Know thy food

You might think I am espousing the idea of introducing yourself to the vegetables in the supermarket (“How do you do, Mr. Potato Head, my name is Kristin”).

I'm not crazy. I will introduce you to someone who is doing the same thing, mostly for kids. As school gets back up to speed, it seems a good idea to share the concept.

Here is an excerpt from a New York Times article written a few years ago:

  • (Alice Water's) pioneering Edible Schoolyard project, in which schoolchildren grow their own lunch and teachers use gardens for science lessons and recipes for social studies, is thriving in Berkeley, has been planted in New Orleans and may expand to Pittsburgh and Brooklyn. But in more than a decade the concept has not permeated the nation’s thinking on education.
  • Although many school districts are trying to improve the food they offer, the results have been unsatisfying, she said. It’s useless to coat frozen chicken nuggets with whole-wheat bread crumbs and fill vending machines with diet soda.

Education about food is something we all take for granted, and, unfortunately, this is a topic at which we are all starting to fail, not just in terms of children but for adults, too.

I think Alice Waters’ frustration is valid and deserves attention even here in Canada, as we have much the same situation. I know not everyone can enjoy their own garden, or maybe not even get to the farmer’s market, but does that mean they shouldn’t see local food?

And when I say local food, I don’t mean KFC from the local outlet (tongue planted firmly in cheek here – no offence to KFC).

Our world has changed from when my parents were kids, and certainly from the day of my grandfather’s stories.

Most food is bought in large chain stores now, and most things are available year-round. Many foods that people buy now have a list of ingredients as they are already, in some degree, prepared.

We have lost sight of the importance in knowing our food, or at least what is in it.

Did you know that some form of refined sugar is in most processed foods, even savoury ones like spaghetti sauce and soups?

I am not saying sugar is the source of all evil, but since we are eating more if we are eating what is in those cans, we need to remember that when we eat the rest of our food.

I like my sugar in dessert and I like herbs in my spaghetti sauce. (I know that a spoonful of sugar with tomatoes is a good cook’s secret, but that is one spoonful per recipe, not per serving.) 

The technology we have today does offer us advantages. We can preserve things in tetra boxes or packaging with preservatives.

Machines in factories make prepared meals cheaper so busy families can eat on the fly.

Maybe in the not-too-distant future, they will think of ways to make spaghetti sauce grown on the vine, and they will feed tuna mayonnaise in the ocean so lunches could be even easier to make.

Maybe they could even slice it and freeze it with bread on either side so that your tuna fish sandwich was ready to go!

Do I sound ridiculous? Well, I am sure if I asked my grandfather how he felt about the packaged products we eat continuously, he would think the current state of affairs was ridiculous too.

A large portion of our population is overweight and unhealthy because of the food they eat or because of the food they don’t eat.

We can fix the situation, but it does take all of us to do it.

  • Kids should know that putting fresh fruit on their yogurt is healthier than eating flavoured yogurt.
  • They should understand that a 12-ounce can of soda usually has the equivalent of 12 teaspoons of sugar in it (the recommended daily limit).
  • They should know that food comes from farms and gardens, not supermarkets and factories.
  • We should all get to know our food, and that does mean re-introducing ourselves to the ingredients (the ones we can actually pronounce in the packages).

Every little bit helps. If you have kids, spend some time talking with them about food. Get them tasting, and cooking, at an early age. Curiosity can be good for their appetite.

If you don't have kids, then the same applies to you. You know the saying, "Do something every day that scares you"?

Maybe that is tasting a new food, or cooking a recipe. Google 15 minute meals if you need to - cooking real food doesn't have to be fancy or complicated.

If you have time, visit a farmer's market or linger in the produce aisle.

You might just be inspired. 

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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