I have been thinking about 'kid food'. I have been thinking about the ingredients that go into kid food and their preparation. I have been asking myself why kids like kid food and why adults always seem to end up sneaking chicken nuggets themselves… I have wondered about the salt content. And the sugar content. I have questioned the vegetable content and why the vegetables always seem so processed. I have asked the question what does processing mean, and why does it seem so critical to kids being willing to eat something.
Thing 2 is now at the age where every food is questionable. More often than not he will eat things like pancakes, hot dogs (the grass fed farmer’s market kind!), homemade pasta and smoothies. I have gotten pretty savvy at recreating kid favorites to get him to eat things like kale in his scrambled eggs and whole wheat in pancakes. I do feel good that he is getting good wholesome homemade food. And that has been the purpose of this blog, to make more stuff from scratch. I am proud to say that I regularly make pancakes, pizza, pasta, smoothies, soups, even cream cheese from scratch-completely homemade. But recently I am questioning whether this is good, or missing the point?
Michael Pollan in Food Rules writes that we should only eat unhealthy foods like fried foods, ice cream, etc, if we make them ourselves. The thought is that they are so difficult that we will consume them less often. I love these foods and agree that they are unhealthy. So I set out to follow Pollan’s rules and make them at home with ingredients that I believe in like whole wheat flour and unrefined sugar. But it was this last weekend when I made a batch of those whole wheat cheese crackers that it hit me. The recipe contains 4 tablespoons of butter, and 6 ounces of cheese not to mention onion powder and ¾ of a cup of whole wheat flour. That is expensive-about $6-7 for the batch which yields what looks like about a half a box of Cheezits!! I used a great Organic Valley raw milk jack cheese because the kids like it. They did not like the first batch that I made with raw milk cheddar. But I figured they didn’t like the crackers because they didn’t like the cheese. But even this time, using a cheese they like, both Things turned down the crackers. I will be eating all 4 tablespoons of that butter by myself.
I love that the crackers are homemade. But even though they are made with local whole wheat flour, cultured butter and raw cheese (which all get high marks in my book), the crackers are pretty processed. Wheat must be harvested, dried and ground. Milk must be cultured and strained. Butter must be obtained from cream and then churned. And the onion powder is a ton of processing too. Onions must be picked, sliced, dried and then ground. About the only ingredient that is minimally processed is the salt which was just dried from sea water.
More and more I look at the food I am serving my family and I feel that the whole foods are the best: roasted chicken with boiled broccoli, baked potatoes with a braised roast, stewed vegetable soups, brown rice and beans. These are all foods that are cooked in their original forms, with little alterations. These are the simple foods that our parents and grandparent ate growing up, not pizza and pasta and chicken nuggets. These foods surely offer the best health benefits. But they offer little in the way of exciting blog posts. “Hey everybody! Fry a grass fed steak in a cast iron skillet. And make sure that you salt and pepper it.” WooHoo. You already know how to do that. Where is the story? The excitement? It is in the story about homemade Goldfish crackers for sure.
In the last several months I have become a better cook. I have made all kinds of exciting stuff. And some things I have learned are not that intimidating like making home cultured cheese, kombucha, granola and stocks. These are worth my time and efforts on a regular basis. These homemade varieties replace industrial versions of the same foods only with more flavor and health benefits. But cheese crackers? I remain as non committal as ever about them. Is the point of the real food movement to replace the white flour in them with whole wheat? Is it about using local cheese? Is it about making cheese crackers that don’t utilize controversial preservatives like TBHQ? Is it about using organic ingredients to ensure that one is not exposed to chemical pesticides? Somehow I don’t think so. As I ate my homemade cheese crackers by myself this weekend, with no help from my kids, I started thinking about the things I would rather them eat: raw nuts and whole and dried fruits, raw veggie sticks, raw cheese. What better snacks could there be?
I am happy that I have gone to the effort of making these crackers from scratch. But I do not think I am going to keep them in the house. They will be a thing I will make for parties only. Because truthfully, even with all the high quality ingredients they contain, they are not in any sense of the word, minimally processed.
This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday