Mommy the Food Facist

Before you go all judging me to be a crazy hippie freak who is determined to deprive her children of everything an American child deserves, please know that we are on vacation and my children had pop-tarts and sugar-in-a-bag instant oatmeal for breakfast. See, I love America just like you.

I have been studying a lot about food lately, you can check out the Suburban Harvest suggested reading list for the titles I have most appreciated. Information about food and our food supply can be alarming, and then paralyzing, and it’s tempting to stop up your ears with marshmellows (secret ingredients: beef and petroleum products) and say, “Hey, I don’t want to know.”

And of course ignorance is bliss, unless your ignorance makes you, your husband and your kids sick, fat and dead too early. Refusing to know the facts doesn’t make you immune from the consequences. Try it with the law of gravity sometime.

But then, what do you do with all that knowledge? You feel stuck and confused. You start feeling like nothing is safe, you don’t know who to trust, simply making dinner seems a psychologically overwhelming task, plus you don’t want to be the neighborhood food weirdo (like that crazy MamaMelodrama).

Then, after a few weeks (or days) of trying to feed your family “healthy” foods, you just bag it all and fall back on what you know: spaghetti, burritos, hamburgers, pizza, hot dogs, quesadillas, mac and cheese, repeat. Cold cereal, toast, instant oatmeal, cold cereal, toast, pancakes, repeat. Sandwich, sandwich, sandwich, sandwich–well, you get it.

What I like about these books is that they don’t just freak a person out, they give practical, normal-people answers and solutions. They get me excited about making feeding my family part of my parenting and teaching, instead of a solitary, unappreciated chore. (A chore that’s normally done while barking threats and orders from the kitchen demanding that, for the last time, they stop playing Shark in the living room because the floor is where feet belong, sharks or no, and there can be no more jumping from chair to couch.)

My children already think I’m a food facist because of such family rules as “No candy with breakfast” and “Three rolls do not count as dinner.” So you can only imagine how they feel about my new rule: “Our family eats food.”

From the time my kids are babies tootling around on all fours, they start eating garbage off the floor. Even when I think my house is clean they locate some yucky, hairy ball of discarded nastiness and assume it is for their dining enjoyment. I also have older children who continue to be orally fixated, who crave tactile sensory stimulation in the form of chewing random things, in particular, water bottle lids, chomping them into what appear to be owl pellets. My constant mantra as I reposses these items from children small and large is, “That’s – not – FOOD!”

As you may be aware, our bodies are designed to eat food in order to function. As you may or may not be aware, there are increasing items in what we call our food, often in alarming amounts, which are not food at all, and our body doesn’t always know what to do with them. Sometimes they get flushed away, sometimes the body is very busy, and it has no idea what to do with the garbage it was just handed, so it just shoves it away in various places so it can go on with its work. (It’s the same as you and I do when we get mail that we’re not sure is garbage or filing.) Stuff piles up, then it gets ugly.

Because this is a family/parenting blog and food is a big part of raising a healthy family, I’ve decided to dedicate my Thursday posts to the subject of “That’s not food!” Where I can share what I’m learning about food (and things that aren’t food, that we eat anyway).

In the meantime, the short answer is, as much as possible, eat what your great-grandma ate. Because she probably ate food, and I’m confident that she wasn’t a crazy hippie freak at all.

For a wonderful, quick education on the subject, please take the time to read Michael Pollan’s article, Unhappy Meals.

PS. For those of you who don’t know me and already know this, I really am a crazy hippie freak. Had you going there thinking I was normal though for a second, didn’t I? Please still come visit me anyway. A crazy rant every now and then won’t hurt you.

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