Why are memories so powerful?
“Joey, would you get some bread out of the breadbox?” “Sure, Mom,” I answered as I walked over to the counter and twisted the black knob. The breadbox was the size of a small microwave. I twisted the knob on the stainless steel front panel and reached in and pulled out two slices and remembered a trip to the bakery yesterday. “Mrs. Barber, what can I get you today?” The woman behind the counter asked. “A loaf of pumpernickel,” my mom answered. The baker looked through the glass counter at me and asked, “Can I give Joey slice?” My mom smiled and nodded her head. I reached my hand towards the top of the glass counter. “Thank-you,” I mumbled as I bit into the warm, fragrant and chewy bread. It was a taste and smell I will never forget.
In the next decade hundreds of thousands of people will die every year due to the ingestion of too much sugar, salt and fat. Yet, the real killer is not the food of today but the memories of tomorrow.
Every child has three lives: a life at home, a life at school and a life at work or play. In the past the food we ate was dependent on cost, location and the season. Fresh, vegetable-based and regionally-available foods were at the center of our menu. Food did not come prepared, packaged or processed. Limited choice and availability strengthened our resolve. A loaf of bread, saltines and graham crackers have now been replaced with an endless media parade of fast food restaurants, carbohydrates and snacks. There were no sugar or flavor additives and a pinch of salt was enough. We ate less, worked harder to prepare our food, and we were healthier.
My generation might be the last generation to rely on breadboxes, a well-stocked pantry, baking and family-owned corner restaurants. We remember family recipes, family meals, the smell of dinner cooking, aprons and lively discussions around a dishwasher-less sink filled with pots and pans.
Yes, times have changed. The economy, a lack of opportunity, fatigue and our drive to possess has drained from many parents the ability to recognize the importance of healthy food. We make choices based on time and efficiency rather than good health. We are conditioned to hear and see how food can make us feel good rather than keep us alive. Our tastes have been brainwashed. Food has become an escape and often an unhealthy reward rather than a lifestyle.
In the past we walked to the store and now we drive. Corner stores, bakeries and butcher shops have disappeared. In their place grocery chains with altars of processed, frozen and ready to eat sliced, diced and pre-packed or prepared foods have appeared. Aisle placement is now both an art and science used to influence you on what to buy for you and your child. Plastic has replaced paper and the microwave has become the oven of today.
The bill for these choices we are influenced to make is coming due. Corporate chefs have become taste conditioners. Healthy foods have disappeared under the guise of convenience. Our bodies and our taste buds are jaded by fat, sugar and salt at the expense of our health, our children’s health and the health of our children’s children. Labeling is an illusion and misrepresentation controls you. Food choice has been hijacked and the cost is your good health.
I remember the days before corporate America controlled the food that we eat. We learned how to cook meals and choose ingredients. We relied on heritage, seasonal availability and taste rather than what we saw or heard in the media. Stop this epidemic now. No fancy or expensive medicine is needed. Sit down with your child and talk about food. Make sure your child knows how to cook ten basic meals. Start this discussion at an early age. Teach by your words and example about the importance of a fresh, non-processed, healthy diet centered around vegetables, fruit, whole grains, vegetable protein and lean meats. Talk about the dangers of milk enriched with sugar and how cheese is a hidden source of unhealthy saturated fat. Make every meal an event your child will remember just as I remembered that trip to the bakery.
Today, parents have more challenges and temptations compared to parents of prior generations. The choice, however, is simple. Give in and allow these pirates to control how long you and your child will live or take control and choose a diet that supports a long and healthy life for you, your child and your grandchildren. The choice is yours.