Part One: Conscious Cooking
“Food is our common ground, a universal experience”
So many books on food have been published in the past few years. Most of these seem to be focused on weight loss in one form or another. There are books that help you count calories, carbs, glycemic points and pH values. You can make food choices based on your blood type. You can eat all the bacon you want, but stay away from the potatoes. You can eat all the potatoes you want, as long as you only combine them with other vegetables. Only eat vegetables. Only eat fruit. Don’t eat anything after 4:00pm.
It’s exhausting and more then a little confusing. Especially when it is compared to the other message heard loud and clear in our society which is to consume as much easy, quick, sugar-laden foods as possible, and yes, I would like to Supersize that. No wonder most diet plans go up in a chocolate-binging blaze by Tuesday night.
These contradictory messages are also heard by our children. Children lack knowledge and life-experience to understand the biochemical reactions that happen in their bodies when they eat. It is easy to get caught up in dysfunctional attitudes towards food and food preparation, but these don’t appear to be doing anything good for our kids. Everywhere we turn people are worried about the fact that childhood obesity is at an all time high. What used to be referred to as “adult onset diabetes” is now seen in kids under the age of ten. Obesity is about to overtake smoking as the number one preventable cause of death in North America. The average North American child sees roughly 7 000 – 10 000 television commercials annually for food, and the vast majority of these are for sugary cereals, candy, pop and fast food. We live in a fast-paced society, and it is very easy for kids to get caught up in fast-food culture. How do parents instill a positive message in kids in light of these trends? Add to that the fact that they are born with a sweet tooth. They are told to eat every bite on their plate, but thanks to the rise in numbers for childhood obesity, many are now forced to ‘weigh in’ in gym class in front of their peers. The end result is that kids are extremely confused about food and their health and their parents are often unable to help them.
This is not a diet book. Even though in publishing terms it would probably be a smart idea to turn it into one, since people seem to keep buying them; I don’t think I could write a diet book, and certainly not with a straight face. Rather, this is a book about food and its role in a child’s life.
I love food. I come from a family that loves food, and that, like many families around the world, uses food as a way of nurturing each other. Most of my childhood memories surround dinner tables, picnic blankets and kitchen stoves. My great-grandmother at the age of 93 offering me goodies from her contraband stash in a nursing home because she just could not feel comfortable without giving a guest a little something. My dad grilling freshly caught kokanee on a camp fire. My mother letting me ice the cake (and the floor, and the chair, and the ceiling).
As a mother myself, food is one of the ways that I show love for my little monkeys. No, this is not one of those “oh you’re hurt, have a cookie” things. Love is shown in purchasing the best quality organic food I can find. In taking the time to show them the skills needed to put together a meal, and in putting love into the food that we make together.
Food has a special place in our hearts culturally, which is something that anthropologists have been aware of for years. In order to understand a group culture, look at when, how and what they eat. In our society, we have done away with many of the cultural rules that used to dominate when it came to food. I’m sure those of the Victorian age would wash their hands of all of us dirty savages! But have you ever thrown a party and noticed that everyone seems to end up in the kitchen? Many of my closest friends have told me in the past that they love watching me cook. I always used to ask why, flustered at the idea, and no one was ever really able to tell me. Now, knowing what I do about the energy that we impart into everything we do, I think I understand. These friends were picking up on the intention that I unconsciously had, that went into every bite that they ate.
Because of this, I use the phrase “conscious cooking”. Conscious cooking is a nutritious, loving and joyful way to prepare food. It’s a gift that we can all give to those around us. It’s a gift to each cell in your body. And what’s really great about it is you don’t have to memorize any charts or try to add up how many ‘points’ you ate at lunch. You don’t even have to be a good cook (though I’ll admit, it does help)! All you need are the right intentions.
When we start with this conscious attitude and add solid knowledge about nutrition and what cells need in order to learn and function at their best, we have a recipe for healthy families. The first part is easier for kids then for adults. Babies love food and have no negative associations with it. All of the negative connotations that come with eating are learned behaviors. Because of the unique neurological flexibility that children have these learned behaviors can change rapidly to something more positive.
Nutritional knowledge is easily absorbed when kids get to work with food in the kitchen, or grow it in a garden. Kids can be very tuned into their bodies and are quickly alerted when there is something wrong. Giving them tools to help themselves feel better is very empowering and has long term health benefits.
I’m not a scientist or a doctor; I work in a natural health centre with other practitioners helping people explore and enhance their own health. Many of my clients are children, ranging from babies only a few weeks old whose mothers bring them in because they won’t stop crying, to older kids with learning difficulties, to teenagers with eating disorders and everything in between. The language and stories that I use throughout this book are the ones that my clients seem to relate to the best when they are in my office. Medical terminology is great if you want to intimidate somebody but does not serve at all to bring people closer or make them feel good about what is happening in their body. And you should feel good about what is happening in there, because it is the most amazing and complex process in the known universe.
I am a mom of twins that are six-years-old and I know that it isn’t always easy to prepare healthy meals. Especially when you come home tired. But it isn’t as hard as we have been told. Many of us grew up in the age when convenience foods and microwaves were brand new and almost seemed like part of the feminist revolution – freeing women from hours slaving in front of a hot oven and allowing them to go get fulfilling careers instead. We have been told that we deserve to take a break and let a drive through window take care of us, in fact, that this is the only sensible thing for a busy mom to do and that our kids will adore us for it! By these are lies perpetuated by a multi-billion dollar industry that makes a fortune by pushing this idea. Healthy, conscious cooking can become a real part of your life and it doesn’t have to take up a huge amount of time.
This is a journey we are all on together!