Food is social capital


The first thing I taught my kids to cook was pancakes.  On this pancake Tuesday it comes to mind, Louise having a Sunday morning lie in.  Me with three rugrats at the kitchen counter, getting them to beat eggs and flour.  Cooking up the pancakes.  Having fun tossing them.  Letting them drown them in syrup as a treat.

Years pass and tastes change, but they still love those pancakes.

You seem to spend a lot of your life having mini-battles about food.  “Try this, you’ll like it.  Go on, just three bites, just one bite, anything”.  As parents we worry if they are eating enough.  Then we worry if they are eating the right things.  Then we worry they are eating too much.

Food is an education.  Food is social capital.  We learn all the most important things over food, our societal mores, our family values, our means of transacting and interacting with others.

When children go out into the world they carry this social capital with them.  A knowledge of food is an entry into society.  It demonstrates the type of home you grew up in.  The truth is we judge people every day by what we see in their shopping baskets.

Then our children come back from their exposure to the wild world and can surprise us.  Esha fell in love with Burritos from Boojum up in Galway on work experience.  Our youngest, Gavin, just returned from Kolkata, India and said in the quiet way he has that he has become mostly vegetarian.  I came across this poem which sums up how I feel about the way kids express their maturity through food.


For the Love of Avocados ; by Diane Lockward
I sent him from home hardly more than a child.
Years later, he came back loving avocados.
In the distant kitchen where he’d flipped burgers
and tossed salads, he’d mastered how to prepare
the pear-shaped fruit. He took a knife and plied
his way into the thick skin with a bravado
and gentleness I’d never seen in him. He nudged
the halves apart, grabbed a teaspoon and carefully

eased out the heart, holding it as if it were fragile.
He took one half, then the other of the armadillo-
hided fruit and slid his spoon where flesh edged
against skin, working it under and around, sparing

the edible pulp. An artist working at an easel,
he filled the center holes with chopped tomatoes.
The broken pieces, made whole again, merged
into two reconstructed hearts, a delicate and rare

surgery. My boy who’d gone away angry and wild
had somehow learned how to unclose
what had once been shut tight, how to urge
out the stony heart and handle it with care.

Beneath the rind he’d grown as tender and mild
as that avocado, its rubies nestled in peridot,
our forks slipping into the buttery texture
of unfamiliar joy, two halves of what we shared.






I was too busy this Easter to blog.  So here is an Easter Egg for everyone out there.  A bit late, but it’s a good one.  Two pieces of advice hard won for your life, if you will listen.  Don’t force kids to eat what they don’t want, it only turns food into a battleground.  Food should be wrapped in memories of love, not war.  And don’t shout at them for dropping stuff.

Eggs; by Susan Wood

Morning broke like an egg
on the kitchen floor and I hated
them, too, eggs, how easily they broke
and ran, yellow insides spilling out, oozing

and staining, the flawed
beneath what’s beautiful. And I hated
my father, the one ****
in the henhouse, who laid the plate

on the table and made me
eat, who told me not to get up
until I was done, every
bite. And I hated how I gagged and cried, day

after day, until there was no time
left and he’d give in and I’d go off
to school like that, again, hungry.
But why did I hate eggs

so much? Freud, old banty rooster, who
knew a thing or two about such things, might say
I hated my self, hated the egg
growing in secret deep inside my body,

the secret about to be spilled
to the world, and maybe I did.
Or maybe it’s the way the egg
repeats itself again and again, a perfect

oval every time, the way I found myself
furious, standing by my own child’s bed
holding a belt, and hit, and saw her face
dissolve in yolk. But that doesn’t say

enough about why we hoard
our hurts like golden eggs and foolishly
wait for them to hatch, why
we faced each other across the table,

my father and I, and fought
our battles over eggs and never fought
with them, never once picked up
those perfect ovals and sent them singing

back and forth across the room, the spell
broken like shells, until we were
covered with them, our faces golden
and laughing, both of us beautiful and flawed.