In the never-ending national debate about childhood obesity and getting children to eat healthier, here’s a way. Put fresh food on a stick and call it a snack…or dessert. This compelling photo from The Economist (Feb. 5 issue) references a new book called The Taste of War: World War Two and the Battle for Food, written by Lizzie Collingham. And while food shortage does not enter today’s dialogue (there are ample calories available), it is the availability of fresh, unprocessed, whole foods at affordable prices that is in short supply or, worse yet, unavailable in the neighborhoods that need it most. But maybe that is only part of the fractured mirror that reflects the eating habits of most Americans. I suggest we change our idea of what delicious and desirable is. Not long ago, I had the pleasure of cooking with a young man, about 8 years old. He loved to cook and he loved to bake. My book for children, Kids Cook 1-2-3, had just been published and young GB was eagerly awaiting our appointed time in his kitchen in his family’s country home. We laughed and measured and whipped and beat whole eggs, and carefully melted chocolate and sweet butter for our flourless chocolate mousse cake. It was magical to watch three simple ingredients (all organic, too!) transform themselves into a delectable form that oozed in the center yet could be cut with a knife. After baking the cake and waiting for it to cool, the time had come. With great anticipation, I cut the warm confection and offered a nice slice to GB. With the grace of a young prince, and all due respect to me, GB simply said…I’d rather have carrots. Now that’s a way to win a war.
With all the work that Ms. Obama is doing, and it’s great work, the real battle resides at home. It’s marvelous for food manufacturers to reduce salt and sugar and taper portion sizes, but the criteria for “healthy eating” is a moving target. At home, and in my book for teens called Eat Fresh Food: Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs, our mantra is simply this: FRESH. F=farmer-friendly, R=ripe-ready, E=easy, exciting, S=sustainable, H=honest-healthy. If your cooking at home represents at least two of these factors, then you, too, may win the war.