There is a commercial being promulgated over the airwaves, where a mother is shopping with her pre-teen. They come upon a display for a product and are offered a free sample. As the child eats the product and seems to relish it, the saleswoman attempts to impress upon the mother the healthy qualities of the product by emphasizing that each serving contains the daily requirement of vegetables, but each time the saleswoman comes close to mentioning the word vegetables, the mother interrupts so that her child not become aware that he is actually consuming vegetables.
That is the wrong message. The message being that we somehow must disguise food — in this case, vegetables — in order to make it palatable. That is absurd. Moreover, the food media has assumed a very peculiar attitude when it actually encourages the masses to consume vegetables: It presents said vegetables at their blandest. It presents the dreaded stuff as just another unappetizing pile of green sitting on a plate, with a voice-over asking the rhetorical question, Is your family not eating their vegetables? Well, no, not in this state, we’re not! Who came up with this idea steaming vegetables? Yes, I know, the low-fat gurus of yesteryear. Those same fanatics who are promoting the no-salt, no-sugar campaign. Sadly, what those folks do not seem to realize is that there are many ways to prepare food that is palatable, in fact, downright delicious, without resorting to mountains of sugar, butter, salt or other offenders. Yet, the food police would have you believe that the only way to get away from the fast food epidemic is to go to the opposite extreme and subsist on — you guessed it — rabbit food. Well, no wonder that poor mother wants to shield her child from thinking there are any vegetables hiding in that can of pasta!
We have become a people in love with convenience. We depend on fast food of all kinds to sustain our fast and busy lifestyle. Prepared frozen dinners, pizza, Big Macs, and all manner of packaged foods. We have eschewed preparing our own foods and relishing the creativity that goes into meal preparation. And yet, the cooking shows that are now popular are a spectacular place to relearn new habits; to reacquaint ourselves with the delectable bounty that is all around us. For example, instead of bland steamed broccoli, how about broccoli rabe, sauteed in a tablespoon of olive oil and some minced garlic, a soupcon of salt and pepper and a dash of lemon? Almost no fat, and tremendous nutritional content, not to mention delicious taste. Pair that with a filet of grilled salmon with a dash of soy sauce, a roast sweet potato and sliced fresh pineapple for dessert.
I applaud First Lady Obama for taking it upon herself to address the obesity epidemic in our schools. It is a step in the right direction. Candy machines in the hallways? Are you kidding? What have we come to?
The message to our children should be revamped. We should bend over backwards to teach them to cultivate whatever land remains around them, and to cultivate new tastes. Don’t disguise their food — learn to present it well. Learn to prepare it. Watch the cooking shows. Surround yourself with like-minded people. Frequent ethnic restaurants and learn their menus; ask their chefs how a particular dish was prepared. You might be pleasantly surprised.