Check out Dawn Lerman’s touching NYT series, Growing up with a Fat Dad, in which she chronicles a childhood spent with a mother who never cooked, and a father who ballooned to 450 lbs. as he worked his way through every fad diet known to man. She talks about how their diet of processed, packaged food, and nothing home-cooked, left her feeling empty and hungry in all sorts of ways.
Though Lerman’s parents were not abusive–just utterly oblivious to their child’s basic needs—Lerman’s grandmother, Beauty, rescued her on weekends. When she’d walk into her grandmother’s kitchen on Friday nights, she’d touch nirvana as she glimpsed the beautifully-set dinner table and abundant fresh produce, and got a noseful of the scents of homemade soup and freshly-baked muffins. “My grandmother was my mentor and my savior. She poured love and stability into my life, one recipe at a time.” When Lerman’s family moved away, Beauty sent her weekly shopping lists and money so she could cook for herself, along with recipes that “filled my body and soul.”
If you have a pulse, you know full well what processed foods do to our bodies, but Lerman’s story reveals the spiritual toll that our fast food culture takes. A home-cooked meal is love, in both physical and spiritual terms. Families with no “kitchen life,” for whom eating is akin to refilling their SUV’s tank at the gas station, are depriving children of this love, as well as of knowledge of the most fundamental life-skill: how to feed one’s body.
We are all insanely busy these days and don’t always have time to cook a leisurely family meal—I get it. But also understand that our inability or unwillingness to slow down exacts a price from our children. “What I remember most about those years is that I was always hungry… hungry for someone to care for me because I was a child and I yearned to be cared for.” Food is indeed love, and it cannot be purchased at Tim Horton’s or even at Whole Foods. “Organic” processed food is processed nonetheless.
For wonderful recipes and nutrition tips, visit Lerman’s site magnificentmommies.com and click on the link to her excellent blog. And then print one of her many kid-friendly recipes and make it with your child. See if it feels any different from plunking down boxed food from the store. You’ll be feeding your own soul as well.