Thinking about Food

My kids and I share an interest in food– in cooking, nutrition, environmental and justice issues in food production and distribution, and a passion for delicious vegetable dishes. All three of them are vegetarians. Our family is big on vegetables and fruit.

So when my eldest son read my blog post about my 1981 road trip (“A Mom’s Growing up Lesson”), he commented: “You brought broiled chicken legs with you on your road trip? The times they are a changin…”

Yes, they are. I now travel with nuts and fruit and vegetables (and I endure plenty of teasing for the fare I carry in my suitcases.) But more than that, I view food completely differently than I could have ever imagined just a decade ago.

Back then, when the Atkins Diet was all the rage, I ate salami and eggs for breakfast and dined on, dare I say it, hot dogs for an easy dinner. (No wonder my kids became vegetarians!) Having learned the pitfalls of that diet and the limitations of several others, I now avoid red meat, most starches, processed foods and sugar or sweetening, and I consume little salt. Vegetables and fruit appear in all of my meals, with careful concern for nutritional balance. I also eat only kosher poultry, preferring organic free-range choices to standard kosher chicken.

I am not an easy dinner guest, I am sorry to say. I don’t want to be a burden, but I feel very strongly that I have to control what goes into my body. I try to be polite about this, offering to bring food, and some people understand and appreciate this better than others.

But this is not just about me. It is about the way we produce and consume food in this country. I lost my grandfather, my father, and my brother, each to heart attacks in their early 50’s, following diabetes. My losses have made me meshugenah about nutrition and health. I am deeply concerned about our American diet of salt, sugar, fat, carbohydrate overloads, outsized portion sizes and lots of meat. We talk about getting a grip on what we eat, but until we tackle the deeper cultural issues, it will remain very difficult to recalibrate our way of life healthfully. It is not easy to be counter-culture.

Food issues go further, including: the ethics and climate-change issues resulting from mass meat production, food distribution, the wasting of food in America, and staggering statistics about hunger in our country and abroad.

There is a new and growing food movement that aims to take these problems apart and put our food culture back together in a better way. I applaud the work of Hazon, for example. I am proud of my kids for getting involved in this.

I am glad that my kids share this passion with me – a new generation can begin to right the wrongs of those who preceded us. And in the meantime, I’ve got to run back to the kitchen — it’s time to take the roasted red cabbage from the oven. Yummy!