vegetables-parents-childWhen I was a little kid my parents were in charge of all the food that went down my little gullet. As all parents are. But judging from galloping obesity rates in the USA (we are now officially THE fattest country in the market-economy world), too many parents are snoozing at the wheel when it comes to feeding their children food that won’t turn them into little hippos. Hippo isn’t a pretty word to describe a child, but Thursday I had errands near a large medical center on 14th street and I swear it was like I had barged into some crazy neighborhood conference of grossly obese woman. Rumbling along like torpid hippos, one after another passed me, accompanied by children well on their way to hippo-dom.

So to my Mom and Dad, I say a big thank you for all those years serving my sisters and I meals without desserts. Showing up only rarely, maybe once a month, our occasional desserts were mostly small helpings of pudding, Jell-O or melon and I’m glad to say I carried this non-dessert habit with me into adulthood.

And thanks too for not being able to afford the cost of school cafeteria lunches. This saved us from unappetizing institutional meals that were heavy on carbs, calories and food coloring. Our sandwiches from home were not the healthiest (they were on white bread — the benefits of whole wheat were still to be proclaimed), but they kept us fueled up for the afternoon and were unaccompanied by cookies or high calorie snacks.

And a big thanks for almost never having candy in the house, or potato chips or packaged junk items to fill our faces in between meals. What we did have for snacks were mostly bananas, apples and our favorite — popcorn still warm off the stove.

And a really big thanks Mom for cooking dinner every night after coming home from work, meals that invariably included potatoes, sautéed chops and a single vegetable, usually out of a can, because my father — the king — didn’t like frozen vegetables. More expensive and taking longer to cook, fresh vegetables were on the Sunday lunch menu, a sumptuous meal that always featured a slow-cooked roast accompanied by vegetables seasoned the Italian way with olive oil and fresh garlic. One of my favorite memories was waking up Sunday mornings, breathing in the intoxicating aroma of roasting meat and herbs that filled the house.  These Sunday feasts sparked in me a deep appreciation for fresh vegetables and unadulterated food cooked purely and simply.

And thanks too Mom and Dad, for the little vegetable garden you planted behind the garage, that introduced us to, among other things, those beautiful creations called homegrown tomatoes. Ruby red and lusciously flavored, they sent me on an early quest to search out the best tasting local tomatoes wherever I hung my purse.

Lastly I thank you both for your late Saturday night spins downtown to buy rye bread and cinnamon buns so fresh and fragrant they were still warm from the bakery oven by the time you got them home. From that I learned to buy food as close to the source as possible when freshness and flavor were at their peak.

If your upbringing had additional positive influences — or even negative ones — on your adult eating habits, I’d be interested to hear about them.

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