How To Eat Better By Knowing Your Past

Last weekend, I took my beloved mother out to dinner at the very good Brooklyn restaurant Saul, an un-trendy place that really lives up to its credo of "utilizing artisanal and seasonal ingredients to create fine food served in a casual and comfortable atmosphere."

At some point, I think maybe as I was extolling the deliciousness and freshness of the crudo of Japanese Yellowtail, my mom mused that I've changed so much since I was a kid, when the only thing she could get me to eat was McDonald's.


I don't think I was molested by any priests, thankfully, but I must have really repressed any memory of being a McDonald's kid. Of course it makes sense. I was raised in the American suburbs, so of course I gravitated toward fast food and bad food.

Over the last few days, a really on-point USA Today editorial is making the rounds. It starts with a story about a school district outside Denver that changed its attitude over the past year, serving things like turkey on whole wheat subs and roasted cauliflower instead of the breaded chicken sandwich and tater tots it used to dole out.

The story goes on to talk about some of the political action that's in the background of these changing attitudes. Namely, that the federal school programs like the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act that President Obama signed into law in 2010 is potentially being undermined by special interests. (We're looking at you, potato lobby!)

But it also focuses on the positive work that people like Kate Adamic and her S'Cool Food Intiative are doing to change the way young Americans eat by starting in the schools, the institutions where kids are, consciously or not, are taught their behaviors toward food. Jamie Oliver is trying as well, with his ABC show Food Revolution. Of course, Alice Waters has been doing this for years with her Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, CA, which has slowly but surely been launching affiliate programs throughout the U.S. And Michelle Obama has made it a platform as First Lady to push for healthier eating.

I can't really blame my mom for allowing me to be influenced by my environment; at the time, she was like most other young, suburban American moms, which is to say not very enlightened about using fresh ingredients and such. Even if she had been, I was in a public school all day, getting fed bland, fatty institutional food. What else was I expected to crave?

Today, I still have bad inclinations when it comes to food. The other day while scouring the city streets for lunch options I averted my gaze from a deli-type spot that had the word "Fresh" on its marquee and walked into the first decent-looking pizza place I could find. Sure, it was a Neapolitan-inspired fast pizza spot where I had a rectangular slice topped with fresh vegetables, but I probably would have been better off with a salad at the Fresh deli.

I'm glad my taste has evolved, though now I have to work harder to follow through and overcome my past. I hope that the kids of America today get treated better while they're in the system and at home, so they live healthier tomorrow.

Richard Martin is the Editorial Director of Food Republic, and hasn't eaten at McDonald's in several years.

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