Some satisfactions in life are priceless. That’s why I devote part of my time to volunteering in schools.
Tell a child to eat vegetables because it’s good for them, and they’ll never eat them. Tell a child to eat vegetables because they taste good, let them try some well-cooked, farm-fresh food – free of pesticides and fertilizers – and they will never skip vegetables again.
For some time now, I have been working in schools with a mission I believe in deeply: teaching children to rebel against fake, flavourless foods and teaching them to love real, honest food instead.
In schools, I teach children a different approach to eating. It may sound paradoxical, but the fundamental point, in my opinion, is to encourage their instinct for rebellion.
It isn’t a question of stirring them up, or feeding them a sterile polemic, but simply of pushing them to demand the best, to be critical, to choose flavour over conventions. Good and genuine foods, cooked in a simple way, are better than any industrial food, once you learn to recognize what flavour really is.
“Rebel and demand good food”
Classes, workshops, going food shopping together, cooking: these are all activities that it gives me great pleasure to introduce in schools. Educational experiences that show children a way to eat consciously, which then becomes a way of living. The innate curiosity of children makes my role easy. Together, we find out how different vegetables are grown, how to cook them in a healthy and tasty way, and how to select the best ones in a shop.
Through the history of food we rediscover the pleasure of reading the Classics: from Dante’s Divine Comedy to the Odyssey, and from the Iliad to the Aeneid. Flavour becomes an important vehicle for talking about nutrition – and so much more.
A little anecdote?
It’s happened more than once that I’ve been contacted by a school because some of the children’s mothers complain about cauliflowers. It’s true: after taking part in one of my sessions, where I had shown the class some cauliflowers fresh from a farm, the children went home and asked their mothers to buy a cauliflower, too. But the children claimed their mothers had bought the ‘wrong’ ones – because they came from a supermarket.
This is an important outcome: not all vegetables are identical, and cultivation techniques make a difference.
Young children have a palate that is sensitive and smart, and that simply needs to be trained to appreciate these differences. So if they rebel against a lack of flavour, I know that I’ve done a good job.
I realized in my work as a medical doctor and nutritionist, that convincing the children is often the easiest way to change a family’s eating habits for the better. Families often claim to be eating healthily, when in fact they do the opposite, whether for lack of interest or lack of time.
Families who eat better are families who feel better, and not only physically.
At school, I teach children how to choose good food first, rather than healthy food: it isn’t true that to eat well, you have to give up flavour. Quite the opposite: a different approach to food creates well-being that goes far beyond the classroom.
Several families have seized the opportunity and asked me to lead educational sessions at their own homes, which I’ve done using games and stories and cooking together with their children. This is the kind of consulting of which I am most proud.