Kathie Auton - 01 June 2012

Preparing vegI’m raising city kids. It cannot be denied. They do not have cows and horses popping their heads over the back fence like I did. And this does mean I have less ready opportunities for food education moments. For me these were things like: my dad ALWAYS saying ‘mint sauce’ at fields of lambs, my parents visiting, and naming, our Christmas Turkey and having a chest freezer in the garage so we could fit half a sheep in it. Okay, these were not subtle nuggets of education, but they did mean I grew up knowing where my food came from (usually a few miles up the road). I need to create my own opportunities with my city kids.

It was brought home to me recently by a trip to our city farm and my daughter’s abject fear of the terrifying (-ly cute) goat. I was really surprised, but they aren’t spending as much time around animals as I did as a child, it’s just not as normal for them. I caught an escaped hen at the farm too, my children were wide-eyed, I thought it felt nice and plump.

My children are little though. Two and four are not ages where you can grasp the complex issues surrounding the production of food. But you can talk about the basics – ‘Why is there a picture of a cow on this ice-cream?’, ‘How do you make pasta?’ – simple teatime chats, but it’ll all build up a good knowledge about food and, hopefully, a respect about where it comes from. My husband’s family used to peel the little stickers off fruit and stick them onto a world map!

It was with this in mind that we had a bit of ‘vegucation’ today. Now, too much veg-talk out there starts from the premise that children will need persuading to like veg. No, they won’t. Only if you suggest to them from a very early age that they might like to have an issue with vegetables.

This is not to say that you can avoid any food wobbles/dislikes whatsoever. Of course you can’t, but just don’t give it any air time. I ask my kids to say ‘I’m not fond of that’ or ‘I’m not in the mood for that today’, rather than ‘I don’t like it’, which is just so final – being ‘not fond’ allows for trying again. And again. Celebrate vegetables as being the wonderful, delicious, vibrant, seasonal marvels that they truly are – enthusiasm is infectious.

So, for our vegucation, we set up a little farm on the kitchen table with lots of lovely (mostly) organic veg and some bug finger puppets. Okay, this is not weighty stuff, but even putting bugs and veg together shows that that is normal. Veg comes from the soil and it has bugs on, at least before it hits the supermarket anyway. We ‘harvested’ the veg, talked about what we’d got and pulled the bugs off. After this, we made some veg-on-sticks puppets for a puppet show (currently a popular option in our house).

Vegetable gardenChildren finding vegetablesPainting a puppet carrot

The harvested veg was them made into lunch:

Roasted Veg Pasta

  • Get kiddies to roughly chop up the veg
  • Chuck in all in a baking tray and add some good oil - I used the oil leftover from a nice jar of olives
  • Salt (if you like) & pepper
  • Cook it at 220 for about 30 mins, give the tray a shake it the edges are browning too much
  • Serve in a big bowl alongside a big bowl of pasta
  • Offer parmesan/cheddar, a basil plant (let them pick the leaves off), more oil, crème fraiche, pesto and have the kids DIY their own pasta dish

So, there we go a little bit of vegucation suitable for very little kiddies. Having said that, it’s not just kiddies that can enjoy a bit of vegucation. OrganicUK are hoping to get grown-ups thinking more about where their food comes from too. London folk may care to look out for a new poster campaign in The Underground in May/June. If your food could talk, what would it tell you?

Banner advert from OrganicUK

Kathie has two young children and is taking a break from teaching to be a full-time mum. She is passionate about cooking and growing good food and takes any opportunity to get her kids involved in the kitchen.

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Kathie Auton
14 June 2012 18:39

Nice to hear the Yeo Valley agree!

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