Google+ bakers and astronauts: The Languages of Food

02 January 2010

The Languages of Food

With a little extra time on my hands, I am revisiting my experiences in Reggio Emilia from October.  Although we have a wonderful collection of books published by Reggio Children in our school library, I couldn't help but purchase a few for my own collection.   I just read The Languages of Food : Recipes, Experiences, Thoughts, and it has me thinking about children and their relationship to food; and what that means to us as adults.

The book talks about nutrition in terms of what we should be giving our bodies more of.  The recipes, from the kitchens in Reggio schools, show a commitment to eating seasonally, eating grains, and promoting proteins besides chicken and beef.  I find the recipes in the book exciting because they reflect my own diet and food interests, and I'm eager to try a few out.

I was talking to my husband (a chef) about sustainable eating and vegetarianism on our train back from Austria the other day.  He is not a vegetarian, whereas I am, and have been for about ten years.  He had just finished Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and felt there was a lot of information that would be making him think about the impact eating meat has on the environment and one's body.  I thought about my beliefs and preferences, and how I might be influencing the children I teach with my ideas about food, even if I am not saying them aloud.  We only cook vegetarian food in the classroom, even when children suggest meat toppings for pizza.  The children always see vegetarian food in my lunchbox, and when they ask me what I am having for lunch, I tell them honestly, "quinoa and vegetables" or "vegetable soup and bread" - whatever I brought from home.

My parents eat meat - we grew up eating a lot of red meat, pork, and chicken.  My grandparents eat meat - and it is very difficult to speak to people who lived through government rationing during the second world war about vegetarianism.  Meat and milk are health to that generation.  But my personal views on sustainability are about a plant based diet, and I am passing those values on to my students through my actions.  But, perhaps,  because my grandparents don't understand at all, and my parents find vegetarianism a little inconvenient but they accept it, and most of my friends and colleagues are very open to eating vegetarian when they come over for dinner...doesn't that mean that people are becoming more conscious eaters, and the children I teach will be part of a generation that takes more of a stand about what goes into their body?

Despite this post, I am not a preachy vegetarian.  Everyone else at the table can order a steak and I don't worry about it - my decisions are my decisions.  But with young children, what is my responsibility?  I teach them about being kind, respectful, and fair.  Where do eating and nutrition fall into that?


  1. We only eat vegetarian (although not vegan) at the preschool, except on Tuesday afternoons when the older kids bring their lunches from home and we all eat together. Most of them bring some kind of meat, although there are two who come from vegetarian families. We're always talking about what we're eating. The vegetarian kids are like you, they don't seem bothered by what the rest of us are eating, but neither do they seem compelled to try it.

    I always bring a big salad (often with a little meat on top, but not always) and a couple of years ago that translated into most of the kids bringing salads to lunch as well. The parents discovered that a little fruit juice made an acceptable dressing. I was pretty proud of myself. This year is more about, "Yuck!" every time I open my salad, but they are noticing and asking what's in it.

    As a teacher I think the most I can do is be a role model for healthy, balanced eating. What that means, however, is really up to their families.

    Happy New Year!

  2. Anonymous2.1.10

    What an excellent post! As 2009 came to an end, I started reading "Eating Animals". I was a vegetarian for 6 years, then started eating a bit of meat again- and now that I live in Italy I have a whole new approach to it. As I read the book, I was ready to give it all up again. At the same time my husband started to read up about green, ethical and sustainable living and brought up growing our own stuff.

    The book looks interesting and i would like to explore it more. I would also like to consider food in my classroom.

  3. Tom, I agree that we should promote "healthy, balanced eating", and that the definition of that is up to the family. I think that we send messages about healthy eating to the families in our class by cooking healthy and providing the families with recipes through our class website; giving suggestions for healthy snacks (and listing things we do not want to see, like chocolate and too much sugar - we have treats on special occasions). One thing that keeps our classroom food culture exciting is that there are 11 nationalities represented by the students and teachers, so everyone's idea of "lunch" or "snack" is different.

    I feel this comment getting long, so perhaps I have a little more writing to do on the topic. And thanks, Jessica, for joining in! There is so much to think about when it comes to putting things in our bodies and taking care of the planet for the future.

  4. I love it that you eat lunch with your students. So many teachers do not, either because of the structure of the school or because they choose not to. But so much teaching and learning and community building happens during a meal.

  5. great info on the diet industry's dirty little secrets!


Thanks so much for joining the conversation!

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