Izzy (and Mama) Eat: The Gourmand Grows up...

Tales of Empty Nesting ...The Next Chapter

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Don't Blame Them: Children Are Beautiful No Matter What They Eat

In a recent post, a reader chides me for my supposed disregard for children who are victims of natural disasters or those raised in poverty. In response...

Dear Ms."Wonder Why You Keep Reading",

On a daily basis, we are bombarded with heartbreaking news the world over. From children of famine to disaster victims deprived of proper food. No question that hearing about these hideous circumstances causes us all to pause and to be ever thankful for what we do have and to help in our own ways.

Heartwarming stories which emerge from these sad times also help us process the horrors. One such story was highlighted in today's news. It is the tale of an heroic Chinese woman. She breastfed nine children (not her own) as she led them from the disaster. She herself did not consider the act to be noteworthy, yet she gave those children a gift. She offered them the perfect food, to help them through this crisis . This story comes to mind because the way we think about feeding our children begins there. Many Americans might be surprised at what she did or find it unimaginable. I would have done what she did in an instant.

Breast milk is the first, ideal food for human infants. The sad fact is that most American women do not breastfeed their babies beyond six months of age. Some don't even give breastfeeding a chance at all. Instead they turn to industrially produced formula. When it is time for solid foods and snacks they give their children processed puffs and jarred baby foods.

How and why parents choose to feed their delightful, intelligent children in this way pains me. Of course the children eating goldfish are beautiful as are those drinking from a bottle. Have I ever suggested otherwise? You are missing the point completely if you think I look askance at these children. I adore children and only wish that what they ate matched their beauty. For there can be so much wonder and excitement to be found in nourishing foods.

Why in our land of plenty do so many parents continue to feed their babies formula and their children junk food on a regular basis? There are numerous reasons, stemming from government subsidies, big business marketing strategies and a myriad of other causes too lengthy to go into (see Michael Pollan's, In Defense of Food) in this post. Suffice it to say that many parents are simply misguided.

Food prices are continually on the rise and in other countries staple items such as rice are becoming prohibitively expensive. What is truly shocking (aside from the "horror" you find in my blog) is that Americans waste a pound of food per person daily. The way we choose to feed our families and children can help us all play a role in reducing that number.

For starters, teach your children to revere what they eat. To be thankful for wholesome foods instead of mindless snacks. To appreciate the beauty of a fresh carrot, a ripe peach, a homemade loaf of bread. Let them see the time and energy it takes to prepare a homemade meal rather than one that came from a box, jar or fast food restaurant. Help your children understand where their food comes from. Most importantly, teach them to make wise food choices.

My hero Alice Waters has been working diligently to change the way school children think about food. She so eloquently makes a case for teaching children to respect themselves through what they eat. She raised her daughter Fanny, while working at her renowned restaurant Chez Panisse. Given that Alice travels with her own olive oil, I can easily surmise that goldfish rarely, if ever, passed her daughter's lips. I strive to do the same for Izzy.

Izzy's Mama


Anonymous said...

BRAVO. I am truly proud of you.


Anonymous said...

You rock!

Okay, I totally missed the whole controversy. How dare you have a controversy while I'm out of the country and away from the internet!

Anyway, I think what your readers (me included) love about you is that you are so passionate and dedicated about the kinds of foods you give Izzy. You are a true advocate and you walk the walk.

I think many of us aspire to what you are doing. I also know that many of us fall short (soooo me included) but I still think of you as the model, even when I'm feeding my kids something I know would make you grimace in horror...Really, like when my kids were eating McDonald's at the airport, I was thinking of you. No lie.

So carry on sister! We're all watching you!


Anonymous said...

Dear Izzy Mama~

Very well said. The media and heavy industralisation have created a terrifying landscape for our children to grow up in.

Food is no longer worth more then how cute or exciting the packaging is, as such, more money is thrown into advertising and packaging rather then bringing our children real, nutrient worthy food.

Building strong set core value and belief within children to appreciate food is a daunting task, but the returns are immeasurable.

I have a young niece and i press my sis to feed only real home prepared food or at least minimally processed food. Now she is growing up well, strong and chubby!

Keep up the good effort!

Izzy's Mama said...

R.: Thanks for the support.

Yummy Mummy: You are so right. It is all about aspirations. Even I don't meet my own expectations but I do try.

Celeste: Your niece is lucky to have you looking out for her..sounds like you are a great influence to have around!

Anonymous said...

I also missed the controversy.

My sister is my polar opposite on food. For us, it comes down to bananas. She never thought to actually peel and mash a banana for her kids ... she bought them jarred bananas. (I avoided all jarred foods, but I have to say, it's the bananas that I always found most repellent.) She thinks I'm weird for mashing the banana, roasting the sweet potato, pureeing the carrots. She thinks I'm "gross" for breastfeeding. How can this be weird? How can THAT be the norm?

Izzy's Mama said...

Eileen: I can't believe that about the bananas. Jarred bananas shouldn't even exist!

It is also surprising to hear women say that breastfeeding is "gross". A sad commentary on our society to be sure.