Friday, January 12, 2007

E for Enrichment

Last night I went to Enrichment. It had been a busy week already and Dave didn't get home until 7:30, so I was half an hour late to begin with. I wandered around the church until I found the room where they were having it, adjacent to the kitchen. It was a presentation on nutrition and healthy eating. I was struck by the irony on the fliers: "Come and learn nutrition basics and how to establish lifelong healthy eating habits. As a bonus, learn to make and sample some of so and so's famous cinnamon rolls." Hmmm, that should get us off to a good start.

Someone in the ward was presenting in the kitchen, with her daughter helping her, meanwhile preparing samples of healthy food for everyone to try. They obviously put a lot of work into it, making samples of 7 or 8 different dishes for the entire Relief Society. Maybe it was just the mood I was in, but I just thought, "Oh great. What a wonderful night for a presentation on nutrition. Now I can sit here in the back by myself feeling guilty about feeding my children a diet of honey-nut cheerios, chicken nuggets and peanut butter sandwiches, pondering on what a terrible mother I am for stunting their growth and health by malnourishment."

Sure enough, we got to hear about the evils of cold cereal (my favorite meal!), the highly toxic nature of preservatives, and the nutritional emptiness of anything processed or out of a box. It is not enough to eat oatmeal for breakfast; in order to be REALLY nutritious, one has to eat steel-cut oats (which take only 30 minutes to cook- she obviously doesn't know that I wake up at 7:18 each morning and Jared gets on the bus at 7:32). Other acceptable alternatives are cooked millet, rye porridge or whole-wheat pancakes- all with honey, no sugar. I was surprised to find that the cooked millet with honey was actually surprisingly tasty. Unfortunately, millet takes the longest to cook of all the grains, coming in at 1 hour.

Nonetheless, I was motivated to try to incorporate some more healthy things into our diet. The beets were not all that delectable, but the brown rice with sauteed vegetables, eggplant parmesan and whole-wheat pancakes were all very tasty. But as the evening wore on, I soon learned that this would not be enough of a change to our diet to avoid certain disease, disfigurement and death. I would need to bake our own bread, because store-bought whole-wheat bread is not the same nutritionally (or morally, I am sure). I would need to get rid of the horrible canned or frozen vegetables that I have been giving my children and replace them with only fresh vegetables that are organic and not nutritionally depleted. I would need to buy rutabagas and kale and beets. I would need to throw out all of the oil in my food storage and replace it with grapeseed oil and extra-virgin olive oil that has not been chemically processed (incidentally, this oil will not keep and you should buy a small amount so it won't go rancid). I would need to throw out everything in my pantry that is processed or comes in a box. I would need to grind my own wheat and faithfully feed my children unsweetened yogurt or acidophilus supplements.

This was hard to stomach (ha, ha) on a night when I was tired and worn out to begin with, but I could definitely see some merit in trying to eat less sugar, more whole grains, and more unprocessed natural foods, despite my lack of energy to actually attempt it. But even this was not enough. After the presentation, they opened it up to questions and I found there was yet more that I was doing to ruin my children's health.... like cooking their food in the microwave. Apparently, food should never be cooked in the microwave because it "changes the molecular structure of the food" in ways that are unhealthy. Someone ventured to ask if it was harmful to heat water in the microwave and was answered with, "Water has a molecular structure, doesn't it?" Someone asked what kind of milk was best and the presenter said, "I have a strong opinion about that, but I can't share it with you." She did, eventually, share it with us anyway and we were informed that raw, unpasteurized milk is the healthiest and best kind, although it is semi-illegal in many states and they could not divulge where they got theirs.

By this time I was in the back fuming. "I have spent two hours hearing about the dangers of microwaves and feeling guilty when I could be with my husband, who could explain to me how microwaves work in the first place. Where is my chemical engineer when I need him?" I did venture to say, "I had heard that it was actually healthier to microwave vegetables because it uses less water and doesn't lose as many nutrients," but as I was at Relief Society, I lost my nerve to be confrontational and added, "so is that counteracted by the negative effects of microwaving it?"

The Enrichment lasted until 9:25 and in the midst of all the information we were getting, they forgot to show us how to make cinnamon rolls, so they did a 30 second summary instead, and then served us cinnamon rolls -- which were at least 5 inches across and probably 600 calories each-- for dessert. (Is it just me, or would eating this counteract the effect of quite a few servings of brown rice or rye porridge?) I tried to say hi to a few of my friends, but it was late enough that most people were in a hurry to get home. I was about to make a slightly sarcastic comment to the girl next to me when she said, "I'm so glad I came. This was such a great presentation." So instead, I went home and ranted to Dave for 30 minutes straight and had him show me, as someone who knows a little bit about chemistry, exactly why microwaves are NOT harmful and perfectly safe.

The last time I felt this way at Enrichment was at a meeting in our old ward in Menlo Park. The presentation was also on cooking for your family, but it was on saving money on your food budget. The woman who gave the presentation, bless her heart, had had 12 children and knew EXACTLY how everyone should cook to be more frugal and economical. It involved making everything yourself, out of white flour and sugar and cream of mushroom soup. That was the last time I sat in the back feeling guilty for buying cold cereal (but for a different reason). I heartily disagreed with this woman because all of the recipes she gave us were HORRIBLE nutritionally: all white flour, canned, high fat, high preservatives. I would much rather spend a little bit extra on my groceries and serve healthy food than to be as economical as possible and be fat and sick. One of my good friends (who actually often made homemade whole wheat bread for her three kids age 5 and under) ventured to raise her hand and asked, "Nowadays, in the age of Costco, is there ever a time when it is just more efficient to buy things than to make them yourself?" and she was answered with an indignant, "No, never! It's always better and cheaper to make it yourself." End of discussion.

So I have had the experience of sitting in Enrichment, feeling guilty that I didn't make white flour pancakes or muffins for my family instead of cold cereal and that I spent exorbitant amounts of money on fresh fruits and vegetables instead of making inexpensive casseroles out of tuna, grated cheese and cream of chicken soup. I have also sat in another Enrichment feeling guilty that I don't make steel-cut oats or rye porridge for my children, I don't buy organic vegetables or raw milk, for buying my whole-wheat bread instead of making it myself, and for daring to risk my children's health by microwaving their meals (which is worse- the chicken nuggets or the fact that they were microwaved?).

Maybe we should just stick to crafts.


  • Statistics show that of those who contract the habit of eating, very few survive. -Wallace Irwin
  • Eating rice cakes is like chewing on a foam coffee cup, only less filling. -Dave Barry
  • Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. -Gilbert K. Chesterton
  • American consumers have no problem with carcinogens, but they will not purchase any product, including floor wax, that has fat in it. -Dave Barry
  • My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four; unless there are three other people. -Orson Welles
  • McDonalds announced it’s considering a more humane way of slaughtering its animals. You know they fatten them up and then kill them. You know the same thing they do to their customers, isn’t it?- Jay Leno

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