Today was a super exciting day in the Tien family household – we harvested our first potatoes out of the garden! All of us were equally excited to push aside the mounds of straw and dirt, revealing the pale, speckled Kennebecs hiding in the soil. My 4 year old son was jumping all around calling out “Get another big one! Get another big one!” and my1.5 year old daughter was clapping with glee. Many of the potatoes were still just the size of a fava bean, but a few were quite large and are now sitting on our counter waiting to be roasted with lemon thyme from our herb bed and candy onions that we picked up at our farmers market yesterday morning.
I take inordinate pleasure from my children’s delight with our garden. Ick factor aside, it’s pretty great that I can hardly stop my son from popping our Lacinato kale in his mouth before first checking for cabbage loopers, cross-striped cabbageworm and other assorted creepy-crawlies. Our philosophy has always been that they are offered what we are eating, and through exposure, will learn to appreciate beautiful food. I have never understood the dumbing down of food and music for children. The bar for their sense of adventure for either is as low as we are willing to set it. Our children are just as likely to have a dance party to Bach’s Magnificat as they are to Doc McStuffin’s theme song.
Children’s menus just bewilder me. It is as if someone has bled all the color and joy out of the food before plating it and you are left with something that is a symphony in brown. The other day we were traveling and out of necessity stopped at a bakery-café chain restaurant for lunch. Generally, I think they have plenty of offerings that I would consider real food (fresh baked bread, piles of veggies). And they certainly attempt to make the kids meals healthy and nourishing (soups, salads, fresh fruit), but when I peered over the counter as the guy was making the sandwich and saw the little triangles of white bread with a smear of hummus and very little else I felt, well, sad really. On my request, he threw in some fresh spinach, but it didn’t go very far in rendering the sandwich appealing. As I set my husband’s hummus sandwich (thick slices of juicy tomato, dark green lettuce leaves, peppers, cucumber, red onion all on fresh baked tomato basil bread) in front of him proceeded by Taran’s watered down version of the same, I knew what was coming….”I want Daddy’s. It looks much prettier”.
I’m not claiming that my children are never picky or that we don’t battle over at least 50% of our meals. They are 1.5 and 4 after all. I think they see it as their duty to occasionally pitch their food off their plates, or at least pitch a fit about the offerings. It keeps life interesting. But I like to think that as they fill a basket of carrots and chard from our garden and participate with me as we transform them into a Tuscan white bean soup, that they appreciate their food a little better, but also the world a little better. Because food isn’t just about health and nourishment – food is culture, food is memory, food is love.
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