First, a few words about the unfolding horror in Sandy Hook Elementary. Like so many, I know about and deeply disapprove of many of other horrors: the mass rape and killing in the Congo, the drone strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the ongoing scourge of inner city violence. But those all seem distant and abstract: chronic, unsolvable problems. But Sandy Hook comes very close to home.
My son is a first grader, seven years old. He was sitting in his first grade class on Friday morning with his first grade teacher and his young classmates. The kids who died were exactly like him. The same age. The same safe, suburban setting. Loving parents. Capable teachers. No enemies. The only difference between Grey and, say, Benjamin, is that Grey is still here and looking forward to Christmas. (Grey knows about the shooting, of course. His response was, “But mom, they didn’t even get to open their Christmas presents!”) There was absolutely nothing those parents or teachers could have done to prevent this from happening to their children – and there is nothing I can do to ensure it never happens to mine.
I am so, so, so sorry for the families that lost their loved ones. I hope that we can have sensible discussions about what weaponry should be available to civilians. I hope that we can improve access to mental health care, and support families raising mentally ill children more effectively. I hope we change our news coverage to de-glorify the commiters of these atrocities. I hope that this helps us work towards the safety and innocence of all children everywhere, including in war-torn Congo, “collateral damage” in our war on terror, and in our neglected communities. I can see myself in the weeping of those parents in Connecticut. I need to see myself in Syria, too.
Finally, we all are reminded that life is fragile, precious and never to be taken for granted.
So I shake myself off and make dinner. And as I’m making dinner, I contemplate my Most Successful New Years Resolution Ever. Two or three years ago – I forget now – I resolved to serve a vegetable with every meal. I also resolved to not be too picky about what the vegetable was. One brilliant piece of parenting advice I got when I was younger was that if I want my kids to eat vegetables I should not skimp on the cheesy sauce, ranch dressing, salt and butter. Trade the nutrition (and habit) for the calories. I can gradually reduce the sauces as the kids get accustomed to the taste of the veggies, but they’ll keep the habit of the vegetables for the rest of their life. I think, within reason, this is true.
And more or less every meal I’ve cooked since that resolution took effect, I’ve had a vegetable on the table. Grey now professes to like broccoli, carrots, corn, tomatoes, asparagus and brussel sprouts. He’ll eat the first four even when not asked to. Thane has been a harder sell. The kids are REQUIRED to eat one polite bite of the evening’s vegetables, and he’s slowly being overcome by repetition. And importantly, I’m eating a lot more vegetables too. When it’s right there on the table, I’ll have a serving or three.
A key to continuing this resolution has been ease. I have seasonal methods of making sure it happens:
We are part of a farm share, and during the summer my ‘fridge is full to overloaded with turnips, carrots, greens, peas, beans, squash and purslane. You start planning your meals for maximum produce consumption as you stare at the veggie crisper that ate Stoneham. Sheer abundance has required us to try veggies we’d never tried before (we’ve come to adore radishes, and discovered that brussel sprouts are excellent). It’s also dramatically reduced the cost of attempting to feed your kids veggies. I mean, produce can be expensive. Would you really buy a five or seven dollar bag of produce that you don’t think your kids will eat, especially if it only looks so/so fresh? Maybe not. But when that obscure produce is in your fridge and is going to go to waste unless you do something, you’ll prepare it and not care so much if your kids only have a bite or two – or even if none of you like it.
By the time the farm share season is over, I am _done_ being innovative. I do not want to try to think of recipes that require kale. I want something super easy. It turns out that – for once – marketers have heard my plea! There are massive selections of steam-in-bag veggies available in the supermarket. Many of these veggies are nutritionally excellent: frozen veggies and canned ones can actually be better than fresh ones in the Supermarket, because they can be less durable varieties and are packaged closer to prime. And you cannot beat the ease of use on these: buy, put in freezer, remove from freezer, nuke for 5 minutes, serve. You can get unseasoned and seasoned ones. And each bag of vegetables costs somewhere between one and two dollars: a pretty cheap slug of produce compared to fresh prices. Convenient, tasty and cheap TOTALLY works for me, and has made it pretty easy for me to keep up with my old resolutions.
So, how about you? How do you get your veggies? What prevents you from getting veggies? What’s your most successful New Year’s resolution ever?