Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What's a bean worth to you?

What do you eat? Is it good? Does it fill you up? More importantly, is it good for you? Food has been an obsession for Americans. The last 15 years the trend in foodie-ness has grown to become an impressive industry. Television networks have produced stars out strangers and manufactured their own lines of kitchen wares. All of this is great. I love watching those cooking shows and learning new ways to put meals together. Then again so do many people.

Often we forget how different we are from one another. Whereas I assume every family is home dining together over a fresh cooked meal I am grossly mistaken. Yes, the part about the dining together is generally true. That does happen for many, at least once a week. It's the part about eating a fresh cooked meal that I am far too generous in my assumption. Before I go on, I'll define my idea of "fresh cooked meal". A fresh cooked meal is a meal that has been prepared with raw ingredients using little or no convenience or pre-made heat and serve foods. To further illustrate what I mean: using raw chicken, uncooked rice, frozen peas, fresh herbs, butter and spices to prepare an easy meal. I understand not everyone likes to cook. I understand that many claim they do not have any time to cook. I have heard that it's more expensive to cook with fresh produce and meat. It has all been said before. All I hear are excuses. Liking to cook or not, every human being should know how to make a meal with raw meat (not if you're veg), dried beans/pasta/rice and fresh produce. Opening a box or can to heat their contents in a microwave does not count as a skill, nor do I consider it counting as cooking. That's being a robot. Being a robot is easy it requires little thought. Humans are not robots and most of that food in a box is unsuitable for us to eat numerous times a week every year. We are so foolish to believe that those "healthy" boxed frozen meals are anything but healthy. Convenient yes, tasty maybe, but healthy no. They are not something we should be basing our weekly nutrition around. Cooking is not difficult. It may be foreign and strange to some but it is not difficult. If you can read a recipe then you have a wealth of choices at your hands. There are so many books and programs for every level of cook, as well as taste. A well balanced fresh meal can be made in 30-40 minutes. It's better for you and it will taste so much better than anything out of a box.

When my girls were small I worked full time with an average daily commute of 4 hours. I was tired all the time. I had two energetic girls (22 months age difference) that needed to be fed and cared for and above all else loved dearly. Factor in all the other household tasks and you've got yourself a busy Mother. I had tremendous help from my husband so it wasn't all me all the time but he too worked long days which left us exhausted by week's end. Despite my endless list of to-dos I made it a point to cook a decent meal for our family. In the beginning I worked early in the day which left Keith to drop off the girls at daycare. I picked them up and would begin supper. Eventually my new job changed our lifestyle and he left early and I came home late. We adjusted as needed yet still a good supper was made at least 3 times a week. I made it a point to choose meals that could be converted into leftovers or as a base for another meal. That was my priority; Good food for the family. Nutrition should be every family's priority. If it is not then you need to make it a focus.

I've been thinking about cooking and what opened my eyes was the Jamie Oliver program. Baffled, sad, frustrated, thankful, hopeful. Those were all the feelings I had after watching that premiere. I am aware that there is a good amount of sensationalism, it is an expected part of today's programming. Still take away some of the exaggeration-ish-ness and there is plenty to ponder on. That people are eating dreadful things every day all the time is mind boggling to me. Sure, fried chicken is goooood, cake is gooood, chips are goood, fries are goood, pizza is gooood; but every day or every week that's not good. I love to splurge and eat horribly now and again but afterward I feel awful. I'll bet some of you do too and just assume it's indigestion or over eating that makes you feel icky after eating that crap. It's not any of that it's your body trying to tell you that you just ate some crap and it does not like it at all. For as confused as I was about the eating habits of some of the featured townspeople I was more concerned with how the USDA's school lunch program is so misguided. French fries = vegetable to them! What the heck? Potato = starch more than anything else. Especially if it is fried! Amazing. It was amazing to see how this school system judges vegetables and servings. Clearly it's outdated and miserably misguided. I am so very glad that my girls pack 95% of the time. They have decided to take leftovers just like Daddy and after watching this show I am so glad they are packing. If you have not watched this program give it a try, actually if you have school aged children you MUST watch it. Your very own school may be serving similar food and your child is eating too much processed lunches. Kids won't eat what they don't know. I know they are picky but eating fries, chicken nuggets, pizza, and hot dogs every week is not good for their growing bodies. I guess the real question is do you depend on the school lunch to provide a more significant amount of nutrition than you yourself provides them? If yes then perhaps you should find out what they are eating. I suspect that many families eat the same sort of meals at supper time which means that on a whole many families are nearly nutrient deficient. That's strange to think about Americans being malnourished. Food is so readily available yet it seems that we are on our way becoming ill and weak from the food we consume. If you depend on heat and serve meals to feed your family every day then I think it's time to reconsider what you call supper.

Try something different. If you already cook meals try a new vegetable. Make a meal that is almost all veg, fruit and beans and little or no meat. Eat whole grain rice, wheat berries, or bulgur. I bet once you try eating this way and let your body have those chemical free foods that you will begin to feel better. Your mood will lighten and you might even lose a few pounds. The extra bonus is your heart will benefit from the extra veggies and you just might be around longer to enjoy your family and friends.

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