I have enjoyed reading the columns by Fresh Talk contributor Sarah Krause about integrating fresh produce into her family’s diet and lifestyle.  

Sarah’s most recent column talks about the dynamic of passing on the likes and dislikes of fresh produce to kids. She writes:

I asked my friend Chris, who has two boys, if she worries that not serving certain fruits and vegetables will cause her kids hate them for life? “Well, I didn’t like cauliflower when I was a kid, but now I do,” she said. “I think you grow into adult tastes and eventually you get used to foods.” With that said, Chris admitted she does have a few tricks up her sleeve. 

“I’m a sneaky chef!” she proudly proclaimed. In fact, she had to whisk away to the bedroom to whisper her sneaky tricks to me so her family wouldn’t overhear. “Even my husband doesn’t know – he’s almost as picky as the boys!” She cooks, purees and freezes fruits and vegetables to sneak into dishes. Cauliflower has hidden in mashed potatoes, mac ‘n cheese might include pureed squash or sweet potatoes and spaghetti sauce could hide spinach, blueberries or zucchini.  “I pull these out all winter long and use them in my cooking.”

Clever. I tried fooling my kids by adding a tiny jar of Gerber mashed carrots to their beloved box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. No one liked it. Now I just inform my crew of the health benefits and nutritional value of certain fruits and veggies and hope that they’ll be more persuaded to try it. The rule in our house is 1. you have to have it on your dinner plate, and 2. you have to take a taste of it.

Chris said she wished her boys were more willing to try things before they immediately said no. She and her husband talk about healthy food choices and nutrition, too. “But they get tired of hearing about Dr. Oz because I talk about him all the time,” said Chris, who cooked kale for the first-time after hearing about it on his show. “They always say, ‘We don’t want to eat what Dr. Oz says to eat again!’”

 

If you are a parent of older or adult kids, doesn’t Sarah’s commentary and the comments of these moms make you nostalgic?  Older, battle-worn parents of teenagers would gladly return to the day when the biggest point of contention at the supper table was Dr. Oz and incessant love of colorful produce.

It makes me yearn for a simpler, earlier time when our own kids were sitting at our dinner table and we would have similar conversations about food and fresh produce.

Naturally, since I have worked for Vance Publishing and The Packer for 26 plus years, fresh produce was a frequent topic of conversation. One of the perks of working at the trade press for the fruit and vegetable industry is that we occasionally receive a carton of first-of-the-season apples, cherries, strawberries, pears, onions or assorted produce item or accessory. When such a bounty was delivered to the news room, all of us on staff  descend on the carton of free produce with deliberate speed (fast but not so fast as to appear greedy) and take home a few select produce items to share with our families, like the spoils of war.

 I remember, if you can believe it, when fresh cut salads were just making inroads.  I had written a column - sometime in the early 1990s, I think - expressing our young family’s uncertain foray into bagged salad. In response, one bagged salad marketer express shipped a carton of bagged salads to The Packer to help remove any remaining reservations about value added fresh produce. It helped, I’m sure.

Bigger worries have supplanted the simpler and wonder-filled times of eating broccoli for the first time or taking the kids to pick blueberries at the u-pick farm. I much envy Sarah and other parents of young kids in that respect.

With adult kids now spread across the country, my wife and I now talk about new jobs and careers, college, aging cars, relationships, money and the lack thereof, getting home for the holidays and weddings and just making a way in what can be a tough and unforgiving world. 

Yet fresh produce consumption is a touchstone we return to by force of habit, a topic that shows our kids we still care -  or perhaps a sign that it is hard to let go. Now, when we visit with our sons in Dayton, Ohio and San Diego, Calif., I’m quick to scan their refrigerator and inquire about their fresh produce consumption, in addition to other parental inquisitions.

“What, you are going to Taco Bell every day?”

“What fresh produce do you have on hand right now? V-8? That’s not going to cut it, mister.”

“By the way, did you hear what Dr. Oz said about collards the other day?”