Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Let them Eat Cake

Unless you live under a rock, it's hard to escape mention of the obesity epidemic plaguing America's children. Reduced time for physical education, the relative cheapness of unhealthy food, ubiquitous video games and plain ol' abundance have led many children to reach dangerous weights while they languish without exercise. Some groups, like Parents Against Junk Food, also point to the availability of foods like Pop Tarts, NutriGrain bars and Gatorade in nearly every cafeteria as a major culprit in the expanding waistlines of kids from Tacoma to Tampa.

As a former chubby kid and currently voluptuous adult, I can sympathize with these kids and at the same time, I think their parents are idiots. Sure, school lunches shouldn't undo any healthy eating habits parents are trying to teach at home and for kids who get a bulk of their daily food from school certainly need nutritious meals with a minimal of processed ingredients, salt and sugar.

However, I have to draw the line at birthday parties. According to a recent report on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show, some schools are now moving to eliminate or significantly reduce foods like cupcakes and rice crispies treats from kids' birthday parties in the classroom.

Try to imagine elementary school without pizza parties! Sure you probably shouldn't motivate children (or adults) solely through food, but what about the lesson of moderation? I know enough people with kids to hear Elmo talk about "sometimes foods," like ice cream, candy, chips. What better way to teach kids about eating in moderation than telling them that parties are the perfect time to sample less healthy foods?!

All too often in American culture, and particularly in our food culture, we run toward absolute solutions. How often do we hear about raw foods (the elimination of anything cooked), Atkins Diet (the elimination of all carbs), or anorexia (the elimination of food, period)? On the other extreme we have holidays like Thanksgiving, St. Patrick's Day and the Super Bowl that encourage us to consume with abandon. There rarely seems to be that sense of a middle ground that exists in other countries where they may enjoy one glass of wine, one piece of chocolate but draw the line at a bottle or entire bar.

Perhaps rather than forcing the next generation to live within the constraints of hard and fast food rules, we can give them healthier choices while teaching about getting real pleasure from simple indulgences. Besides, with Valentine's Day on the horizon and all those candy hearts calling from the shelves, what better time to learn?

Friday, January 8, 2010

So that happened

Fastidious readers will notice my tricky backdating on this post, but everyone will hopefully just enjoy the following...

So it happened. I turned 30. No lightning bolt or spontaneous crow's feet. Not even too much shame from my grandmother at the ignominy of my enduring singlehood. Haven't exactly achieved lasting inner peace either, but at least I've gotten over the crying jags.

Since I set out a year ago with 30 separate goals to attain by this time, I have worked with varying degrees of success on everything from reading to travel and eating to blessing. While I can't imagine it's terribly interesting to listen to me banter on about all 30, I figured I would pick a few standouts and defend my actions... or lack thereof.

Items 1 through 6 were all devoted to activities and travel and they were overwhelmingly the easiest to accomplish. Dragging my ass out of the house has never been a big challenge, but I will say that I really appreciated the extra motivation to visit a foreign country, visit Queens (sometimes the same thing), or take a yoga class.

Item 15 - Eat in one of the umpteen New York City restaurants I'm always reading about & lusting over. This was actually the last thing I did on the list, and technically it was a day after the deadline, but when the item in question is eating a delicious brisket sandwich from the Second Avenue Deli, what's a few hours?

Item 21 - Submitting to five different blog carnivals each month seemed like a good idea when the year began. But then I got wrapped up in a relationship that left me without any fantastic inspiration. And then I got laid off and I had plenty of inspiration, but it was all related to finding a new job and starting a new business. Then I got a new job and decided around the same time to launch a whole other business that's still keeping me really busy.

This may seem like excuses, but I really think it says a lot about my growing maturity and my ability to shift my priorities and goals without beating myself up or feeling guilty. Or at least that's the story I'm sticking to.

Item 25 - I have absolutely no excuse for not getting an emergency kit in my car. Guess that one carries over into Year 30.

Item 8 - This started as an item on my list because I've always liked volunteering and I figured I would just try to hit up the food bank a few more times in the past year. Yet somehow along the way it morphed into me creating and launching my own volunteer group for Jewish young adults in New Jersey.

Jersey Tribe has become my new pet project, sadly to the detriment of this blog, but happily a tad more social and hopefully with greater reward for humanity (yes, my ego is that big). Our goal is to organize two events each month that weave together community service, social and philanthropic elements. In January, we're marking MLK Day in a big way with two events and February will bring both a Shabbat Dinner with Israeli Speakers and a Purim Party to Benefit the Jersey Battered Women's Shelter.

If you have any interest in these events - just post a comment and I will be in touch.

Summary - While I have no intention of abandoning Shtetl Fabulous in 2010 for newer sources of amusement, I probably won't be posting with the weekly frequency I aspired to in the past. Hopefully, I will be able to use the blog both to promote my latest ventures and to bring my insights on life, love and eating to the masses... all 10 of you.

I'm learning that it truly does take a village so any suggestions for posts are greatly appreciated. And if you want to help with Jersey Tribe, that's good too!

Thanks to everyone who has supported me in my 29th year and who has continued to be an outstanding friend as I enter 30. Couldn't have done it without any of you.