Condensed milk is wonderful. I don’t see how they can get a cow to sit down on those little cans. ~Fred Allen
Although Allen’s quote is comical, how much of a disconnect do we have with our food and how does this lack of relationship resonate with children?
In providing childcare to many different families over the years, I have heard many stories of children not understanding the origins of their food or experiencing varying stages of fear upon seeing a form of food that is not familiar to them.
Some toddlers have aversions to anything in its original form – apples, potatoes and tomatoes to name a few – yet they seem to love the byproducts – applesauce, French fries and ketchup. Do children know that there is a connection between these original foods and their byproducts? I believe that this connection is learned over the course of exposure and that it is beneficial for parents to help connect the proverbial dots for children.
While attending a conference earlier this year, a middle-aged woman admitted to me that when she was in elementary school she thought chickens trotted around farms on four legs. Much to her surprise, she experienced giggles and embarrassment when she showed her fellow classmates a picture of a chicken that she drew in art class: Her chicken was trotting around a barnyard with four legs rather than two. The now grown woman further went on to explain that she was born and raised in a city and never had exposure to farm animals. The only chicken that she knew was the pack of four chicken legs that her mother purchased at the store, thus her assumption that chickens had four legs.
Do you remember a time before individually portion-size bags of baby carrots? Regardless of your answer, chances are that your child does not. When I mention Carrot Top, do you automatically think of the comedian from the late 1990s rather than the edible and tasty leaves of the carrot? It is perfectly acceptable to admit that there is a disconnect between you and your food. In today’s society, we are time-constrained individuals with many competing priorities and we find comfort in doing things that are familiar. However, this baby carrot conundrum may cause some confusion for your little one.
To close, I’ll leave with you two of my own revelations that I had as an adult. Growing up in the coal towns and farming community of rural Pennsylvania, my family lived on a budget, but I had a mother who loved to cook. My family never consumed meat products on Fridays due to religious beliefs, so my mother always served some type fish – usually, tuna since it was relatively inexpensive. Over the course of my childhood, I grew to dislike tuna after having it twice on most Fridays – once in school and then at home for our family dinner. I remember sitting at the table, stalling and poking around at the pieces of tuna because they were different colors. The older I became, the more I was convinced that there were only so many ways that you could “dress” tuna up. This all changed when I was in my early 20s and living on my own. I discovered Albacore tuna and left chunk light tuna in my past! I’ll reiterate that my mom may be Betty Crocker herself: I grew up eating amazing baked goods – homemade shoe fly pies dotted with a weekly baking of banana bread. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I learned that prepackaged cake mixes existed. I remember being amazed because the concept seemed so foreign. On our family trips to the grocery store, we never ventured down the baking aisle, so I missed out on knowing about this innovation!
So when life hands you apples, will you make applesauce? That may be the key to learning about the different forms that food can take. Next time you’re in the store, let your child see the variety of fruits and vegetables in the produce aisle. Take time to go on field trips to local farms. If you are short on time or live in urban areas, print pictures from the internet and talk to your child about the origins of their food. Exposure is key!
Easy Homemade Applesauce
- 4 apples – peeled, cored and chopped
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- In a saucepan, combine apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon. Cover, and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, or until apples are soft. Allow to cool, then mash with a fork or potato masher.
written by Aimee M. Gallagher