Sunday, November 23, 2008

Weird Veggies

The 25 middle school kids were intently examining a small dark grayish-purple specimen being passed around the room.
“Can anyone tell me what this is?” I asked.
“Potato.” “No.”
“Radish.” “No.”
“Brussels sprouts.” “Um, no.”
I had been asked to teach a nutrition class to these kids who were very unaccustomed to vegetables that still had a little dirt on them.
“Zucchini.” “Not even close.”
“Is it a beet?” “Yup.”
Several of the boys raised their hands. I called on one.
“Can we taste it?” I was amazed.
“You mean raw? Well, I guess so.”

Middle school is a great time to introduce kids to new foods; especially if they’re a little weird. (I’m referring to the foods.) Case in point: By the time my 45 minutes of instruction on the vegetable group of MyPyramid was concluded, I had kids begging to eat raw beets, twisting raw Brussels sprouts off the stalk on which the sprouts grew in order to gnaw on them, cracking roasted chestnuts with their teeth and asking me where I bought the whole pomegranate they’d just devoured! And they were hungry for more. For all the produce – except the pomegranate – they were too late. I’d stocked up on the nuts, the tubers and the cruciferous veggies still on their stalk at the very last farmers market. Lucky for them, though, pomegranates are now in season and I just bought one on sale for $1.99 at Super Target. (And of course, frozen Brussels sprouts are just as good as those straight off the stalk.)

I ended the nutrition class with a challenge to help the veggie excitement hit home: Make dinner for your family at least once in the next 2 weeks. Their teacher chimed in that she would give an extra 25 points for photo proof that they’d made a family dinner. I dismissed them with a couple pizza recipes.

I saw one of the kids yesterday and asked him if he’d been cooking in his family’s kitchen lately. He said he had and that the Taco Pizza was “totally awesome!” I was just as excited as he was. But then, he told me that his mom said he wouldn’t be allowed to make dinner again until he was older because the kitchen was such a mess. I guess I should’ve sent a note home to the parents: “If you want your kids to learn to eat nutritious foods, you’re going to have to accept a little ‘weirdness’ from time to time.”

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