Bravo for Avocados
By Bonnie J. Toomey
I love to include my grandkids in the preparation whenever it comes to mealtime. What kid doesn’t love doing? We slide open the kitchen drawer and choose appropriate utensils, spoons, forks, peelers and small paring knives. I remind them about safety working around and using these things.
Steven, who’s 5, takes on non-cutting jobs, like washing, squeezing or mixing. Collin, who’s 10, and Robert, who’ll be 9 in a few weeks, are tasked with specific secondary chopping I know they can handle. They are adept at using scissors and jack-knives so it’s a pretty good indication that they are ready to help me chop. For instance, I slice the onion into rings that they can tackle more easily, and I handle the trickier task of working with a small clove of garlic. They also carefully trim the ends of the cilantro. Parsley and celery leaves will work as well.
The important thing is to give your child agency as their fine motor skills allow. They gradually will build confidence in the kitchen as they are ready to handle certain tools and follow your directions.
Keep the work manageable and fun. Preparing food with kids does require a bit more time, but these are skills they will hone as they go and they are memories that will stay with all of you for a long time to come. I remember watching and helping my grandmother in her kitchen, listening to her stories.
The kids’ input, even if it means setting out the napkins, gives added value to the experience of eating a meal together.
And I swear everything tastes better when you prepare it yourselves. Your child will be vested in the work, and you know exactly what is going into your child’s sweet little belly. And that’s a good feeling for parents.
When we set up for operations in our kitchen, we get an assembly line going, and soon the business of preparing a recipe is underway. Everyone has a job, and everyone’s job is important. For today, it’s guacamole. Avocados, now just as popular as jam, are also tasty on toast. For our toast, we make oat farls, a Scottish soda-bread recipe, using almond and coconut flour. But let’s get back to making our guacamole, a great dish for any time of day and especially yummy in the summertime.
We grab a large bowl from the pantry, take down a couple cutting boards, and pull our aprons off their hooks and over our heads. Then we get down to the business of washing, peeling and chopping. I always have a stool handy, just like my grandmother did for me. Run your whole onion under cold water first to help mitigate the tears slicing into an onion can cause. We prepare as if we’re a hive of bees, big-band music playing (my grandkids love it!), and that also helps to add a measure of glee into the recipe.
Anticipating the final product is trifold, with one part planning, one part cooperative industry, and one part patience, the latter for those mouthwatering nibbles that might happen along the way. Don’t discourage your young chefs from snagging a tomato or licking their fingers when it comes to the job of scraping the green pulp off the round avocado seed.
And to think that an avocado works because it is loaded with fat! An average avocado has 120 calories and 10 grams of fat, about 8 of which are unsaturated.
When I was a child we were fed the idea that all fat was the enemy, and everyone bought in to that false assertion. When my kids were growing up, the grocery store exploded with products under slick marketing and tons of low-fat choices for the masses. We ate it up, literally. But to my surprise, and to a lot of people’s, butter, of all things, is a whole food and, likewise, olives and avocados are packed with just as much and more good fat than you can shake a dietary stick at.
The thing is, as Americans, we know the average diet has way too much grain, way too much meat and not nearly enough vegetables. Speaking of vegetables, keep in mind that asparagus, onions, garlic, artichokes and leeks are superfoods. We try to get at least three of those into every meal we prepare. Rings of onions caramelized in butter are a sweet addition to just about every savory dish. The secret is that sugar isn’t even needed, and the truth is that sugar is the one thing to watch out for, so teach your kiddos how to read labels.
Further, the fewer labels you have to read, the better. The more you have to do your own peeling and chopping, the better. Your gut will thank you. Your brain will, too.
And it should be no surprise that the rise of sugar in the western diet over the last 100 years is interestingly and closely paralleled to the rise of such diseases as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s. There are hundreds of new studies all pointing in the same anti-sugar direction.
The studies should give you pause, but take heart, we aren’t doomed. We can start in our own kitchens and take charge, and at the same time, we can teach our kids in a fun and empowering way that good food tastes good and is good for our bodies, our brains and our overall well-being.
The thing is, when we, as parents, invite our kids into the kitchen and include them in the process of making meals, we teach them not only what to eat, but that food can bring us together in fun and healthy ways. After all, I want my grandchildren to grow up happy and well, and I want to be around to see it happen.
Bravo for the avocado!