Monday, October 17, 2011

Hunting and Gathering

If you are a regular visitor of this blog, you already know about Pushpi Bagchi and her book which aims at getting kids to think about the food they eat. Last month, Pushpi wrote a guest post on how to create edible gardens. Today's post is about educating children about what we eat.

We’ve all studied about how the early man hunted and gathered his food. We’ve definitely come a long way from there. A month’s worth of groceries is sometimes just a phone call away since a lot of neighbourhood grocers offer free home delivery!

I think shopping for food is a lot of fun; it’s also an excellent learning opportunity for children. I remember going to the fish market with my grandfather in Calcutta while on holiday carrying the designated “fish bag”. I always had a morbid curiosity with the long blades that the fish mongers used to cut the fish, “what if they slice their fingers off?” I thought! It was here that I learned that to check the freshness of fish you check under the gills, if it’s a bright red you’re good to go.

My family used to live in the Middle East where supermarkets the size of stadiums were the norm and I would invariably get lost staring at stacks of chocolate biscuits or detergent. But what I remember more vividly is this vegetable market we used to go to where produce was sold directly off the back of trucks. Shopping for food should be a sensory overload. Good produce should look good, smell wonderful and be nice to touch, then it will surely taste fantastic as well.

Most of us living in urban spaces have traded our local sabji mandis for chain supermarkets. While supermarkets have the benefit of offering a better shopping experience in terms of a clean, organised and efficient environment; a farmers market or sabji mandi has many benefits as well. You are more or less assured fresh produce as anything that is not will give its self away by its appearance, smell and texture. Nothing is pre-peeled or cut and wrapped in cellophane. You’re also assured produce in their prime seasonally. No watermelons in December or strawberries in May.

Children while accompanying their parents on grocery shopping trips, or at home, begin to assimilate food choices from a very young age. We must keep that in mind when we shop. If the food we buy is always pre cut, packed in cardboard, or wrapped in cellophane we are depriving children of understanding the tactile nuances of food. Learning how to tell a ripe tomato from an unripe one, or sniffing out the best oranges should be part of growing up.

Fresh produce which is grown close to your home, fruits and vegetable that are in season, that have been handpicked with care will taste better than something that comes pre packaged. Don’t you think so?

- Pushpi Bagchi, http://understandingfoodvalues.blogspot.com/

Image Source : Pushpi Bagchi

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