As a mother, I spend a lot of time thinking about food. Have the kids eaten enough, can they survive on grilled cheese alone, how can I get them to eat more vegetables without resorting to threats, bribery and running into the other room so I can bang my head against the wall without anyone seeing? When I think about food, I also consider the role it plays not only in keeping my family healthy, but also in keeping our planet healthy. In my world, an apple is no longer just an apple. And while I’m not completely convinced organic is the answer to everything (last year, Margaret Wente wrote an interesting article for The Globe & Mail about the adverse effects the organic movement can have on the planet) my focus on keeping my children well means it doesn’t matter to me at the moment whether there are actually more vitamins in an organic apple. It does matter to me, when my son eats about ten of them a day because he’s channeling Anthony from The Wiggles, that said apple hasn’t been irradiated and laced with pesticides that have breached the skin and can’t be washed away.
Recently, I signed up for a weekly delivery of organic fruit and vegetables. Perhaps I could make it into a fun game designed to encourage the kids to appreciate produce, I thought. “What’s in the Magic Box this week? Ooooh, local organic purple kale! Radishes! Leeks!” At first, I tried my best to ignore the online “customize” option provided by Mama Earth Organics. It only cost an extra two dollars, and meant I could choose my own produce rather than subsisting on mostly local options, which I knew would normally be fine, but would become somewhat arduous in the root vegetable heavy dead of winter. The point of this, though, I told myself—other than saving me a trip to the market with my adorable but slightly destructive brood— is to reduce my carbon footprint by eating as close to home as possible. So we are doing this. Customization is for the weak!
This lasted about a month. The problem of actually getting my kids to eat things like purple kale (“Why are we eating the leaves from the trees?” my son wailed) and radishes (my daughter actually threw up) broke me. However, even when I’m subbing items online, I try to go for the local option when I can. And I include at least one item that’s a little different, just to show my kids that there’s a world of fruit and vegetables out there, and even if you won’t eat them, daddy will, because that’s what makes him so big and strong. (“Mmm, collard greens,” my husband says gamely, sliding them under his napkin when the kids aren’t looking. “Why not just broccoli?” He’ll ask me later. “This box is breaking my spirit.”)
All fear of the unknown aside, when the box comes, we talk about how all the food in there doesn’t just magically appear. There are farmers involved, and sunshine, and rain, and all the things the earth provides that we need to be grateful for, daily. “I’m grateful for these tree leaves,” my son said, holding up some red kale a few weeks ago. “But I’m more grateful for cookies.”
If he were any other way, he wouldn’t be a normal kid—and that’s important, too.