Thursday, September 20, 2012
Food is important to us. I know, I know it's important to everyone. But to us it is more than in the expected 'we need it to survive' kind of way. A large component of our decision to move to the homestead was so that we could take a more active roll in growing our own food and teaching our kids about food sources and eating fresh local items. It is a real challenge to change the food culture of a family, and it emerges a little more with every season. I have read many books detailing different components of our food system, where it is headed, the most healthy ways to eat etc. Everyone has their own take, but there are some very consistent underlying themes; moderation, local, fresh, and slow food.
I just finished reading French Kids Eat Everything and I devoured it in just a few days. So compelling, and I think a must read if you have young children where you could utilize some of the simple ideas early on. It has my head swimming. Where to start? As I have said before, when you make major changes it needs to be seen as a marathon, not a sprint. I have such a hard time with this. I see where I want the end result to be and then feel somewhat guilty if I can't get there as quickly as I think I should. As my kids are older, I have a slightly different take away from this book. Since we started our journey our kids have become well aware of what real food is. Not processed, fresh and homemade (which, many times is much easier done than you would expect and for less money than pre-packaged processed items). But in day to day life, hurried schedules between school and after school activities, we always have a supply of kids snacks for them to nosh on, on the fly. These snacks tend to be the lessor of evils, healthier choices than much of what is available, but filler none the less. The grazing mentality we tend to have as Americans, eating snacks or food on the go is simply thoughtless filler. Something to fill the unsatisfied space that was left from a poorly eaten previous meal.
As related in this book, the French have a single planned snacking time a day, and there is no snacking done in between. If you are hungry, then you will much appreciate the meal that is next coming for you to savor. Breakfast, Lunch, a 4 pm goûter (mini meal) and then dinner, in France normally 730-8pm. For many in North America, this may seem very difficult in the timing. For our family this structure can work. Most nights we do not eat supper until around 7pm. That is three hours after school is over, so plenty of time for a healthy and satisfying 'goûter' to tide everyone over. This is where we will begin this phase of our food journey, goodbye free range snacking!
We are living in a fast food culture, where food is a means to an end and to many an inconvenience in the day. Eat food, quickly so that we can move on to the next commitment. It has lead to eating excessively large portions of low nutrition, highly processed foods that are meant to fill the space. Food culture in many other countries is a family culture. It is the time of day to be revered, family time, time to savor the abundance around us. This lifestyle is not just for the wealthy or food snobs, it is for everyone. Taking a few moments to put a meal together (enjoying that process as ritual), then sitting down and stopping the fast pace around us to focus on one another. This slowing down in and of itself will begin to reduce the volume of our consumption. Slowly eating a meal and enjoying it while engaged in conversation allows our bodies to catch up with what we are putting in and we will recognize being satisfied by the meal sooner, versus gobbling up a ton of food quickly then feeling horribly over full afterwards.
A few years ago we began a dinner club that I have talked about here a number of times. The premise is cooking food together as a group, having the kids with us, and enjoying the pleasures of slow food. As I was finishing the book, I realized that more of our meals should have the care and process that our dinner club takes in it's meals.
One of the statements in the book struck me. It was (loosely), that North America is young, it is creating itself and hasn't had the time to develop a true food culture as many European countries have. What type of culture do we want to create? Recent reports published by the CDC and the American Journal of Preventive Medicine indicate that obesity rates in the United States will continue to soar to as much as 44% by 2030 nation-wide and in 13 states as high as 60%! What do we want to pass on to the generations that follow about food, health and family? All change starts at home, with the individual. My plan is to continue to implement and grow how our family addresses the importance of a food culture. It's impact on our health, as well as how it enriches our family. We will experience déguster, the art of savoring our food, but as importantly, the experience of doing so. Who knows, maybe it will be catching and we can slowly start to shape our countries food culture into a more positive one.