My favorite smell is a fresh cut tomato vine. One whiff and my mind races back to the warm summer days of my childhood.
Simpler times, when my only care in the world was the dirt between my toes as I raced barefoot through the vegetable garden, following the path my mother had worn into the soil. I would squeal gleefully as I filled my arms with the treasures of the day—sun kissed zucchini, plump tomatoes, eggplant glistening with morning dew—all of which I piled high into my plastic toy wheelbarrow. One whiff and my mind echoes with the melody of my mother’s laughter as she chased me around the backyard, corralling me in the direction of the kitchen. Together, we would spill our loot on the dining room table and, before long, our house was filled with the mouthwatering aromas that still give me delicious shivers to this day.
Some of my earliest childhood memories were of that beautiful backyard garden. And I credit the many happy hours spent planting, weeding, plucking and watering with the origin of my vegetable love affair. In the moment, all those years ago, my motivation to garden wasn’t to “eat clean” or limit my processed food intake. Rather, the raw joy stemmed from exploring the outdoors alongside my mother, getting my hands dirty and being apart of the seemingly magical transformation from ground to table.
Sloane, 2.5 years old, gardening at home in New Jersey (1995)
The irony of this story is that I can barely keep a plant from wilting these days, and neither can my mother. (Perhaps, somehow, the fertile New Jersey earth took pity on us, two amateur gardeners with boundless enthusiasm and a pocket full of seeds.) This post is not meant to intimidate nor urge you to tear up your driveway to make room for a sprawling pumpkin patch. Instead, start small. Find creative, yet realistic ways to allow children to be stakeholders in assembling their meals and snacks. The message is this: if you encourage kids to play a role in the “behind the scenes” of food preparation—picking tomatoes from the garden, rinsing bell peppers in the sink, mixing ingredients in bowls—these experiences resonate. They manifest in healthy eating habits and help build self-efficacy when it comes time for our children to feed themselves.
About the Author
Introducing: Sloane Brazina
Sloane was first introduced to the Just Cook for Kids campaign as a student in Dr. Maya Adam’s “Critical Issues in Child Health” class. She was inspired by Dr. Adam’s mission, and is very honored and excited to join the Just Cook team. A lifelong athlete and former member of the Stanford Varsity Diving team, she is deeply invested in nutrition. Sloane is a food enthusiast and enjoys cooking, exploring farmers markets and, above all, eating.
Sloane graduated from Stanford University in 2015 with a degree in Human Biology and will begin medical school in 2017.