"Paint your plate," Dad would say,
encouraging my kid sis and me to experiment with foods from
nature's palette. We had no idea that we were actively selecting
mouthfuls of antioxidants, essential fatty acids and anthocyanins;
we just wanted to eat something "pretty" that we ourselves had
Dad grew up on a farm and understood
the natural curiosity that children have about watching plants
grow, cows being milked and chickens laying eggs. The curiosity
carried over into the kitchen as he taught us how to shell pecans
and use bell peppers, tomatoes or other goodies from the garden and
put them in salads or sauté them with onions and celery.
(Okay, we didn't actually do the cooking -- but we got to hold the
Now my sister is using similar psychology with her own kids,
slipping them bits of life skills amidst the edible entertainment:
"First, we have to wash our hands to kill the tiny bugs on them,"
she'll say, teaching them about bacteria. Or they'll get a math
lesson: She'll slice a lemon into halves and then quarters, asking
the kids to count the pieces. By the time the meal is ready, you'd
swear the kids had cooked it themselves, even if all they did was
stir the the pot once or twice.
They're becoming quite the kitchen artists. We can't wait for
their next masterpiece.