One of my young friends Susan is a ‘foodie’. She loves food, whether it be eating it, preparing, creating new concoctions, serving friends, she loves it, and she even enjoys the cleaning up – if you can imagine. She’s also written articles about the dining table and created an entire website dedicated to her recipes and shares them with those around her. Food and the community it brings does something within her, and you can see it every time she enters her kitchen.
I’ve asked her what it is about food that she likes and I’m fascinated when she talks about it. She grew up on a farm so has truly lived the ‘farm to table’ life. As a young girl, she recalls ‘chicken butchering day’ and talks about one of her jobs was to gut the chicken and give the feathers the final singe before a good wash and the bagging and freezing. They were on a livestock farm and so animals were grown to eat.
Similarly, they had a huge garden that was planted every spring and harvested in the fall. From jarring sweet plums to pickling and hanging meat to cure in the back room, this family did it all and enjoyed it. Susan’s love for food stems from her upbringing and the opportunity to see food grown and shared. The way the wafts from the oven, whether it be freshly baked bread or a roast could gather young and old from the corners of the farm, even the neighbours would follow the aroma.
Food brings people together, and food is a beautiful teacher. Now, as an adult and mother she maintains this love of cooking and sharing and says that there is something magical about dropping your hands into a bowl or dough that has raised or the satisfaction of tapping a Christmas pork roast knowing that the crackling is just right and then to bite into it. The textures, learning and comfort that comes from food are lovely.
Why do I share this story with you? Because maybe we are missing some valuable lessons in life when it comes to food and playing with our food. Life has become so frantic, and we live at speeds that can almost race the speed of light. Instead of cooking, many families are opting for the ease of a peel and heat meal (peel the plastic back and chuck it in the microwave for 2 minutes). I realise that sometimes, the convenience of this makes life easy, but it should fall into the category of ‘sometimes food’ rather than replace the real thing.
Also, we seem to have departed from the dining table and eating together has become a thing of the past, for many — something we need to bring back into fashion. Instead of lingering over a meal, talking about the day and enjoying a cup of tea to round it off, we are racing from thing-to-thing, choking down whatever we can and making sure there is little, if anything, to clean up afterwards.
The good news to all of this is… Experts are now saying that not only do we need to stop, take a load off and enjoy a slow meal, being mindful of the bites we take but in addition to that, playing with your food is a GOOD THING! Journalist, Sarah Templeton, recently wrote an article for NewsHub ‘Why letting your kids play with their food is the best thing you can do‘. The report says that some of the things our children can learn from playing with their food are:
- What a food looks like
- What a food smells like
- What a food feels like
- How to motor plan (i.e. pick up, move, push, slide, spin) a food to do what they want it to do
- How foods can interact together (i.e. mixing, dipping, layering, scooping)
- To form ideas about eating the foods
- Language skills (i.e. sensory words we use like “crunch” and “cold/hot”)
So, could Susan’s love for food and understanding of it have something to do with her early exposure to touch, feel, smell and taste? Could playing with our food help us develop socially and engage more in-depth with the world around us? Maybe tonight instead of saying, ‘don’t play with your food’ create a space for your family to play with it. Who knows, perhaps it’s time for the good ole ‘food fight’ to return.
Much love from our table to yours.