CULTURE

Kids and the ‘joy of hunger’

The temperature has fallen a little, the schoolteachers have dusted off the pupils’ desks and I am reminded of the sentiments which accompany the beginning of each school year. A feeling blocked by the obligation every fall – when the summer is winding down and the light outdoors has become a soft gray – to go back to school each year. These are the thoughts of the innocent child who has just stepped into the world and who believes that adults are on a permanent holiday. But if I have let the memory out of the closet, it is to remind parents that they have yet another obligation toward their young fledglings, apart from foreign languages, classical dance and the swimming pool. And that is to feed them properly with tasty and – as far as possible – healthy food. In the canteen A few days ago I found myself at the municipal swimming pool of a provincial town and three things left an impression on me. First of all, the large number of children who were taking part in the finals of the summer competitions; it was remarkable. There must have been over 100 toddlers and elementary school children. The second thing that struck me was that a great number of the children, almost 80 percent, were overweight. Thirdly, and worst of all, as soon as they emerged from the pool, all the kids would rush to the canteen, each returning with one or two toasted cheese sandwiches. And by toasted sandwich I mean two slices of plastic bread and the regulation ham and cheese, the nutrition of which is non-existent. I did a small on-the-spot survey and was left wondering why a swimming pool in which the children remain no more than an hour requires a canteen. You will say that some person needs a job, and running a canteen is the only choice. I agree, but couldn’t the good concessions person simply acquire a juice squeezer and squeeze fruit juice for the little swimmers? Why couldn’t national and local government work with a doctor or a nutrition and health professional who would able to advise them on what children really need in an exercise area. Non-specialized parent Yet, as I have said before, I am not one of those people who expects everything from the State. For this reason, I prefer to address parents directly and make the observation that the only thing which mobilizes them into action is when some extra page is added to the exam material. They are not interested when a child from Roumeli, for example, does not know where Volos is, nor are they interested in the health of their children through what they feed them. I understand that mistakes are human and that the occupation of being a parent is not a specialized one. But so much is going on around us and there is so much information available that they could be briefed to the teeth. There is no excuse for parents being interested in everything else except their children’s nutrition, in other words, their future and their health. The family and the schools, at least in our civilization, are equally responsible for the physical and mental health of children. For this reason, young people learn sciences as well as doing physical exercise, while there also exist strict social codes for the way they should eat or drink and share these pleasures with their friends and family. I cannot bear to see these clean and well-dressed little people walking around from such a young age without a care, with bags far too heavy for their tiny shoulders and without any free time in which to play, exercise or dream. Stuffed with all sorts of bad food but clothed in lovely garb, the children of the 21st century are denied their basic human rights. That is: clean air, sufficient water and unadulterated and nourishing food. They are denied elementary human pleasures, such as that of losing themselves in the magic of moonlight or the sunset, so that their souls can store a little fodder for dreams. Or to take pleasure in the smell of a twig of marjoram or to stretch their hands out and take a fruit from a tree. This is because, and I do not think that you will disagree, the contemporary approach to child-rearing has completely denied children the joy of hunger, I mean, the need to eat because they are truly hungry, when they are fatigued, have tired themselves out and crave rest and to replenish their strength. Even so, I am not sure whether you are ready for the revolution but you can begin by taking a small step. Make this marmalade or spoon-served dessert and serve it at breakfast with a slice of good bread and a little real butter. The effort is small, it only takes a short time and you will earn the gratitude of the children (yours or someone else’s). Not to mention the fact that you can get them to help out and the preparation of the marmalade will then become a small celebration. Aromatic fig marmalade I’m not sure if it’s more correct to call this spoon-served fig dessert or – as I call it – marmalade. The truth is that I serve it both ways. It is also true that I prefer marmalades in which the chunks of fruit are visible and that you can bite into. I’ve added a little pepper to my marmalade, which is very nice. Leave it out, however, if you are going to serve this sweet to children. I buy fresh figs from the grocer each morning; these are cool and sweet and much nicer than the August ones. We eat the most ripe ones and make marmalade with the rest. If you use dark figs, then the marmalade will also be dark. Ingredients: 1 kilo fresh figs 1/2 kilo sugar 1 tablespoon crushed aniseed 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1 level teaspoon pepper (optional) 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice Heat the sugar and spices in a pan with two glasses of water. Once the mixture starts to thicken, add the figs, washed and cut into four (including the skin). Allow the mixture to heat until it thickens and then add the pepper and lemon. Heat for another two minutes then remove the marmalade from the stove. Pour it into a jar while it is still hot. Allow the marmalade to cool while covered with cheesecloth. Place a piece of baking paper over the surface of the marmalade and seal the jar.