My children, or at least one of them (the other one is still young), is like any other child. He loves sweets, ice cream, would dream of drinking coke over dinner and on top of that go to bed without brushing his teeth. He is a kid and like any other kid, he has the right to love all those. Problem is, he has me as a mother. And like many mothers, fathers or carers, I don't mind him having an ice cream every so often, a sweet on special occasions and I much rather he eats the cookies I bake than those shop bought but when it comes to sweet drinks during mealtime, it is a no-no. I won't be the one taking him to McDonald's either. That doesn't make me sound like a very nice person!!!!
I bake a lot and chances are that Elliot (my eldest) will be involved in the process. He will help, taste the batter and eat the cake (and make the mess I will have to clear out afterwards). That in itself isn't anything spectacular. Yet, it is. Getting children involved in the cooking process is a big deal. It gives them more awareness of what goes in their tummy, more appreciation of what they eat and the ingredients they've used (I only have to look at Elliot's face whenever he is the one who has cooked something. There's real pride) and above anything else, it is a bonding experience between you and the child. It's nothing new but it is worth reminding.
When I bake a cake with Elliot, I sometimes tell him about the value of ingredients and why we shouldn't waste too much baking parchment. How is flour made and where does it come from? The butter that makes the whole thing luscious and delicious comes at a price which is not only financial but also environmental. And I also sometimes get a little frustrated when his attention seems to wander somewhere else but on the task I have or he has given to himself.
My littlest one, Heath, started eating solid food about a year ago and it is very rare that he refuses me something I've made him except when we eat something different from him. He is a good eater, unfussy over vegetables. He loves lentils, yogurt, croissants and anything in between. I give him very little meat or fish but go heavy on grains, pulses and eggs. It is a choice that my husband and I have made. As long as he gets all the nutrients that his little body needs and develops a love of food, why give him non-vegetarian foods? And this is where dilemma #1 comes to action.
I was brought up on eatin anything that an animal has to offer. The meat was the star of the meal, the vegetables mere adornments. And yet, I have never been a fan of meat apart from poultry or game. A big entrecôte on the barbecue has never got me excited. Never. I much rather eat the fries that came with it and the green salad. But seafood, that's another subject. I do get excited at the sight of a big seafood platter, washed with a glass or 2 of crisp white wine. And the mayonnaise and bread that come with it.... I love spaghetti vongole and could eat a bucketful of clams. The dilemma is that as much as I would love for my children to experience and love all the bounty that the land and the oceans have to offer, the sustainable and environmental impacts those have bother me. Because when I grew up, we all thought that what the sea and the land offered was infinite; it's only recently that we have realised that this bountiful natural larder has its own limits. So, my children won't get to eat those things or very rarely.
I just finished listening to a podcast from The New Yorker about the great David Attenborough (check it out here ). At the end of his interview with TNY host David Remnick, Sir Attenborough said something that stayed with me. When discussing the subject of death, age and luck and how some people are able to do things that others aren't, he suggested that the idea of not doing what we are capable of is "an act of extraordinarily ingratitude". And then I thought and pondered and procrastinated more about those 5 powerful worlds because they are true. I wished my parents had heard them before me. Now they are in me, I can't pretend that everything is fine and business as usual. What would my children and perhaps grand children think of us if we don't do anything now? So it is now in my power and my husband's and our children to make our daily acts and lives less impactful.
We are still figuring out what more we can do which is exactly why I am blogging; to figure it out. Can a change to our diet really makes a difference to the state of the planet we are incredibly fortunate to live on? Would turning my children to vegetarian make them miss out on the incredibly array of wonderful foods the world and its many cultures have to offer? I don't know.
But I go back to David Attenborough's words and I wonder.
Whenever work doesn't get too much in the way, I try to make H and E (and me) little things to have at goûter-time (the French concept of the 4pm snack). It's often an experiment that doesn't necessarily follow a recipe to the letter and more importantly doesn't involve a mountain of sugar. This time it is buttermilk soft cookie/flat scones sweetened with banana and very ripe mango.
BANANA, MANGO AND CHOCOLATE BUTTERMILK COOKIES (OR FLAT SCONES)
Makes 6-8 cookies
1.5 cups self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
A big knob of butter (about 40/50g), cubed
1 cup buttermilk
1 large very ripe banana, mashed
1/2 very ripe mango or more, mashed (if you don't have mango, double the amount of banana)
A few dark chocolate chips (70% minimum)
Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
In a large bowl, mix with your hands the flour, baking powder and butter until the mixture looks like sand. Add the buttermilk, a little at the time followed with the banana, mango. If the batter is very loose, add a tablespoon of flour. You want it to hold its shape a little. Fold in the chocolate chips without over mixing.
With the help of a tablespoon, spoon out the cookie batter on the baking parchment leaving a few centimetres between each (they will spread a little). You will get 6 to 8 cookies depending on the size of the spoonful. Bake for 12-17 min until golden.