Spaghetti and meatballs. Pot roast.  Real stick-to-your-ribs stuff that took hours to make and fed a family. Correction: took HER hours to make. Growing up, I never gave dinner a second thought.

So of course once I was on my own, working, taking care of my own apartment and going to night school, I'd eat when I was hungry. If I was out of food or time, I'd grab something on my way to wherever--taco, doughnut, burger, fries. Too tired to cook at night? Mac and cheese or cereal filled the bill. Salad? Um, yeah, I think I bought some last month for some recipe; oh, never mind. It went bad. See? This is why I don't buy vegetables or fruit. It's a waste of money. That was my logic. I had kept with the idea of rich, filling food when it's time to eat, but lost the message about the planning. But all that was fine on my 20-something body, because no matter how badly I abused it, it kept on staying the same.

Remember those days?

Fast forward 15+ years. Insert family here. Yes we work long hours, manage kids' activities, pets' schedules and the medical and financial paperwork of aging parents, not to mention piles of laundry, spelling tests and the constant task of keeping clutter at bay. There is not a lot of downtime. No one will dispute that fact.

But here's the thing: there *is* downtime. In my parents' generation, I see now, that time was once filled with, among other things, coupon-clipping and weekly meal-planning. But in this world of constant communication, we all walk around with a pocketful of distraction every moment of every day. And aren't Facebook and Tweeting more fun than meal-planning?

Technology has made it possible to download a recipe for kimchi while riding on the train, shop for groceries online during lunch hour and have them delivered to our homes in the evening, then spend our nights watching any number of cooking shows that would make Julia Child's mouth hang open. But the irony is that, with all those advances, we are still dealing with our food on the go, outsourcing the shopping, preparation and experimentation that make cooking so great. For many of us, sensual food is something we enjoy only on TV.

Feeding our families and selves is as necessary as it's always been. Feeding them well is more important than we've ever realized before. But *teaching* them how to think about food is critical to their health. And it's no easy task, especially if we never actually learn to do it ourselves.

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