Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The 2 Great Food Fights of 2011

It's no secret that I am a conflicted individual when it comes to food. I spend a portion of my days serving up fast food to carb, fat, sugar addicted individuals. I cringe everyday actually that I dawn that polyester uniform and visor. While I realise that my tenure within the establishment was always meant as a temporary solution to an employment problem the guilt is immense.

I can not tell you how many times a day I want to say "have a nice day, I do apologize for contributing to your health crisis. Could I ask you not to come again? Perhaps we could meet out back and I could share some healthy eating suggestions. Please stop killing yourself." 

I really want to say this but I don't because truthfully, I need this job for another couple of months until my real job transitions into it's full-time status. I need this job serving bad food so that I can put good food on my table and into my children.

I remember when I took the job initially. My kids laughed, they didn't believe me. They were concerned that I would have an emotional melt down going to the job on a daily basis, they said "isn't that hypocritical?" then they said "You're not going to bring it home are you?"

I felt wonderful. Food fight #1 the daily internal conflict of how I live vs. how I finance it.

Food Fight # 2 is more of a real time battle. Filled with strategy, culinary weaponry and convert operations. I've never gone to war over food in our home. My children eat every vegetable and fruit imaginable (except brussel sprouts, for which I also harbour a strong dislike, so we don't argue) It's been a simple matter of what's been offered up since day one. Babyfood started with vegetables for entree and fruit for dessert, fruits and veggies were the snacks provided to toddlers. Dinner always includes veggies. Lunches get bagged everyday so that lunch away from home is nutritious too. As a result our kids reach for their 5 to 10 without a second thought. Sure they enjoy sweet snacks too but it's a balancing act.

Okay perhaps kids who eat lamb, seafood and quinoa may seem a tad alien to most people but I promise dinners are peaceful. No vegetable battles. Until recently...

Circumstances within our extended family have brought our 3 young nephews to share our home on a routine basis. I was prepared for the changes in family schedule Wednesdays and alternate weekends. I was prepared for the time, patience, laundry, sleeping arrangements and toy chaos. I was not prepared for 'culinary warfare.'

Off the list: carrots, beans, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, apples, oranges, pears, lettuce, peppers, onions, plums, kiwi, pineapple, broccoli, mushrooms, watermelon, cantaloupe.....perhaps a list of accepted food would be shorter. On the list: Chicken nuggets, French fries, hotdogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, bananas, milk, cookies, dunkaroos, fruit gummy snacks, juice, crackers....well you get the idea.

I was stunned. Determined to introduce my love of healthy food to my young impressionable nephews, they have no idea what they are missing.

It was quickly evident with the number of beans, grapes and peas stuffed in pant legs and pockets, the apples flushed down the toilet and the sweepings from the floor that a little creative presentation was necessary.

First we went to the grocery store so that I could get a handle on what they did like to eat. Maybe they had a palette for fruits and veggies, perhaps I just wasn't stocking the fridge with what they like. Well that was an eye opening mission, clearly I wasn't off track in my assumptions and since I wasn't willing to stock my cupboards with cheezies and dingdongs I had my work cut out for me.

Time to built my arsenal...

I use my kids. I take no shame in dragging them into the conflict. I use their names and food choices. I hold them up as examples of kids choosing good foods.

I use my kitchen. I give everybody meal preparation jobs. cutting, washing, setting the table. Anything to give them ownership of what was going on the table and hopefully into their mouths.

I make sure I offer something I know they will eat along with one or two items I am sceptical of.

I choose basics. No sense going for avocado if I can't get them to eat apples.

We make muffins and rice cereal treats. Yes, I use their own creations against them. These items have become rewards for trying something new at any given meal.

I employed flexibility. The request is that you try everything at least. If you really don't like it you don't have to clean your plate of it but you have to taste it at least.

We have specified battle times. Lunch and Dinner.

So far the Food Fight seems to be going at an even draw although I think I may be gaining ground. My table picnics and grocery store games are having some positive affects on our mutual understanding.

In 8 short weeks we have moved carrots, peppers, peas, corn, pears, tomato sauce (cleverly disguising mushrooms, onions and celery) savory sauces and perhaps the greatest accomplishment FISH onto the accepted foods list!!!! granted the fish was disguised as "fingers" but they know what they were eating and I think we might be able to serve some sans breading!

The War is far from won but we celebrate every minor victory with high fives and mentions of pride. I think we might actually be fighting on the same team to some degree. The struggle is that the time we have to expose their tastebuds to different foods is limited. The day is not far off when they will leave our table save for the occasional visit for dinner. The goal is to change there perception of food so that they are risk takers, willing to try things they haven't before.

So those are the 2 great Food Fights of 2011. One internal and one active conflict. In an attempt to ease my conscious a wee bit and to further fuel my imaginative culinary weaponry I have signed on to Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Lula gave me the book as a gift for Christmas, knowing how I adore Jamie and my ever growing cookbook collection. Putting it All Into a Bowl of Chili was a post I made not too long ago around this book and I hope to do more. This is kind of why I chose Tuesday for this post. I was thinking about a weekly food centered offering...Tuesdays seem like a good day.

What do you think about Tuesday Foodday? Do you have food battles raging in your home? Any tips or tricks you're willing to pass along? I'd love to add your ideas to my arsenal!

Stop by The Food Revolution site and join your name in the pursuit of better eating!

Spend some moment everyday in reflection of gratitude and happiness. Even if the time found is standing in line for coffee...use is wisely.


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