When I was expecting my first baby, there were many things I was worried about, but what my children would eat wasn’t one of them.

At this time, ten years ago, I was freshly out of restaurant kitchens. I had a chef-head; not a mom-head. I saw other chefs post pictures of their kids eating escargot, lamb sweetbreads and mussels – I thought chefs must have a unique genetic make-up where their children automatically have a palate appreciative of such things.

I shouldn’t have been so naïve. Ten years on, with three kids under my belt, I can confidently tell you that my children hate my cooking. The things I said before I became a parent – “I’m only ever cooking one meal!” “They can eat what the rest of us are eating!” “My kids will never eat a Happy Meal!” – have all completely come back to bite me. If my children ever choose to go near sauces, marinades or green vegetables, I will eat my hat. While my husband and I love indulging in global flavours and spice, my kids want plain buttered pasta and ham sandwiches (Brennan’s bread, butter only, crusts removed, thank you very much).

It’s also worth noting they don’t all like the same foods, so it is a regular challenge to remember to buy the right snacks for all three. If I were home with them all the time, maybe I could better monitor my children’s diets, but working full time means they spend a lot of time with other people (whose cooking they tend to prefer, I might add). Their minder is an amazing cook and I have often tried to replicate the things she says they eat when they’re with her – a chicken wrap, curries or the classic Bolognese. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but they never seem to like my versions!

it’s not just about the eating; it’s the way great food or a lovingly prepared meal can bring people together

Reading Margaret Hawkins’ health article this week on childhood obesity made me feel all the feelings. It is so hard to consistently encourage your kids to eat healthy snacks and keep them on track with three solid, healthy meals a day. It is so easy to throw a frozen pizza in the oven (something you know they’ll eat). It’s discouraging to make a beautiful dinner only to have them turn their noses up. And in many cases, Irish families struggle to make ends meet and can’t afford the money, time or headspace required to ensure their kids are eating as healthily as they perhaps should be.

I think I speak for most chefs when I say we - obviously - love food, but it’s not just about the eating; it’s the way great food or a lovingly prepared meal can bring people together. Is the key to tackling childhood (and adult!) obesity more of a holistic approach to food education? If our kids are being fed lowest-common denominator ingredients or uninspired meals in school cafeterias, hospitals and in other public settings, are we sending the wrong message? The food we eat isn’t just about nourishment – it’s a distinctive part of our history and culture; a part of who we are as a people.

Two other articles this week take a closer look at our food consumption and history. Amii McKeever’s visit to Cahernane House in Killarney was very interesting, indeed; with their take on the 1960s menu their chef came across by chance. To me, the menu from the ‘60s reads classically French in style, but still features beautiful Irish produce, including veal – something you rarely see on a menu today. In the second of her consumer series on plastic in our daily lives, Dee Laffan takes a deep-dive into the correlation between the wrapping on fresh fruits and vegetables and food waste. Tackling unhealthy eating habits is a complex thing – perhaps we need to start by tackling our attitudes to food in general.

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