Eating is one of those topics that receive a lot of publicity, very little of it positive or even healthy. It seems every day a new article comes out claiming this food or that food is the new secret to immortality, and further every day some food lands on the list of things never to eat or you’ll gain 500pounds. All of this “analysis” stems from the unfortunate view society has that food is simply something to be consumed. Don’t consume too much or you’ll get fat—don’t consume too little or you have a disorder. And even if you consume the “right” amount, you could always eat a little healthier. As endurance athletes, it is important to recognize the importance of eating enough to keep our bodies functioning as well oiled machines. But instead of viewing food simply as calories to turn into energy, why not view food as an experience? Not just a task that must be completed, but instead as an opportunity. Eating shouldn’t be stressful, and it shouldn’t be calculated. It should be a fun, rewarding, and new experience.
With this in mind, I decided to start a cooking class for the youth around Stratton. I held the first class this past Sunday, with seven of the junior and development kids from the Stratton Summer Training Group in attendance. Trying to make food a tactile experience, Isettled on “fancy” grilled cheeses and berry shortcake. The goal of the class was to get the kids to try something new in a standard grilled cheese. Some were were more adventurous than others—we had one put tortilla chips (at least they were blue he said), while others experimented with pesto, peaches, apples, avocados, arugula, two types of cheese and ham. Regardless of the filling, the children were intimately involved with the entire experience of making their grilled cheese. They saw exactly what was being put inside sandwich, saw them being cooked, and then enjoyed the result of their efforts. One child even exclaimed it was “the best sandwich he has ever had.”
After the grilled cheeses, we all moved on to making shortcake. Each child had one partner, and made shortcakes for two. We assembly lined the ingredients, passing down each ingredient one at a time so everyone was at the same pace. Everyone agreed the most fun part of the shortcakes was using hands to incorporate the butter into the dry mix. After some recipe altering (for some reason all of our shortcakes were a little too dry, but after some trial and error we remedied the situation), we popped them in the oven. Once they were finished, everyone piled on the berries and whipped cream and the response to if they were good or not was silence. That usually means yes in the baking world, so I think everyone was satisfied! I’d say the day was a big success, and I’m looking forward to the next installment.
I’m not immune to body image issues, but I consider myself lucky to never have seriously suffered from a debilitating eating disorder. But I think the greatest and ultimately only way to stop eating disorders and make “healthy” eating the norm is to view food in a new light. Food isn’t just calories. It’s how you make it. It’s who you make it with. It’s trying something new, and even if you don’t like it at least you tried. Instead of telling people to eat organic or eat green or eat healthy, instead tell them to make eating fun again. Don’t just eat lunch because it’s what happens around noon every day–eat lunch because making it can be an integral, eventful, and newsworthy part of your day. There is no food that will single handedly make you live forever, or contrastingly make you gain weight. Let’s change our perspective, and make food fun again.