3:03 PM on Thursday, July 15th, 20103 Comments
I work with kids. I talk to kids about food, healthy eating and cooking. I ask more questions of them then they ask of me, and I often get answers I don’t expect. My project this month has been VeggieDillas (or vegetable quesadillas, for readers born without a compound word gene). The thrust of the activity is getting a group of 6-12 year olds at our Kids Cafe program to name fruits and vegetables that are different colors. I often start with green and immediately tiny hands reach for the sky.
“Uhh…. I forgot…”
Peals of elementary laughter.
When I get to white or brown, groups often get stuck. We always have to stop and go over why eggs and milk (though both white) aren’t a fruit or vegetable. Milk comes from cows, not the ground. Therefore, not a fruit or vegetable. Eggs come from chickens, so also not a fruit or vegetable. Eggs are NOT a dairy product because they’re not made out of milk (don’t laugh, when I worked at a high-end natural grocery store, people got this wrong constantly – eggs are next to the dairy, but guilt by association does not extend to that end of the agricultural rainbow).
I’m used to kids (and grownups) getting foods and food colors wrong, but last week I was thrown by this exchange:
ME: (pointing to a small girl, about 8 ) OK, what brown or white vegetable did you think of?
GIRL: (putting her hand down and smiling brightly) A hamburger.
ME: Well, a hamburger is mostly brown, but it’s not a fruit or vegetable, is it?
A second of silence.
GIRL: (looking down, in a quietly defiant tone) but they taste good…
Uproarious laughter from thirty-five 2nd graders.
I had a second to think while the raucous subsided. I weighed my options, and choose to sidestep the taste issue and tackle the logic of her argument.
ME: You know, Ding-Dongs taste good too, but they’re not a fruit or vegetable either, are they?
Less laughter this time, but enough to afford a smooth transition into the next color and allow me to finish the activity unscathed.
I tell this story to help you understand the need for basic culinary education in our youth. When most of a generation of people grow up believing that food comes from the grocery store, not the soil – we’re all in trouble. We’ve backed ourselves into an agricultural corner by distancing ourselves so extravagantly from the sources of our most basic necessities – food, water and shelter.
If the thinking of your average western 6th grader is applied to a teleological view of humankind as a species, then the capstone of our 70,000 year journey out of sub-Saharan caves is playing Call of Duty 4 and eating microwave Pizza Rolls. But it’s not their fault – they don’t know any better. The lynchpin of what I do is closing the gap between what my great-grandparents knew about food and what our kids know now.
That’s why I work with kids. That’s why I love what I do. Keep your ear to the ground next month for more from me on farm fresh food, why we eat so little of it and why you can’t buy a good tomato at the grocery store.
Nutrition Educator, Americorps Member, Aspiring Farmer