Why isn’t cooking in schools compulsory? Why do we not engage our kids at home to join in on the process of what has to be one of the most highly pleasurable experiences known to man? Most of us don’t treat food as just fuel; we love chewing the fat over a bowl of spaghetti, we get nostalgic about certain foods from our childhood, we take great pleasure from feeding people, yet so many of us don’t include the kids.
Before you start railing against me and my middle class, childless attitudes and bang on about the stresses of life and how it’s all rush, rush, rush, I urge you to get your priorities right. It is a commonly held view amongst experts that children who see their parents cook are far less likely to eat junk food and have weight problems. Those that eat together as a family are also far less likely to be have problems of obesity. The problem is far greater in the UK than most places in Europe because we don’t have the culture of eating together. We have large pockets of poverty where people are buying four meat pies for a couple of quid and a mountain of chips for pence form freezer compartments. Depression, poverty and inertia and are all linked and it’s going to be virtually impossible for anyone to stop the rot.
I recently spent an evening with some kids at a youth club. Typically surly at the start, I had to grit my teeth whilst watching the over lipsticked girls masticating their chewing gum and looking gooey eyed at the boys. By the end of the session, all of them stood back to see what they had produced and were damned proud to show their parents and youth workers what they had accomplished. We put together a simple chili con carne, served with home made guacamole, a tomato and coriander salsa, some cheese and sour cream to go with it all. It looked lovely and I can’t tell you how it made me feel to see the kids waiting with bated breath for the reaction from their parents. They were as proud as Punch and it gave me hope.
I have heard of a few healthy eating programmes about to be launched in my local area that I hope will have a lasting impact. I gave a talk last year at the local library about eating well on a budget – there wasn’t any money to market it so the turn out was depressingly low. One of the attendees asked a librarian where the talk was and she was told there wasn’t one. Need I say more?