Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The importance of food--it's not just nutrition

My interest in food definitely led me to write the
Blue Plate Café Mysteries
I had an editor once who thought I lingered far too long over where and what my characters ate. I disagreed vehemently and held my ground. Food tells us so much about a person. Folklorist and scholar James Ward Lee once wrote that food “may provide as much information about the way we live and see the world as the people we elect to office or the houses we build or the books we approve or the movies we film…to historians, folklorists and anthropologists of Buck Roger’s twenty-fifth century.”

I recently read a blog by the mother of a two-year-old who said that every meal was a battle, but it was a battle she was willing to fight because so much of our lives takes place over food. We come together as family over food, we celebrate holidays and special occasions with special food. When we begin to date, it’s over food, whether it’s the soda in a drugstore of my day or that special dinner before prom. Apply for a job, and your interview is likely to include lunch, where your manners, your ability to carry on conversation, and your eating habits will be judged.

I worry sometimes about the grandson I’m closest to because he is what I’d call a picky eater. My advice, like that of the mom of the two-year-old, is to offer him what we eat; if he doesn’t want it, his next chance will be the next meal of the day, even if it means going to bed hungry. His mother says, “He has to eat,” but I don’t think so. He’s a solid child and won’t waste away. When we have pets, we put their food out and if they don’t eat it, we shrug and say they’ll eat when they’re hungry. I feel the same way about children, and I’ve watched several of my grandchildren develop appetites for a wide range of food, when I would have given up hope early on. Two granddaughters have always loved everything from dolma to sushi, but one is a vegetarian out of conscience, and I respect that. Jacob, the one that lives near me, is a vegetarian out of instinct—the child just doesn’t like meat—and I’d respect that if he were a little more adventuresome about other foods.

Two of my sons-in-law are what I’d call vegetable-challenged. The list of vegetables they’ll eat is limited, though they have strange likes that I can’t fathom. Christian loves radishes and will eat an entire pack at one sitting (which causes some physical distress); he’ll eat green beans, asparagus if he has to, broccoli or squash, never.

Today I sent my neighbor a list of things I wanted to talk to him about and realized that three of the five items had to deal with meals. I am never happier than when I’m planning a dinner menu. Tomorrow I’m fixing a belated birthday dinner for Christian—crock pot pork tenderloin in a sauce of soy, maple syrup, oil, mustard, diced onion, and garlic salt. Yum! Because it’s his birthday dinner, I’ll go the extra mile and make twice-baked potatoes, though I have four potatoes for five people. Should work well.

I know I’ll have more to say about food in future blogs, but to see some of my recipes you might check out back posts of “Potluck with Judy,”

I’m going to set the dinner now for tomorrow’s supper—oh yeah, I’m a plan-ahead cook.

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