FLOTUS is on the cover of Newsweek talking about her childhood obesity campaign, with a special emphasis on home cooking. Here’s a sample of what she wrote: “Back when many of us were growing up, we led lives that kept most of us at a pretty healthy weight. We walked to school every day, ran around at recess and gym and for hours before dinner, and ate home-cooked meals that always seemed to have a vegetable on the plate.”
I certainly didn’t walk to school; I grew up in a township, and walking would’ve taken a couple of hours. But I can relate to the home-cooked meals. Back in the day, fast-food dinners were a treat. Mom was a school counselor so she was able to be home to prepare dinner. If it was a bowling night, we kids had instructions on how to get dinner started, usually by putting whatever meat there was in the oven, and at what temperature. As in Michelle Obama’s home, there was always some kind of vegetable on the plate.
That’s how I was brought up, and likely why nearly all my family’s meals are home-cooked. The only thing I do differently is not serve my husband dinner. Mom always served my father. He’d come home from work – he was a pharmacist – change clothes, and sit down at the table to watch the news while Mom was making dinner. When it was ready, she prepared and served his plate.
As a newlywed back in 1986, I actually tried that a few times. I hung in there for a little while, but had to give it up. Too weird. Bobby doesn’t mind getting his own plate, and of course we both served the kiddies until they were old enough to serve themselves.
That was also the time where I noticed more vegetables left in the pot than on their plates.
What I would like to do more is make my traditional meals healthier. I know of some substitutions – using applesauce instead of oil in baked goods, like muffins, makes them virtually fat-free – but not many. I need to make more time to research these things, but time is my most precious commodity.
And money. I keep saying I’ll subscribe to Cooking Light, which to me is the best magazine in that genre, but that requires both time and money, and I rarely have both simultaneously. Yet I won’t buy it off the shelf because a single mag is so expensive, a subscription would be cheaper – and the vicious cycle begins anew. So here I sit with neither.
I’d really like one of their cookbooks, in which every meal is illustrated. But ordering a cookbook takes time and money, blah, blah, blah.
Still, I have been focusing on incremental changes. Like keeping a bowl of fresh fruit on the table at all times – bananas, grapes, apples and oranges, whatever’s on sale. And buying only high-fiber breads. In the freezer, there’s always frozen chicken, popular with the two amateur cooks in the house. Both my son and daughter seem to enjoy preparing their own meals and snacks on the weekend, experimenting with spices.
And cooking temperatures. Let’s just thank God for smoke detectors, shall we?
Until I read the FLOTUS piece, I didn’t really think about meal prep as setting an example. I’ve just been focused on working out and eating healthier, thinking that was good enough. Many times, I just eat a leaner version of what I cook for everyone else.
Perhaps that’s not enough.
Perhaps I should just dig deeper and get that Cooking Light subscription after all. In this age of scary obesity rates among African-American adults and children, it’s one thing to help my children learn to cook, quite another to teach them to do so in the healthiest ways possible.
Oh well. Wonder how much a ’script goes for on Amazon …
There is one thing more exasperating than a wife who can cook and won't and that's a wife who can't cook and will. ~ Robert Frost
Leslie J. Ansley is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who blogs daily for TheRoot. She lives in Raleigh, NC.