As a mother of a young son, I take every precaution I can to provide Nathan and our family with healthy and pure meals. To that end, I buy only all natural chicken, 100% wheat bread (not that fake wheat bread), organic eggs, organic carrots, organic milk, pure Italian nectar juices, all natural and no sugar added foods, foods made without high fructose corn syrup, and some other organic fruits and veggies. I try to stay away from the processed/prepackaged foods and provide my family with sweet treats and "junk" food from our own kitchen. I'm not against eating cakes, cookies, ice cream or pizza, especially when I've made them and know exactly what's in them. Beyond the health benefits this provides, it's also much safer. For instance, two weeks ago my husband and I were enjoying lunch together on a Saturday ~ just the two of us! We went to a little place called Laney's and I ordered a chicken quesadilla. I ended up taking most of it home and when I went to eat it the next day, I bit down on a medium sized staple that was cooked into the food! No lie. I thank God I bit down on it and didn't swallow it. Not even a week later, Danny ordered a piece of pizza from an establishment by his office and ended up biting into a piece of sharp metal that had adhered to the bottom of his pizza from the oven! Another time, we were eating a salad served family style and I found a child's plastic dog bone in it (Great Escape Lodge)! Can you believe that? How does stuff like that even happen and thank you God again, that it was us and not Nathan. It's a shame. Eating out is expensive and we do it so infrequently ~ this is why. We get better and safer food at home.
Anyway, I read this great article in this month's edition of Women's Health, that I'm going to share and talk about. It really made me think about of my relationship with food and how it affects my family. Martha Brockenbrough, in the article, Food: the love/hate story introduces us to how "sweet memories and our tough struggles revolve around what goes into our mouths." I would recommend you read the article and have hot linked it here.
For me, what really stood out was how important food choices are early in life and the happy memories that are build around the dinner table. The memories that we associate with certain foods, people, and experiences. She talks about a study that determined 45% of our food choices are biological; they're determined by genetics. However, the other 55% is learned, and learned early in life. She goes on to say, that babies tend to pick up their parents eating habits and food preferences. It goes without saying, that parents are the primary influence on a child when they're most impressionable. Parents exude the most influence because that's who the child is exposed to on a daily basis. As we age, there are other agents of socialization that will eventually influence our eating habits, but none like our own family. That's why the food choices I make for our family are so important and they always have been. From the day Nathan began eating "real" food, it's never been packaged or processed. It took a lot of time and energy to prepare his foods and it still does, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Even when I was in the office and working a second job, my family ate well. Food has always been important to me an I think it probably stems from having home cooked meals every single night growing up. We never ate out and rarely ordered in. My sister is the exact same way with her family.
Another part of the article that struck a cord with me, was that foods has the power to not only conjure positive thoughts, but also negative emotions. There are certain foods that I eat that bring me back to my ethnic roots ~ hummus, tabuli, Lebanese dressing, and lots of others I can't spell without looking at my great-grandmother's cookbook. I've learned to prepare and cook these foods because they make me feel happy and I can't help but to think of my family.
Since I've met my husband, I've come to discover the foods from his childhood that invoke positive emotions in him and I've done my best to learn how to cook those too. For example, he loves his Aunt Sandy's cookies ~ I mean loves them! So, one day I asked Aunt Sandy if she would come and teach me how to make them, so Danny would always be able have them. She did and I'm so thankful. I've tried to do that with almost all the foods that bring him comfort (homemade pasta, sauce, soups, breaded chicken). He's gotten to the point now, where he tells me: "hey, you need to learn how to make this." I'll never have the incredible talents of these dynamic ladies, but I'm trying and they're awesome about teaching me. Plus, I love just hanging out with them.
Given this is a women's health article, Brockenbrough also talks about our negative associations with food that stem from our childhood and how eating is just an emotional experience (good or bad). I have negative issues with food too and I'm very conscious about not passing them onto my son. I can't eat oatmeal. There was a time where if it was even put near my mouth I would gag. When I was a young child, I didn't want to eat my oatmeal and my mother's boyfriend put his dirty socks in my face and told me that if I didn't eat that oatmeal he'd stick them in my mouth. The thought of it even now repulses me. I have no idea how old I was, but that moment has never left me. I ate my oatmeal that day, for the last time. I've tried repeatedly to eat it, but I just can't. At least now, I'll taste Nathan's to make sure it's not too hot, but that's about the extent of it. I know this is my story, but I'm sure many of you reading this could probably give your own account of a life altering food experience that haunts you. I'm trying to move past mine. I hope you can too. I refuse to pass this onto my son ~ he eats oatmeal many mornings and loves it. I will not make him eat anything he doesn't want to. I will never make him eat food for breakfast that he didn't finish for dinner or make him sit at the table until he eats his what's on his plate and neither will anyone else. Ever.
With that said, I find comfort in the knowledge that he'll pick up our eating habits and preferences, so he'll be just fine. What three year old do you know that loves smoked salmon, green salad, and extra sharp cheddar cheese? :-) Our son has a very established palate!
Now, what am I going to make for dinner?