April 12, 2010

The Lost Art of the Knife and Fork

fork and knife, originally uploaded by Back Burner.
It’s no secret that I’ve been raving about Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution for the past few weeks.

My entire family has been seriously moved by Jamie’s passionate plea for the American people to open their eyes and see what has become of us in terms of what we think is acceptable to eat. Aside from what is served in our public schools, the simple fact is, that as a country, we treat food and the act of eating and often our very health as an afterthought. The truth is, all of those things are connected. It is the foundation of our quality of life.

I guess didn’t realize how bad things have gotten. In one of the shows we watched, Jamie had this particular conversation with a school lunch cook:

"We're tryin' to figure out how we're going to do this fork/spoon business," said Alice, one of the cooks in the school cafeteria. "They need a fork?"

Oliver: "Yeah, and a knife would be nice. They don't have a knife?"

"Oh no. No knives."

"You don't get your kids to use a knife and fork?" Oliver replies, confusion clouding his boyish features.

In an on-camera narration, he underscores: "[That] means from the age of 4 to 10, they never use a knife and fork!"

I am embarrassed to admit some of my own shortcomings as a busy parent. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, I have often opted for what is easy vs. what is right.

Especially when it comes to food.

We as Americans are convenience oriented. From the beginning, we give our children tippy cups, Capri Sun Juice Bags, cardboard Juice Boxes and plastic water bottles instead of real drinking glasses and cups without lids. We eat on the run and drink on the run. As adults, we nurse “to go” coffee containers and Starbucks coffee with spill proof lids, a grown-up tippy cup. We do it out of shear necessity, to avoid annoying spills on furniture, in the car, on their clothes. It’s normal right? It makes complete sense and we don’t even think about it. Cleaning up our children’s spills or having them clean them is time consuming.

We consider ourselves good parents who are cognizant our children’s desire and need for snacks, by giving them prepackaged finger foods, that instantly satiate their appetite. But when we do this, when we eat “on the go” and “on the run” so often, even though we are satisfying our child’s basic need to eat, we devalue the act of eating itself.

By sharing so many meals this way, we inadvertently encourage and teach our children to overeat and not pay attention to what they eat because we are not stopping, not slowing down to sit down and eat. Have we completely traded in what is good and right for what is fast, cheap and easy?

I myself have, in a rushed panic, stopped at the drive through and tossed fast food into the backseat at my children so they can at least have basic carbs and calories to sustain them on their way to or home from a sport activity, birthday party or school function. I don’t just do it out of desperation; I do it because it seems normal. Almost all parents do it. We are oblivious to it anymore.

As Americans, we are deprived of nothing, and we are armed with pizza, Go-gurt, mozzarella sticks, hamburgers and chicken nuggets, so who needs cutlery? We have sporks. We have food that is instant and cheap, that can be eaten right out of its wrapper and had for 99 cents almost anywhere in a matter of minutes.

Reality is, we are busy parents with busy kids. But maybe, just maybe, we over schedule our children with never-ending sports, classes and activities, and maybe we’ve lost sight of some of the basic important things in life as a result. Don’t get me wrong, I know sports are important because they teach fairness, fitness and sportsmanship. But think about the reality of what is happening when our kids are constantly being chauffeured in the minivan from one thing to another with fast food and prepackaged snacks being thrown to them into the backseat… how healthy can our super-athletically involved kids be if we are trading excessive sports activities for unhealthy, thoughtless eating habits? What has happened to having time to sit with our kids at the table and talk to them about things that matter instead of only having time to talk to them while we drive them from one sport and activity to another?

As healthy families and individuals, we need to find the balance. We need to look at what we are becoming as a society that is always in a hurry. We should look at what our ultra-packed fast-paced schedule is doing to our kids.

It seems like we are beginning to figure out that we are what we eat. Maybe now we need to look at how we are beginning to resemble how we eat.

Maybe we should sit down to eat at least once a day with our family. We can teach our children to enjoy the act of shopping and cooking and eating and make time for it. We need to take time out of our busy schedules and focus on what is important, even if it means giving up something else.

Their health is worth it.


  1. Bravo. Very important thoughts.
    I left home at sixteen- my parents went one way, I went the other. I had no support system. I could not balance a checkbook, hold down a job or sign a lease, but I damn well could shop, cook from scratch and feed myself, even if it meant gardening to get it done.