WWEWWE – Seasonal

Why we eat what we eat – Part of the benefit of buying more locally grown food is that we are enjoying produce in season. It tastes better, and it’s more natural. Tomatoes in March were picked thousands of miles away, before they were ripe. A true conversation between some of my friends illustrated how out-of-touch we have become to the natural seasons of food.

Friend 1: I bought strawberries at the store yesterday but they were all hard and sour. My daughter wouldn’t even eat them. I don’t know what was wrong with them. I think I’m going to complain to the store.

Friend 2: They were bad because it’s March. It’s not strawberry season.

Friend 1: Season? What?

We are fortunate in Texas to have long growing seasons. Even in January, the tables at our farmer’s markets are filled with cauliflowers, spinach, mustard greens, brussels sprouts, lettuce, kale, turnips, herbs and cabbage.

I still get our fruit at the grocery store; bananas will never be local or seasonal in Texas unfortunately, but again this isn’t about some sort of food legalism. It’s just about making choices and small changes to improve our quality of food.

Eating seasonally not only tastes better – it’s good for the budget! Many items can be found for half the price when in season. This isn’t a new concept – check out this article featuring my very own grandmother in 1948.

I wish my grocery bill was $7 a week. Anyway, my grandma (and probably many of your grandmas, too) grew up in a farming community where seasonal eating was a normal way of life, not a news-worthy phenomenon.

Some of the local, seasonal foods we’re eating this week: melons, cucumbers, peaches, squash and tomatoes. And yesterday, our neighbor brought us some figs from their backyard (and some of their extra eggs, woohoo!) – now that’s local! What’s local and seasonal in your area?

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Raising good eaters

I’m excited to have my mom, Joyce Jordan, doing some guest writing on food topics. She is well-qualified as she raised three children with adventurous palates and served real food before real food was a movement. Today is a very applicable topic for me and many of my readers.

Diana asked me to provide some suggestions for helping children to be receptive to trying new foods. The more I thought about it, the broader the topic actually seemed to be. It’s more about creating a positive mealtime environment where the cook feels the freedom to experiment and the eaters have a common positive perspective on trying new things. There will be hits and misses (both for the cook and for the eaters) but there’s a unity about risking that first step into the unknown!

Make mealtime a family event

Have at least one meal each day where the entire family sits and eats together around the table. This is important for daily family bonding through a shared activity, and creates a time when the child is not necessarily the center of attention.

As a parent, model good mealtime skills

Whether it is table manners, eating your vegetables, trying unfamiliar foods, or being quiet while others talk, children will mimic what’s happening at mealtime.

Find a balance between old and new

Regularly prepare the foods that your family enjoys, and periodically sub in new recipes or new tastes. Too much that is too new all of the time will put the entire family into overload.

Don’t be afraid of flavor

Adding seasonings and spices helps kids to develop a broad palate from an early age. Have no fear of ginger, garlic, curry, citrus or pickles. Taste buds were created to enjoy flavors.

Choose your words carefully with new foods

Saying something like, “You may not like this” just sets up a negative situation. Overdoing the positive spin can also backfire. Sometimes with new foods, the best approach is to put it on the table without fanfare.

Allow your children the freedom to not like something

Everyone has foods that aren’t their favorites, and you need to appreciate when a child truly objects to a taste or texture. Those who know my family recall the unique challenges we encountered in this arena.

Remember that children’s preferences and taste buds will change over time

If a food gets rejected today, don’t overblow the situation or take it personally. Try again in a few months or a few years. Kids change their preferences and tolerances over time.

He obviously knew that putting the container onto the base was supposed to have a magical result.

Involve the children in some aspect of preparation

Having a hand in the preparation helps a child to be excited about what’s being served. It creates a feeling of ownership. They’re proud of their contribution, and they learn that the cook hopes that others enjoy the food.

“No thank-you” helpings

Think of this like a grocery store sample. As an alternative to totally refusing to eat something, kids who are around 5 and up can develop the gracious habit of taking a “no thank-you” helping. Just three bites, which is a very manageable quantity. Having this habit is a useful life skill.

Play with your food

Children are naturally curious, playful and creative. Take advantage of these attributes, and your children will enjoy new foods – get out of your own ruts of what you cook and eat!!! As George Bernard Shaw said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Artichokes, pomegranates, Cornish hens, crawfish, art on a plate and theme meals are all somewhere to start. When we all try something new together, we are sharing an adventure, which takes us back to square one of this blog entry!

WWEWWE – Local

In the last year, we’ve made more of an attempt to “eat locally.” We have always enjoyed eating at local restaurants, but we wanted to take that a step further and eat food that was grown in the area. We found out that many of our favorite restaurants get their produce from the same farmers we buy from at the farmer’s market.

While most of our food money still goes to HEB and Costco, we are trying to put more back into the local economy.

Along with the farmer’s market, we signed up to get CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) boxes. With a weekly or bi-weekly subscription, local farms will fill a box with freshly picked produce to be picked up. Part of the fun is that you don’t know what you’ll be getting – just that it will be seasonal and local. If you’ve been following along, I’ve chronicled the contents and end products of several boxes. A great menu-planning adventure to me!

Some benefits of buying local:

  • A typical carrot has to travel 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table. (source) Or I can buy one at the farmer’s market that traveled less than 50. The ones from our CSA travel 15 miles. That’s a lot of transportation resources saved.
  • Farmer’s markets enable farmers to keep 80-90 cents on the dollar spent by the consumer. (source)
  • The nutritional value of produce declines with time after it is picked. Therefore, spinach from the farmer’s market (or CSA) that was picked yesterday actually has more nutrients than spinach at the store that was picked a week ago. (source)
  • Local food has more variety – purple cauliflower, mustard greens, heirloom tomatoes, and types of apples I haven’t heard of.
  • It’s fun! We love to stroll through the tents and talk to people that grow food and make food and love food! This is a great opportunity for Hannah to learn about different types of food and feel more of a connection to what we eat.

Father’s Day 2012

We’re hoping for a Father’s Day this year with less dessert drama. I’m planning an easy meal of random favorites – nachos, stuffed mushrooms, stuffed jalapeños and sweet potato fries with just ice cream for dessert.

Since Hannah is much more verbal this year, I decided to give her a little quiz about Daddy.

What is Daddy’s name? Um, Daddy.

What does Daddy like? Candy, ice cream, coffee.

What does he do at work? Gets lemonade and works on computer problems.

What do you like to do with Daddy? Read a book, talk a walk.

What do you do on Daddy-daughter dates? Get some waffles.

So Happy Father’s Day, honey! You’re a great dad to our little girls. :)