How is this for a guilt-inducing headline? "You'll Gladly Die for Your Children: Why Won't You Cook for Them?" Oh man, you think you're a great parent who would sacrifice anything for your kids. BUT YOU WON'T EVEN CUT UP A TOMATO FOR THEM! What kind of a hypocritical monster parent are you?!?
Yoni Freedhoff's point is simply that we need to feed our kids better by cooking from nutritious ingredients, not feeding them from boxes, mixes, and fast food. AND we need to take on the food industry and quit letting them boss us around, making us buy our kids crummy processed food. It's the only decent thing for parents to do.
I used to think the same way. For years, I worked from home as a freelancer. I had the flexibility to do my grocery shopping in the middle of a weekday, which is when stores in my neighborhood aren't hopelessly crowded. Cooking dinner was just a matter of setting aside the laptop and walking over to the kitchen.
Now I work full-time, and I commute to an office four days a week. I get home around 7 at night, and yes, I still cook dinner. Well, most nights anyway. But as you can imagine, dinner doesn't happen until around 7:30 or later. And I use a lot more cooking shortcuts and convenience foods than I ever did before.
The one thing that makes it work is that I happen to love cooking. After writing at my desk all day long and a gruelling, crowded subway ride home, the one thing I feel like doing is cooking. It clears my head and helps me relax. But if I didn't love cooking? I don't know that I would bother at all.
So I get it -- parents have a lot going against the home-cooked meal. There are too many convenient options. And as long as your kid isn't dying, doesn't have high blood pressure, doesn't have ADHD, isn't vomiting blood after every meal ... good enough! Right?
And yet, that doubt at the back of (almost) every parent's mind. Should I be feeding my child better? But brow-beating us and making us feel like shitty parents isn't going to make us change. We need HELP.
That's why I love Time at the Table, an organization that actually helps people learn to cook healthy food and eat together. (They're actually holding a Family Dinner Conference this month.) That's what Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution was partly about. Basically, parents need tools, ideas, instructions. What the hell do you do with those vegetables ... that my kid will actually eat ... that I will actually eat?
And we need support. For example, parents need the flexibility to leave work early enough to cook dinner, even if it means finishing the rest of the day from home after the kids go to bed. (I have this flexibility, and I should probably use it more!)
So enough with the guilt trips. WE GET IT. We need to feed our kids nutritious food from whole ingredients, not from that crap in boxes. Let's stop talking about the shoulds and start talking more about the HOWs.
Do you ever feel guilty about not cooking better for your kids -- or not cooking at all?