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“Groundhog Day”, Maple Syrup and Healthier Kids

January 31, 2010

I don’t watch tv anymore, but I found myself in front of it for a few hours last night.  Nevermind the rerun of Groundhog Day, I was fascinated by the commercials.  I’ve gotten very committed to whole foods in the last couple years and these would be the first food commercials I’ve seen in a while.  It was interesting because I was watching these with a new worldview.  I suppose I just ignored them in the past.  Now I see how insidious they are, coaxing consumers to buy sugar-coated this or that.  I really love the lines that go kind of like this: “…healthy, nutritious snacks your kids will love…”  You know they’re not referring to, say, an apple.  Naw, it’s some mysterious processed “food” item that they spray with vitamins and minerals so they can call them “nutritious”.  Wow, outrageous.

I’m not writing about tv commercials though, I am writing about myself.  That glowing tube was sort of a big mirror, showing me how much I’ve changed.

I learned from my mother many years ago that the quality of your ingredients matters when cooking.  Garbage in, garbage out.  Yes, that chocolate cake may look like a chocolate cake, and it may actually have something brown labeled ‘chocolate’ in it, but it is not a chocolate cake up to my mom’s standards unless each individual ingredient, especially the chocolate, is high quality and tastes good on its own.  I understood that and it made me a “scratch” cook.  I would go out of my way to make things from scratch because I wanted to control each individual ingredient going in.

Now I have the same attitude…maybe a little more strident…but I have a lot of other reasons besides taste for eating and cooking that way.  You know the list:

–          Sustainable and better for the environment

–          Better for small, local farmers

–          Healthier, safer

Not to mention farmers are wonderful people and it’s really fun getting to know them!  In September I was in Viroqua, Wisconsin and bought maple syrup from an Amish farmer who hand-writes his name on his product — try to find that in the grocery store!  There is pride and integrity in this bottle…and not much more syrup, as you can see!

Amish maple syrup

So about those commercials.  I am convinced that the best way for society to improve our eating habits is not “top down” but rather by reaching out to the kids.  We need to teach kids how to eat healthier and value good food choices, good environmental choices and value their farmers.  I sat there thinking that maybe we need cool, hip commercials that suggest healthy foods.  Maybe all of us wanting to effect change should pool our buying power and buy tv commercials.  Could we nudge out the big processed food industry that way?

Probably not, they have a lot of money thanks to our farm subsidies.

But hey, the good news is that there are a bunch of wonderful non-profits and businesses working right here in Chicago to improve the mindset of our children!  I was lucky enough to attend a forum called Growing Healthy Kids last weekend organized by Melissa Graham of Purple Asparagus that brought together these groups.  It was a brain-storming session, a chance for them to get to know each other and learn about their efforts.  I would like to paraphrase an amazing guy, Seneca Kern, when he said:

“…we are not in competition; we are in co-op-etition.”

That is good news for our kids.  Good news for our overweight, diabetic world.  Melissa Graham and Seneca Kern and many others are “co-op-etiting” (pronounce that however you can!) to help effect change.  Seek out their organizations and donate to them.  Volunteer with them.  Invite them into your kids’ schools.  Thank them.

The goofy premise of Groundhog Day is that our protagonist is stuck in a daily limbo, forced to relive the same day over and over again, until he can learn to be a nicer person.  Give some thought as to whether you may be stuck in a limbo like that…and maybe you need to eat better.  It’s not hard.  Buy whole, fresh foods as close to the source as you can.  Nothing genetically modified (that inherently sounds wrong, doesn’t it?), animals that eat and range freely.  Buy only what’s in season.  Grow your own.  They taste wonderful and they’re good for you and, if you’re at least a little outgoing, you’ll meet a wonderful farmer…who’s not just a farmer…he’s a person.  You’ll meet a wonderful new person.  Life is about building relationships, isn’t it?

Melissa Graham/Purple Asparagus
Seneca Kern/We Farm America
One Comment leave one →
  1. Michelle Freno permalink
    February 1, 2010 1:41 pm

    Very good points here, Grant! As a mom of two kids who like “healthy food” (their term for meals made from scratch) more than McDonald’s, I can say from first-hand experience that even small children can learn the difference between food that not only tastes good, but is also good for you, and junk-food, no matter how it’s called/labeled.

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