Volume XI, Issue 19 ~ May 8-14, 2003

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Mother’s Day Song: Feed Your Children Well
This editorial comes to you from the Aquarium of the Pacific.
Just in time for Mother’s Day, a spring wind blew us to California for a festival of authors and environmental writers. In a workshop on sustainable cuisine, The Next Diet for a Small Planet’s author, Anna Lappé, jolted us back three decades to a time when Mother’s Day came every day.

In those days, Anna’s mother — and these days her co-author — Frances Moore Lappé, along with Adele Davis, guided us in how to nourish our children by making what’s good for us taste good.

You don’t leave a place like Aquarium of the Pacific thinking of humans as creatures who stand alone. From albatrosses to homo sapiens to whales, so many species’ survival depends on mothers’ nurturing.

In the beginning, she is what we eat. In the wild as well as in many human families, mammals are sustained by mother’s milk. Mother albatrosses, as Eye of the Albatross author Carl Safina told us, travel thousands of miles to find food for their chicks.

In most species, a mother’s worry is getting enough to eat. For 1.2 billion of Earth’s six billion humans, hunger still prowls. But for another 1.2 billion, the biggest problem is not want but abundance. Whether your coast is the Atlantic or Pacific, your supermarket stocks 30,000 or 40,000 items. Most of those choices originate not in farm fields but in the laboratories of corporate scientists whose motto is ‘bigger, cheaper, faster, better.’

Mothers and fathers are likely to work under the same motto nowadays, so it’s an easy choice for them to stock up with foods that might be better for the corporations that make them than for the families that eat them.

Hidden sugars like high fructose corn syrup — along with fat, salt and chemicals — go a long way toward explaining why a staggering 63 percent of Americans are overweight — and why one out of every 10 of our health-care dollars is spent on obesity-related care.

Mother’s Day comes at a time that makes healthier choices easier. The fresh, whole foods that nourish us better are sprouting in our gardens and our neighbors’ farm fields. The shorter the time and distance from farm gate to dinner plate, the better the food tastes.

Potato chips aren’t so hard to pass up when you can get new potatoes full of locally grown flavor. Spring and summer brings the whole fruit and vegetable alphabet, from Asparagus (fresh now Saturday mornings at the Annapolis Farmers’ Market) to Zucchini (come June, sweet green and yellow squashes show up at farm markets opening at five locations in Anne Arundel and one in Calvert County).

With a little initiative, you can fill much of your larder with fresh, locally produced food. Community-supported farms like Mountains to Bay (who you’ve seen advertised in these pages but are full this year) sell season-long contracts to subscribers. You can buy free-range eggs — the taste will amaze you — from some of their members and from many farmers’ markets. For producers of organic beef and chicken raised without hormones, antibiotics and genetically modified feed, see www.futureharvestcasa.org.

Shop such places and you’ll be surprised at the bounty you find. At the Amish stall at Calvert Country Market,you can buy fresh ground whole wheat flour. And don’t miss their fresh honey.

Part of living sustainably is sustaining our health and our children’s. That’s the message Frances Lappé offered mothers three decades ago. Now she and her very healthy-looking daughter are reminding a new generation of mothers to feed our children well.

Does that mean you’ve got to deprive your kids of fun foods? On that score we like the advice of another environment writer we met at the Aquarium of the Pacific, Jesse Ziff Cool, San Francisco-area restaurateur and author: “I eat sustainable 80 or 85 percent of the time, and the other 15 I can afford to play with.”



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Last updated May 8, 2003 @ 1:43am