Tracey and I keep up on the latest cookbooks, tools, and healthy food programs for kids, and one recent set caught our eye: Handstand Kids has come out with a Baking Around the World set, which includes sweet recipes from around the world–including a tasty pumpkin bread pudding from South Africa–as well as silicone baking cups and a whisk perfect for small hands. Handstand Kids also has Italian and Chinese cookbooks. “Traveling the world, one recipe at a time,” is their motto–as it is for Tracey and I.
From my blog post on the Epicurious epi-log blog:
Forty-eight hours ago, my dream came true. What was that dream? To inspire, educate, and empower kids to eat healthfully, to cook, to notice what goes into their bodies, to be the best they can be. This is the genesis of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and Kids’ State Dinner.
I’ve had the good fortune to help promote Let’s Move since 2010, when someone from the White House called me to say: “Hey, we know you wrote a book on healthy eating, and that Epicurious likes to promote the topic. Why don’t we work together?” In early 2011, myself and two colleagues, Laura Miller and Maurie Perl, were thinking of ways to inspire kids to eat healthy and reinforce the Let’s Move initiative, when we came up with the idea of having a kid’s recipe contest with the prize being a priceless Kids’ State Dinner at the White House. I mentioned it to the First Lady’s office and lo and behold, we got a call several months later that Mrs. Obama would love to do this. Months of work from teams of people–from the First Lady’s office and the White House Digital Office, the U.S.D.A., and Department of Education, along with our always hard-working team at Epicurious–resulted in 54 winners flying on Delta Sunday with a parent or guardian to Washington D.C. (thank you, Delta!). We stayed at the beautiful Westin Georgetown (thank you, Westin!); had a private tour of Julia Child’s kitchen from the brilliant curators at the National Museum of American History (thank you Paula, Nanci, Keith, and Valeska!); enjoyed a healthy pizza party; and the next morning boarded buses for a sightseeing tour before arriving at the White House.
As befitting any state dinner, we were announced, one by one, walking past an enormous phalanx of press. Many of the kids were interviewed (and indeed, have now become local celebrities), and handled it like pros. We proceeded up to the Grand Foyer (see above), where there were spectacular arrangements made from raspberries, sugar snap peas, and radishes, as well as healthy drinks. A balloonist made the kids imaginative hats before all the kids lined up to each have their photo taken with the First Lady.
The winners headed into the grand East Room, which had been transformed into a kid-friendly dining room. The menu was comprised of a few of the winning recipes. And then it began…the First Lady was announced, followed by myself, and 12-year old Marshall Reid, coauthor of Portion Size Me. You can see me here (below), ready to begin my remarks, and fully soaking in the moment. I began, nervous at first, as not only was I addressing the First Lady of the United States, but also an enormous crew of television cameras. (The event was covered by more than a thousand news outlets.) I will publish my speech on Gourmet Live’s blog on Friday at noon, but I spoke from the heart. I then introduced the amazing Marshall, who moved us all when he talked about being bullied. Mrs. Obama followed up with an inspirational off-the-cuff speech. Dinner was served, and myself and four other families were lucky enough to be seated with Mrs. Obama. As we talked about things big and small, the President crashed the party, eliciting excited screams. He congratulated the winners and stayed to shake everyone’s hand. It was such an extraordinary honor and a real surprise!
It seems a blur after that: Big Time Rush performed for their many enthusiastic fans, and then we all headed out to the Kitchen Garden with White House Assistant Chef, Sam Kass, who showed us the tomatoes, squash, and beans growing on the far end of the South Lawn. White House pastry chef Bill Yosses gave the kids honey from the White House beehive, and we all exited the gates.
It was such an amazing honor to be there, and to bring these very deserving families with us. I hope the message of eating healthy, so you can be at your peak for yourself, for your family, and for your country, will continue to ripple out in ever widening circles. Meantime, we will soon be posting video and photos of the entire day on Epicurious, but right now you can download a free copy of the winning recipes at the recipe contest site. Our huge thanks to everyone involved in making this happen, especially Mrs. Obama.
Watch the White House Kids’ State Dinner video that so beautifully captures this extraordinary day.
Hot dogs and hamburgers are the most popular foods for kids to have on Memorial Day, which is fine if those are things kids eat once a week. But studies show kids are eating red meat several times a week and consumption has gone up, not down. This despite all of the studies that show moderate red meat consumption can be a cause of weight gain and hardening of the arteries, to say nothing of the health of the planet.
Meatless Mondays is one such organization that encourages eating meat-free at least one day a week. I would take that a lot further and encourage eating meat only once a week and legumes, soy, and other high protein healthy foods six days a week. It will only help the health of your family, and that of the planet.
When Sarah Palin dedicated a s’more to Michelle Obama on her most recent episode of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” she was once again raising her disagreement with the so-called Nanny State. CNN reports that Mike Huckabee retorted today that Palin obviously didn’t understand the First Lady’s true intent. Palin has repeatedly expressed her disagreement with Obama’s healthy eating initiative. According to CNN:
“The former vice presidential nominee told conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham last month that “the first lady cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families in what we should eat.”
Palin also hand-delivered cookies to a Pennsylvania school last month before delivering a speech there, saying: “Who should be deciding what I eat? Should it be government or should it be parents? It should be the parents.”‘
Yes, parents should have the ultimate control over their children’s eating habits. And yes, we love us a s’mores. But parents first have to know how to eat a healthy diet and teach it to their kids; plus, kids consume much of their daily diet away from their parents; and, everyone, including Tracey and I, need to be reminded about moderation. So, enjoy a s’mores. Have two with your kids. But don’t follow that up with hot chocolate unless you are Sarah Palin, and have time to take a long hike in the Alaskan woods.
We are thrilled that Congress finally passed the Child Nutrition Bill on Thursday. This will enable millions more children to get school breakfast, lunch, and after-school snacks. And those meals will be more nutritious, with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean dairy and meats to be served much more than they have before. There are down sides to the way the $4.5 billion bill is paid for, with cuts to food stamps, and schools receiving a larger government reimbursement but will have to foot the cost for greater food costs themselves. But despite those drawbacks, we don’t agree with the sentiment expressed by Representative Paul Broun of Georgia who was quoted in The New York Times as saying, “This bill is not about child nutrition. It’s not about healthy kids. It’s about an expansion of the federal government, more and more control from Washington, borrowing more money and putting our children into greater debt.”
Our children will be in even more debt as the rise of obesity continues in this generation, with its attendant health problems, and they will be footing the bill for even greater health-care costs. But at the end of the day, this issue shouldn’t come down to money, or whether the federal government is telling you what to eat. It should come down to us all agreeing that feeding our kids the best, healthiest food we can will only lead to a stronger, smarter generation to lead this country in the future. What do you think about the bill? Is it creating a Nanny State or not?
The First Lady kicked off National School Lunch week with a recipe contest: The Recipes for Healthy Kids Challenge. To enter, students must form a team that includes a school food nutritionist, a parent, and a chef, and create a recipe that falls within one of three categories: whole grains; dark green or orange veggies; or dried beans and peas. The recipes must first be voted on by the student body. A panel of judges will then choose from the entered recipes, selecting 15 finalists. Of those, eight will win a prize with the top team winning $3,000. Deadline is December 31, 2010. Good luck kids!
Calling all chefs: Anyone with an extra few hours a month could be a true Top Chef by helping out your own community with your expertise, passion, and knowledge. Join the Chefs Move to Schools initiative, begun by First Lady Michelle Obama, and the program will pair you up with a school in your area. Then it’s up to you. You can help reformulate the school’s breakfast and lunch choices, teach cooking and nutrition classes, or plant a school garden. One thing is for sure–no matter how you choose to help, you will be making a difference in hundreds and hundreds of lives.