This spring, our city is running a healthy eating challenge, and our family was lucky to be chosen to participate. When I put in the application, I hoped it would give us something new to do during another stay-local holiday far away from our wider family. We like cooking together and usually like to try new things. This could be a shot of inspiration to try some new ideas.
When the box arrived, it felt like Christmas – all these surprises. Local potatoes! Interesting looking mustard! Fancy granola we’d never tried before! And what are we supposed to with the Quorn?
The recipes were very simple, and the kids decided to take charge. These were all meals they could make. Our eldest already enjoys preparing meals and her brothers like helping, but looking at the recipe cards, they soon divided all the tasks among themselves, leaving me sitting in the corner, watching and waiting for their questions. I’m not sure what the city nutritionists imagined, but as I sat there, I was delighted to see how the kids approached the challenge.
This challenge ended up being a larger imaginative act than I expected that extended into our dinnertime conversations. We talked a lot about how other families might interpret the recipes – those with less cooking experience, those from other cultural contexts – and we wondered how the same recipe might look cooked by different cooks.
We also wondered about the people who designed this program. How did they choose these recipes? These methods and ingredients? How did they choose the ways to describe the methods? What assumptions did they have and what did they hope to inspire?
From the packaging, we could tell that the ingredients came from a range of grocery stores and we wondered about the decisions behind this. We assumed the stores were donating the ingredients to the program. Who decided how that would work? Who packed the boxes?
Alongside the food, there were also a few new utensils in the box. Our eldest said she’d be taking the wooden spoons off to university. She’ll be 15 this summer, so the spoons have a bit of time in my drawer first, but she’s looking ahead, making plans and beginning to imagine her own future.
As parents, we’re responsible for equipping our kids. Our present is spent in preparing them for their futures. Through teaching basic life skills and stretching their perceptions and understandings of the world, we help them learn who they might be as they grow towards adulthood. This equipping is an imaginative act, fuelled by faith and love. I don’t think it’s an accident that our scriptures give us so many stories of shared meals. Like sharing traditions, reading recipes helps us to focus our attention on the present detail, and preparing food helps us plan ahead. In the kitchen and at the table, we teach and trust together as a family, receiving and sharing the gifts of creation with imaginative gratitude.
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