Take responsibilty - cook it yourself

WE WORRY far too much. Even if there are no more hazards for humans today, we seem to believe the environment has become extremely dangerous

WE WORRY far too much. Even if there are no more hazards for humans today, we seem to believe the environment has become extremely dangerous

With all our progress, life has become more deadly at every turn and we are constantly inventing things and ways to protect ourselves from ourselves. Taking a cursory glance at the world of the parent and child the safety ‘stuff’ needed in this century is phenomenal. (Now I’m not against safety, I’m merely making an observation.)

When I compare my childhood to that of my own children I’m blown away. Believe it or not we had electricity when I was a child and yet I never remember those little plastic socket covers that are now part of every home. I had a bike, but have to admit to never owning a cycling helmet! Our home was devoid of window locks that today are used as much to keep kids in as they are to keep thieves out. We spent summers outside on the farm, at the beach, playing in the fields and I never remember being slathered in sun screen and insect repellant before I left the house. You only needed protection from the sun in foreign countries when I was a kid and you just had to put up with the bugs. I could go on and on with a thousand more examples, but I will stop and get to the point.

What I’ve really noticed is that we effectively wrap our children in bubble wrap in order to protect them on the outside and, ironically, we take no responsibility for abusing their insides by feeding them overly processed, nutrient poor food!

There, I’ve said it.

While I’m obviously all for safety, we seem to have lost perspective. The food we feed our children today is what creates a healthy adult in the future.

All the cycling helmets in the world won’t protect their little organs from too much salt and sugar. You can have the best car seat in the kingdom, but it won’t ensure healthy bones or strong teeth. While we could be arrested and fined for allowing them into a car without a seatbelt, I can feed them junk food every day with impunity.

I’m probably more aware of it this week with all the back to school people bustling around. Breakfasts and the filling of lunchboxes are both back at the top of our agendas along with the angst ridden hot meal when the hungry little critters come in from school.

Kids themselves also have some adjusting to do. In my house during the chaotic days of the summer, drinks and food were readily available all the time. There were regular play breaks for a drink and a snack. In the classroom they don’t have the luxury of running to the kitchen when the energy levels dip.

So how can we ensure that our children are eating healthy food? Alas, the only way you can truly know what is in your food is to cook it yourself, at least most of the time. Now there is this great myth that cooking is a gift rather than a skill you can learn and cooking from scratch is time consuming. It needn’t be that way at all. Get some balance and keep it simple.

This is family food, no one is asking you to become an award winning chef and do something creative with black squid ink and a durian fruit.

get back to basics - PLAN THE WEEKLY MEALS

Just get back to basics. We need to feed our families with nutritious and healthy food and do it everyday on a budget. Have a system. Plan the weekly meals; look for great offers, buy fresh produce and freeze excess if necessary and try to eat in season. Remember that inexpensive cuts of meat taste just as good as long as they are cooked properly. While much of this is about planning in advance, of course life happens, and so it is also good to have a few fast but nutritious meals in your repertoire. Indeed sometimes fast cooking is about assembly rather than lots of cooking. Take a home made burger for example. Run them up the night before and cooking them the next day is a breeze. Load them up with onions, grated cheese and bacon bits in a bun and you have a delicious meal that looks like a major treat. Shop bought flour tortillas are a great addition to the store cupboard for quick and handy Irish take on a Mexican quesadilla or wrap when the kids come in from school. Rather than buying chicken goujons, nuggets or fish fingers you will be amazed at how easy it is to make your own. I agree it is a little messy with the flour and egg and breadcrumb routine, but getting your fingers a little dirty is hardly difficult.

Try honing your skills with the more traditional meals such as cottage pies, stews and casseroles. These are great one pot meals that will feed an army. They have stood the test of time and there are plenty of recipes out there with little twists on a favourite to kick it up a level or two in the taste department.

And finally I would say to you use your local green grocer, butcher and fish monger. Each is expert in their field. They’ll advise on how best to cook and work with certain foods and, in many cases, they will also take a great deal of the preparation out of it.

For example, take burgers, most craft butchers prepare them from scratch on site. If you haven’t visited a butcher recently I encourage you to take another look and you’re always welcome at James Whelan Butchers in Oakville Shopping Centre. For the rest of this school year let’s protect our insides as much as we do our outsides. It makes sense.