The other day my son said to me, “Mum, how come there are no peaches in the supermarket right now? I wish I could have a peach, but all there seems to be are apples and pears!”
I began to explain about seasonal foods. The questions kept flying and ten minutes into the conversation I realised firstly that I was really surprised at how interested my six-year-old son was about seasonal foods and secondly that perhaps I’d always just assumed that my children understood that not all food was available all the time.
Seasonal eating is the practice of using only the foods that are abundant and currently in crop, the benefits of which range from maximum nutritional value, to the best tasting food possible and of course the best value.
The idea of seasonal eating is nothing new, in fact it’s an extremely traditional practice that existed before the times of cold storage and food imports. If a product wasn’t in season, it just wasn’t available.
The slow food movement really gets to the core of seasonal eating. Founded in 1986 by an Italian journalist Carlo Petrini, it was a direct reaction to the opening of Italy’s first McDondald’s restaurant in Rome. Petrini believed in using the senses to fully experience seasonal food. He was fighting a war against the homogenisation and globalisation of food by encouraging people to shop locally and cook seasonally.
A love of food and cooking fostered from a very young age sets children up with the skills and passion for good eating.
It’s not really about slow cooking. ‘Slow food’ can be prepared quickly. In essence it’s about using principles that are the opposite of ‘fast food’.
I don’t know about you but sometimes I feel as though my kids are living in such a fast world where information is at their fingertips and gratification is often instantaneous. Anecdotally I feel as though their attention spans are shortening and children are losing the art of patience and perseverance. In some respects, talking to children about where food comes from and involving them from a grass roots level in food preparation is an attainable starting point for slowing down in other aspects of life too.
So where do you begin? How can you as a parent get your children involved in slow food?
Take them shopping.
There is so much to see and learn at a fresh food market. Aim to shop locally only and point out the origins of food. Explain that some foods that are not in season in Australia are imported from countries far away and discuss the implications of food miles and ethical farming practices. It’s also a good time to explain that food that is in season generally costs less.
Try growing your own.
Even if it’s just a couple of planter boxes filled with herbs, getting the children to grow some of the food they eat is possibly the best way for them to begin to understand that food takes time and effort. Lettuces, cucumbers and tomatoes are extremely easy to grow and you do not need a lot of space to grow a decent crop.
Offer a slow food lunch box.
The simplest way to fill their school lunch boxes with slow food is to pack them with fresh fruit and vegetables. In lieu of pre-packaged supermarket snacks, get baking and make your own lunch box treats.
Make more things from scratch.
There are so many every day foods that can easily be made from scratch and best still, the kids will love to get involved. In our household we have been baking bread and making yoghurt but there are lots of easy ‘from scratch’ foods to try such as tomato pasta sauce, biscuits, peanut butter, muesli, dips, jams and preserves etc. My oldest son has been particularly amazed at how yoghurt is made and my daughter loves getting her hands sticky kneading dough for bread. It’s great that they can see that these products don’t just come ready made on a supermarket shelf.
Get them cooking with you.
It’s pretty obvious, but if you involve children in the preparation of their food, they are more likely to eat it. A love of food and cooking fostered from a very young age sets children up with the skills and passion for good eating.
As you can see it’s easy to take on board the principles of slow food in your every day life. The most effective way you can instill these ideas in your children is to be a living example to them. Practice what you preach - eat well, shop locally and in season. Cook from scratch where possible and avoid pre-packaged and over processed foods.
Kristy is a mother of three who loves feeding her family wholesome, nutritious and above all delicious food. She has her own food blog called The Life She Made where she posts family style recipes and talks about life as a stay at home mother.