Friday, March 05, 2004

Happy Plates

When I was a child, growing up in my parents house, there were strict rules and guidelines my older sister and I had to follow regarding meals and snacks:

Cafeteria Hours: We couldn't stand aimlessly in front of an open refrigerator door trying to figure out what we wanted... "Hurry up and close that d'mn door!! What are you trying to do..refrigerate the whole house??!! My light bill is too high as it is!!! Dinner is going to be ready in a couple of can wait, you ain't about to starve to death!" Of course as we got older, they gave us more leeway as far as snacks and such, but what it did was make sure we built up an appetite, instead of spoiling it on snacking.

Breffast is THE most important meal of the day: I was one of those privileged kids that grew up with some COUNTRY parents, wasn't none of that doughnuts, pop tarts, toaster strudel (i.e. JUNK) and stuff like that for breakfast. Instead my mom (and a lot of times my dad) got up early and made sure we had eggs, toast, bacon, ham, grits, oatmeal..we had 'HOT bref-fast' every morning except Saturdays..on which we were allowed to have cold cereal. Both my grandfather's always used to make sure that I realized that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. It's important to get your body fueled to handle the rigors of the daily grind. All that refined sugar found in that junk food deters the mind and body from being in the peak condition to learn. A lot of the kids are running around school right now on those early morning sugar highs and parents are spent trying to explain why lil Johnny can't sit his bad az down somewhere and be quiet & still.

3 Squares: My father was a strong advocate of the 4 basic food groups. Everytime we sat down, we were going to have at least one fresh vegetable, a meat, a starch (rice,pasta or potatoes) and some bread. Today's world of 2 working parents and time crunches makes drive-thru and microwave dining so appealing and convenient. And in a pinch..a biggie sized combo meal can solve a problem..but once its a regular part of the dining regime (more than twice a week)..then it becomes a crutch. Shopping for, preparing and cooking fresh fruits and vegetables, quality meat is definitely more time consuming than the fast food. But what so many are giving as a willing tradeoff (time vs nutrition), is an addictive lifestyle that American society is overdosing on daily.

No Food? No Drink!!: Along with each meal, we had SOMEthing to drink. Sometimes Kool-Aid, Lemonade, soda, water, milk, etc. Water we could have abundantly (as long as we were past the age of peeing in the bed)..but anything that had sugar in it (Kool-Aid, soda, etc.) was rationed out during the meal...
"Put that d'mn soda down and and finish eating your food!" We couldn't just gulp down our drink and dwadle over our food..there had to be a proportionate consumption of food and drink. If we had few of our cousins or friends over, we had to check in before we took a drink.

"Take a sip now boss??.
(scrutinizing the plate to see how much food was left) Eat a couple more bites of them beans, then you can take a sip.
Thankya boss!

Full Bellies: Once we were of the age that we could serve ourselves (fix our own plates without breaking something, spilling something or hurting ourselves) we were given one rule, "Don't waste my food." Whatever we put on our plates, we HAD to eat. A couple of times I tried the ol, "Chew the food then spit it out in a napkin while I act like I'm wiping my mouth" my complete amazement, my father already knew that one! Probably because my parents are one generation away from people that didn't have a full belly everynight, they took this rule very seriously. We couldn't have any desserts, snacks or special treats if we didn't eat ALL of the food on our empty plate is a happy plate. If you took all the clean, edible food that Americans threw away in restaurants and at their homes every day, I'm sure it could easily solve the world's hunger problem.

Work hours, education, culture, finances, health,schedules, etc. all play a part in how well we feed our families. Some people were never told that it was dangerous to eat fried chicken and bacon cheeseburgers everyday or that you need to make sure to drink water (not soda or beer) everyday. Some never knew why their heart stopped pumping..they had no idea that a grease-filled diet is not the recipe to a long and healthy life. It doesn't matter what color you are, or what your religion is or how old you are...learning how to eat to live, is a lesson that ALL can benefit from.

And remember..I'm not only the writer..I'm also a fried chicken, biscuit & gravy, bacon double mushroom cheeseburger with a fried egg on top LOVER!!!..I just can't eat that stuff (that much) anymore. :)