Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

“God could not be everywhere, so he created mothers.” 
-Jewish Proverb

            Today is Mother’s Day. Moms over the world will be getting burnt toast, spilled juice and hastily wrapped gifts on their beds. Not me. My Danish husband says that in Denmark they don’t have Mother’s Day, ergo, no Mother’s Day breakfast in bed for me. Just another Sunday where I have to cook my own breakfast. If I had only known this when we got married…
            My husband’s line every year is “Well, every day is Mother’s Day in our house.” It should be. Moms are the unsung heroes of school homework, Halloween costumes, bicycle boo-boos and for many, food. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Time Use Survey, on an average day, 85% of women spent about 2.6 hours on household activities. 68% percent of women were responsible for cooking in their households. The numbers were 67% and 40%, respectively, for men. Better numbers than decades past, but moms are still doing the hard work at home.
            I know I do. I do 95% of the cooking in the house (granted, it’s an occupational hazard for me!). And for my mother, it was 100%. Because I took a natural interest in cooking, and thus learned to cook at an early age. My sister, on the other hand, never figured it out. She didn’t want to cook, didn’t learn to cook and now is the queen of take-out.
            According to the USDA, Americans eat out an average four to five times a week. Twenty percent of American teenagers, according to a 2003 Gallup survey, eat fast food either “every day” or “several times a week.”[1]  While the deleterious effects of fast food are fairly well known, eating out, in general, isn’t doing much for the nation’s health. A study examining the caloric intake of individuals concluded that any form of eating out was problematic from a nutritional point of view.[2] The amount of calories, sodium, and fat are all consumed in larger quantities.  Simply put, eating out is going to be unhealthy for you.
            This is not to suggest that it’s “all your fault.” Do you know why mashed potatoes at your favorite place are so damn good? It’s butter. Ungodly amounts of butter. Remember McDonald’s fries as a kid? They were tasty. But they were also fried in beef tallow-artery clogging, cholesterol rising, saturated fun. Even if you go on the salad route, you will also be deterred usually with fatty dressings.
            Yes, there is a lot of blame to go around. But I do have a solution. And it does not involve calling your Congressman (even though that is good), going on some crazy diet, or doing a José Bové and destroying a McDonalds in southwest France.  And my solution comes from a grey haired academic from NYU:
“If you really want to do something revolutionary, teach your kids to cook.”[3]
            Genius, isn’t it? Teach your kids to cook, and they will know that food does not come from a scary looking red-haired clown. Teach your kids to cook, and they will see exactly what goes into their meals. Teach your kids to cook, and they will not have to fear vegetables. Teach your kids to cook, and they will be healthier later in life.
            I know that teaching your child to cook will not solve all the problems with our food system. There is still much to be done. But teaching your kids to cook is the one of the greatest gifts a mother can give a child.[4] They will carry these skills for the rest of their lives. And more importantly, when they become adults, they will know how to take responsibility for their health – whether you are there or not.
And on this Mother’s Day, I thank my mom for teaching me how to cook. I hope to do the same for my daughter. And for other Moms out there, maybe you’ll get Eggs Benedict next year for Mothers’ Day, instead burnt toast.

Happy Mother’s Day!

NB: No recipe for today. I’m not cooking!

[2]Binkley, James K., “Calorie and Gram Differences between Meals at Fast Food and Table Service Restaurants” Appl. Econ. Perspect. Pol. (2008) 30(4): 750-763.
[3] Nestle, Marion. Future of Food Conference. Georgetown University. Washington D.C. 4 May 2011.
[4] I am not suggesting that Moms are the only ones out there that should teach their kids to cook. Dads need to get in the picture too. And while they are at it, maybe those Dads should cook more so Mom gets a break.
Enhanced by Zemanta