A Little Something to Snack on
I was quite entertained by today’s front page article in The New York Times‘ Food Section. In “Snacking Nation: When Did Grazing Take Over Our Children?,” Jennifer Steinhauer thoroughly depicts today’s snack culture among school age children and the troubling issues it raises for their physical health.
In a manner intended to entertain and engross the reader in her subject, Ms. Steinhauer writes:
“. . . when it comes to American boys and girls, snacks seem both mandatory and constant. Apparently, we have collectively decided as a culture that it is impossible for children to take part in any activity without simultaneously shoving something into their pie holes.”
I couldn’t agree more.
She discussed all this “extra curricular” eating with other parents including one Chicago dad, Sean O’Neill, who wondered why the ever present need for snacks at every sporting event, even those at 10am or right before lunch. He remarked that:
“The kids are playing baseball, they are covered in Chicago Park District dirt and then eat a handful of fruit bites,” he said. “It’s pretty disgusting.”
T-Ball first introduced us to the dreaded snack request. The email asking each “mom” (of course this wasn’t a generic parent request) to sign up for a game after which said mom would provide peanut-free snack and drink for each of the team members. Like the reaction of the article’s author, the request struck a bit of horror in my heart. I wasn’t concerned about our turn, we are that “rare” family that showed up with a homemade snack: freshly popped corn prepared Thor-style tossed with Spice House Hickory Smoked Sea Salt and lemonade turned a lovely shade with locally grown strawberries. Yeah, it was a pain, but it was only a one time request and they both were a huge hit. No my fears centered on what the little locavore would do when faced with the other selections.
Not too long before the season started, we successfully convinced Thor that he was allergic to GMO (genetically modified) corn. (Imagine our trips in Midwestern farm country, substitute for “Are we there yet?” “Is that GMO corn?” Stop, and repeat). This happened after he tried a bowlful of tortilla chips from an unnamed grocery store and soon broke out with a very itchy and red rash. With nothing else changing in his diet or skin care regime, we decided to pinpoint the blame on said chips. Running with this, I explained to him that the vast majority of high fructose corn syrup comes from GMO corn resulting in his becoming an avid label reader. So my fear and dread was focused on his reaction to the snacks presented. Would he loudly recoil and be ostracized as a food weirdo, or worse would he relish the opportunity to try the junk and undo our hard work?
The answer turned out to be none of the above. We did have the first small outburst when he turned to Dad and asked “is this GMO corn?” Fortunately, the mom didn’t hear him as her attention was on distributing the kid-size packages of Cheetos. After that, we instituted the bait and switch. He would politely accept whatever snack was offered, bring it home, and we would replace it with a healthier and tastier alternative.
Nevertheless, despite our solution, I would relish the cultural shift suggested at the article’s end:
“Food allergies are a real problem. But did no one ponder the idea that perhaps the solution is for children to bring their own snacks?
Or to eat no snacks at all?”
Or could we at least return snacks to their rightful role of a sometime food?
For those sometimes, here’s our recipe for the mostly local Thor-Style Popcorn.
1/3 cup unpopped popcorn (we get ours from a local farm, River Valley), popped, preferably by air
Canola or grapeseed oil spray
4 or 5 shakes of Hickory Smoked Sea Salt (we get ours from The Spice House)
Spray the freshly popped popcorn lightly with oil. Toss with the sea salt and enjoy.