At a recent birthday party one of my daughter’s friends received a copy of the young readers edition of the book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan. The dust jacket describes the book as “an unforgettable journey behind the scenes of your dinner”. My daughter was intrigued. It is a very readable narrative, and since she found it in the library a last week, she has carried it around constantly. In fact, unbeknownst to my daughter, the adult version of this book has been on my reading list for a while now, and although I’ve got other books that I would like to put before it, I’m feeling the need to catch up with my daughter here, because this book has become an oft-cited reference in our household.
Some examples: “Mom, could you please not put X brand of yogurt in my lunch anymore, it has corn syrup in it”. Or, on a night when we heated up a package of frozen lasagna for dinner (not a common event in our house, but it happens – I had expected my kids to be excited about it), my daughter scrutinized the ingredients list and rejected it because “it has too many ingredients to be healthy. It’s lazy to serve packaged food,” she concluded (she ate cereal for dinner instead). At the time I half-heartedly attempted a response, mumbling something about how it’s okay to eat less healthy foods in moderation, as we raced around like crazy to get out the door in time for her choir practice. Probably the main message she got from our interaction was that I was miffed at being considered lazy.
As this book is cited more and more in our household, it is clear to me that, while I love seeing my daughter analyze what she eats, and think about eating and living healthily, and I think this is a good book for her to read, it has brought up a plethora of ideas so fast and furious that she is, right now, over her head. She refuses chicken nuggets and French fries, calculates the amount of corn products she consumes, worries about free-range chickens and industrial farms and pesticides.
I know that overwhelming feeling of discovering information that seems so extremely pressing that it’s hard to balance what to focus on, what applies to you, what is important to you. It’s hard to prioritize what you, as an individual can do, and should do, and want to do while being bombarded with difficult information. What I hope is that she can narrow down the problem enough that she can figure out a way to incorporate it into her life. It is so easy to get overwhelmed and drop the whole issue. I guess a big part of growing up, especially now in this time of big issues, is finding ways to sort through these issues with satisfaction. And a big part of being a parent is to guide her through this process: give her my opinions (gently), help her ask questions and find people to talk to, and empower her to follow through with the ways she decides she wants deal with her “newfound challenges of mealtime,” (Pollan’s words). There will certainly be other dilemmas to come…
Maybe she can start by making dinner on choir nights!