After dinner and a warm bath, we snuggle and read before bed like many young families. Sometimes I’m a model parent: animated, engaged. Other times, not so much — going through the motions and struggling to stay awake as the day’s chores still loom.
Recently we read, once again, The Little Engine That Could, Watty Piper’s tale of perseverance and grit that has lasted for more than 80 years in print. On this particular evening, I’m attentive — and suddenly struck by an enlightening passage.
Mr. Piper writes: “Some of the cars were filled with all sorts of good things for boys and girls to eat — big golden oranges, red-cheeked apples, bottles of creamy milk for their breakfasts, fresh spinach for their dinners, peppermint drops and lollypops for after-meal treats.”
Apples, oranges, spinach and milk depicted as precious treats for children? How often do we see good food as a treat?
Thanksgiving is at our doorstep. Yet before all the harried preparations subsume our lives, we might take a moment to recall Mr. Piper’s words. Remembering life before we had such abundant produce departments could provide perspective for the feast ahead. Recalling a time when health was not so easily remedied with pills or surgery could inspire us to take more care with our bodies. Maybe this is the other lesson in Mr. Piper’s timeless tale.
Today, we have so much food in our grocery stores and restaurants that one third of it goes uneaten, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In fact, food is the biggest single source of waste in this country, more than plastic or paper, the EPA finds.
Thanksgiving provides time with older generations. Let’s ask about their experiences. Do our older relatives and friends recall a time before our era of plenty? When vegetables were not available year-round? When a “golden orange” was a coveted gift? And when candy was a special treat? What about a time when resolving pain did not include MRI, physical therapy or ultrasound? When walking to and from work or school was not a chore but part of daily life?
No question, we’re truly fortunate to have access to so much food and state-of-the-art healthcare. As we celebrate through this holiday of gratitude, a broader perspective might let us appreciate and enjoy our food and health all the more. It could be an unexpected gift hiding in a familiar place.