This week I did a guest post for the blog of an amazing 12-year-old named Orren Fox. He asked me to explain why I care about food/why kids should care about food.
I think it's hard to tell someone why they should care about something. When I meet someone who doesn't give a damn about what they eat, I think about my own indifference to, say, football. Someone could sit me down and make me watch Rudy, or explain until they're blue in the face why this sport above all others is a prism for the human spirit or something like that. I am guessing, though, at the end of it all I'd still not really care that much about football.
So, is it possible to get someone to care about food? To put time into learning how to cook? And are the reasons a kid should care about food any different from why an adult should care about food? I believe strongly that we have a responsibility to provide kids with the tools to care, but I feel the same way about adults.
Anyway, for Orren's blog I came up with the following list:
I love cooking because I love ingredients: I get such a thrill from visiting farms and seeing how food grows. The first time I saw asparagus growing I was shocked to see the spears popping right up through the dirt. How had I not known that? At the farmers market I love seeing brussels sprouts still attached to the stalk, getting a lesson in how they grow, while I'm shopping. I love eating something when it's fresh -- right off the vine, right off the farm. The taste is unbelievable.
I love cooking because I love transformation: Cooking is science meets magic. Anyone who loves a good science experiment or an art project can appreciate the magic of a sharp raw onion sautéing down into something sweet and sugary. Or the incredible transformation of fresh basil, oil, parmiggiano cheese and pine nuts into pesto, a personal favorite of mine.
I love cooking because I love to share, to express my affection for friends and family through home-cooked meals: Cooking for people is a way to get people to hang out with you--it's true! When you offer people home cooked food, they come in droves and the conversation flows and by the end of the meal everyone knows each other a bit better, and everyone feels taken care of.
It turns out that there are unexpected side benefits, too.
Health: When you cook for yourself, you eat healthier. I don't do it for that reason, but it's a nice perk. Home cooking tends to use way less fat (er, butter mostly) and way less sodium than restaurant food or processed food in cans or the like. Also home cooking never uses weird ingredients/chemicals you can't pronounce. No nutrition labels necessary.
Knowledge: Understanding how things grow and how they get to our plate helps us understand community health, science and nature, and increases our connection to the earth and our awareness of ecological issues.