I Love Michael Pollan's Food Rules, But My Kids Don'tBethany Sanders
Dear Michael Pollan,
One of my grandmother’s favorite foods is a marshmallow Peep, left out for a day so that it gets nice and crunchy. Somehow, I don’t think that’s what you had in mind when you suggested I never eat anything my grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food in your six simple tricks to feed your family right.
But I also remember summers spent working in my Grandpa’s garden, where he grew peas, carrots, beans, corn, cucumbers, and the most delicious cantaloupe that I still, to this day, can’t seem to grow myself. That garden fed them, us, and countless friends and family for months out of every year. So, jokes aside, I get where you’re coming from. They knew how to eat.
Let me put this out on the table: You’re one of my personal heroes. I’ve read every single one of your books, and just recently dressed down my librarian husband when I couldn’t find Food Rules: An Eater’s Manuel on the shelves at our local library. (It was his job to order it, after all. By the way, it’s there now.) I heartily subscribe to all six rules, especially the idea that we should all eat our colors … as long as those colors don’t include the pink milk in the bottom of our cereal bowl.
But my kids? They are unconvinced. For four or five months out of every year, they are easy to feed. We’ve got a strawberry patch in the backyard, asparagus poking up in the spring. We head to local farms to pick blueberries, visit the farmer’s market every Tuesday. The world is alive with luscious, colorful foods that they can touch, smell, and taste.
But then the snow falls, and I must drag them through to supermarket where the colors that draw their attention are on cereal boxes, those portable yogurts you hate. Fruit roll-ups scream at them to be thrown in the cart. “But Moommmm. It says ‘fruit’ right on the package,” my seven-year-old tells me teasingly. They’re delighted when their cereal milk turns pink, when they’re allowed to carry convenience foods in their lunch boxes just like their friends.
And I’ve got it easy. One of my kids will choose fruit over high fructose corn syrup 98 percent of the time. The other, she’s too little not to take “no” for an answer. But I know I’m not alone when I say that I get tired of being the bad guy. I get tired of teaching the difference between “sometimes” foods and “all the time” food. I get tired of dragging two kids behind me in the grocery store, kids who look longingly behind, wishing I’d just give it up and throw that marshmallow cereal into the cart. Just this once. It’s not easy for parents who want something different for their kids.
You’ve inspired millions, Mr. Pollan, to change the way they think about eating. Maybe it’s time to inspire a younger crowd with a children’s book. How do you feel about The Little Omnivore’s Dilemma?
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