Most schools in the Washington region will remain closed this fall. So, what's being done to prepare students, teachers and families for continued remote learning?
Teaching children about healthy, sustainable eating is a priority for many parents and educators. A new National Geographic cookbook for kids is full of easy, fun recipes — shared alongside fun facts and hands-on projects — that aim to engage, entertain and enlighten them. We talk with chef Barton Seaver about this project and his wider focus on fostering sustainable engagement with food for eaters of all ages.
- Barton Seaver Director, Healthy and Sustainable Food Program, Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard School of Public Health; National Geographic Fellow; Chef; Author, "Where There’s Smoke: Simple, Sustainable, Delicious Grilling" (Sterling Epicure, 2013)
Kojo Reflects On Childhood Cooking
Growing up in Guyana, Kojo used kitchen implements similar to these ones to grate coconut, pound plantains and make Jamaican Fufu.
Roasted Acorn Squash Hearts with Honey Butter & Spices
Like pumpkin pie? Then you’ll love this tasty dish! Roasting sweet acorn squash is so easy, and the results are delicious. The squash provides its own cooking vessel as it roasts right in the skin—and when cut in half, it looks like a heart! It’s the perfect Valentine’s Day treat!
Prep: 5 minutes / Cook: 40–50 minutes / Serves: 4
2 acorn squash (about the size of a softball)
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons honey (or maple syrup)
1 pod star anise (or 2 teaspoons powdered cinnamon)
4 cloves (or 2 teaspoons) grated nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have your parents cut the squash in half from top to bottom. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Pierce the squash with a fork a few times to let the steam release. Place the halves cut side up in a baking dish.
Put 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of honey (or maple syrup) into the cavity of each half. Put a piece of the star anise pod (or 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon) and a clove (or 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg) in each half. Season with salt and place the dish into the oven.
After about 40–50 minutes, the squash should be tender and you should be able to shred the flesh using a fork. Remove it from the oven. Remove the star anise and cloves from the cavities and use a fork to scrape the meat from the squash, though keeping it in the shell. Carefully mix to incorporate the butter and honey (or maple syrup). Serve hot.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
You might not recognize sweet potatoes at your holiday table because they are in disguise: dressed up with sugar and marshmallows and more. But have you ever tried this subtly sweet tuber on its own? This Thanksgiving, give the potato a chance to shine with its beautiful simplicity. When you serve this dish, tell your guests that it is accentuated with just a hint of orange flavor and the aromatic pulse of nutmeg to give it a wafting allure. They may not know what it means, but they’ll be as impressed with your chef-speak as they are with your dish!
Prep: 20 minutes / Cook: 40 minutes / Serves: 6–8
2 pounds sweet potatoes
juice of 1 orange
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
Peel the potatoes, then cut them into large chunks.
Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover them with water. Season generously with salt and add the orange juice. Cook over high heat until the water comes to a boil.
Turn the heat down to low and let simmer until the potatoes are soft but not yet falling apart, about 20–30 minutes. Drain and let cool for a few minutes.
Place the potatoes back into the pot and add the yogurt. Using a large spoon or a fork, mash the potatoes and stir to combine the yogurt so that you have a smooth puree.
Place into a serving dish and garnish with the nutmeg.
Hot Cinnamon Apple Cider
The cool of autumn nights calls for a steaming mug of cider to help warm the body. This drink is fun to put together, and it makes your whole house smell like an apple orchard. Bonus: It’s so easy, your little brother or sister could do it.
Prep: 5 minutes / Cook: 20 minutes / Serves: 4
1 quart apple cider
5 allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick
Juice the lemon and orange into a medium-size pot, placing the skin of half the lemon and half the orange in the pot with the juice. Discard the other half. Add the cider, allspice, and cinnamon and place the pot on the stove over medium heat.
Once the cider begins to steam and you begin to smell the yummy scents, turn the heat to low and simmer for another 10–15 minutes for the flavors to fully combine.
With a ladle, spoon the cider into mugs and enjoy while cuddled next to a fire or on a walk in the chill evening.
This is my wife’s great-grandmother’s recipe, and every time that we make this, it brings back memories of time spent with family. To me, it is a great way to finish up a Thanksgiving feast. These sweet and spicy cookies smell so food that you won’t want to wait for dessert!
Prep: 30 minutes / Cook: 20 minutes / Makes: 30-40 cookies
3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
4 cups flour
1/4 cup coarse sugar
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a mixer (or bowl if using a hand mixer), beat together on medium speed the butter and the sugar. When they are thoroughly mixed, add the eggs one at a time, mixing until they are fully blended. With the mixer running, add the molasses, vinegar, and powdered ginger. In a separate bowl, mix the salt, baking soda, and flour. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until they’re fully incorporated.
Remove the dough from the mixer and let sit for 10 minutes. Form the dough into small balls about the size of a walnut. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and gently press the dough balls down to flatten them just a little. Sprinkle the coarse sugar on the top of each cookie.
Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and, using a spatula, move the cookies to a cooling rack.
(All photos credited to Michael Piazza/National Geographic Kids Cookbook)
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world on Food Wednesday.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIGenerations of families have found that getting kids into the kitchen where they can mix chocolate morsels into cookies, chopping mashed bananas to fold into a cake or wash lettuce to toss in a fresh salad is a good way to keep them busy and get them invested in the food they eat with more focus now than ever on the need for a healthy diet, starting at an early age, it's also a way to teach them what a balanced meal looks like and about the ingredients that go into it. Here with ideas for engaging children in the kitchen is Chef Barton Seaver, how you doing?
MR. BARTON SEAVERI am fabulous, and thank you so much for having me back, it's always a pleasure to see you, Kojo.
NNAMDIAlways a pleasure to have you back. Barton is the Director of the Healthy and Sustainable Food Program at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard School of Public Health, he's also a Chef and National Geographic Fellow with two new books out, "Foods For Health" and "National Geographic Kids Cookbook: A Year-Round Fun Food Adventure," Barton Seaver joins us in studio where we're inviting your calls at 800-433-8850. Start calling now. Do you have your kids help out in the kitchen? Tell us what age they started at and how it has changed mealtimes.
NNAMDIIf you remember helping meals, making meals from an early age, tell us how the experience shaped your life, 800-433-8850. Shoot us an email to email@example.com or a tweet @kojoshow. Bart, we've talked about this with you before but you grew up in D.C. and how being a part of a neighborhood and community where a married of cuisines could be found, influence your career. As you approach the task of writing a kids cookbook, how did your own memories of that experience and of cooking with your family as a kid come in handy?
SEAVERWell, you know, food is such a vehicle for us to explore so many facets of our society, so many facets of culture and as you said, I was born raised in Mt. Pleasant in D.C., you know, one of the great bastions of the multi-cultural, you know, sort of, character that D.C. really was and still is to a large extent, Eritreans, Ethiopians, Guatemalans, Hondurans, El Salvadorians, you know, the African-American community, you name it, in each...
NNAMDIThey were all in Mt. Pleasant.
SEAVERYep, and all of these cultures had little bodegas which serviced their needs and I remember well, that dinner bell would ring and I'd come running home from playing in the streets, my friends and my father would be pressing out moistened Masa Harina dough for tortillas, for taco night or stirring up an East-Indian curry or something like this.
SEAVERAnd I just remember very well, that food was not only an exploration of a physical world, walking through the spice aisles of a Eritrean spice market that, you know, this heady, sensual rush of flavors and scents, smells, textures, but it also began to show me the cultures, eons of history of the boys and girls that I'd spent my days playing with and it really, sort of, shaped my whole career as a Chef in terms of really seeing food as a sense of communion, not only with the people that we share our lives with, share our tables with but also the world around us, as well.
NNAMDIOne of the things that I discovered, we shared, as a result of preparing for this show is that right around the corner on Columbia Road and Adams Morgan, there was a Cuban restaurant named Omega. I was not aware that you were intimately familiar with that restaurant as I was but I so regretted its leaving town. I guess, sometime in the 1980s?
SEAVEROh my gosh, that place was unbelievable. It's where the grill, from Ipanema now occupies that same space.
NNAMDIYes. It looks like that.
SEAVERAnd that -- their orange chicken with the black beans and rice...
NNAMDITheir Mexican style chicken.
SEAVEROh the fried...
NNAMDIThe roast chicken Creole.
SEAVERAnd the fried platanos, oh my gosh, I still have inappropriate memories about that, so.
NNAMDIYeah. Right, same here. One idea that a lot of parents might embrace is getting their kids to make or at least be involved in the preparation of their own school lunches. Break down for us, if you will, the anatomy of a sandwich.
SEAVERWell, you know, I think, that when we put together something, we oftentimes just focus on the ingredients but not necessarily the structure or the texture, the architecture, if you will, of it. You know, this is particular too with hamburgers. You know, we put the burger on the bun and then the lettuce and the tomato and the cheese, and by the time we take a -- the first bite, that giant piece of romaine pulls out all of the toppings with it, you got ketchup and mustard all over your face and the burger is now just basically a mess.2
SEAVERSo when putting together a sandwich, it's kind of fun to think about, well, you know, what are the layers here? Well, if we're putting together a sandwich that's trying to make it to lunchtime for a child's lunch, well, let's put the, you know, the dry ingredients right on top of the bread to protect it from the soggy ingredients like, you know, the mustard or the mayo or something like that. So by the time lunchtime rolls around, you've still got textured bread, crunchy lettuce and the integrity of all the ingredients in between, so, just little things.
NNAMDIThe chapter devoted to school lunches highlights that this is more than a cookbook but really a book for kids. What kinds of crafts, what kinds of facts, what kinds of quizzes will kids find in there?
SEAVERWell, true to National Geographic's, you know, sort of, character, this is all about exploration. This is not just a book of recipes that of recipes that parents will hopefully engage with kids with -- and then basically making -- end up making them on their own. This is about challenges, this is about making food seem as though it's a learning experience. Some of the challenges are, you know, simply making your own reusable lunch bag. And in doing so, not only are we engaging children in crafts that bring a family together but also teaching them a little bit about, possibly, our impact on the environment and what reusable products the benefits that they can bring to our everyday actions.
NNAMDIWhat made you think of doing this book?
SEAVERWell, National Geographic, this year, is doing an editorial theme on food, Feeding the Future. The future of our planet and nine billion people expected on this planet and we're already struggling with the idea of how do we feed them all and as part of that editorial theme, it was a perfect time to begin to use some of the other platforms that National Geographic to extend the conversation about food, to audiences that hadn't necessarily been introduced to it and children being probably the most important and certainly one of the most charismatic groups that need to learn about food.
NNAMDIBarton Seaver joins us in studio, he is the Director of the Healthy and Sustainable Food Program at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard School of Public Health. He's also a Chef and National Geographic Fellow with two new books out, "Foods for Health," and "National Geographic Kids Cookbook," which we are discussing right now, "A Year-Round Fun Food Adventure." We're inviting your calls, you can call us at 800-433-8850. Are you an educator who has worked to incorporate food and nutrition lessons into your classroom? Tell us what has and maybe tell us what has not worked, 800-433-8850.
NNAMDIYou can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Bart, this kids cookbook is arranged by month and October includes some seasonally themed dishes. How does Halloween give us a chance to make healthy dishes that are both good for kids and really fun?
SEAVERWell, certainly, there's a time, it's the beginning of the season when food becomes the centerpiece of our lives, certainly throughout the holiday's and October, of course, being famous for two things, sort of, the harvest, the harvest festivals, the true change in seasons but also of Halloween, that great sugary, you know...
SEAVER...fest, rush of sugar and cavities. But, you know, there's opportunities to really teach on how treats can be more than just something in a packaged product that it's a quick, easy fix.
SEAVERMixing things that are healthy like bits of granola with nuts and dried fruit and, you know, all sorts of things to produce satisfying, yet, healthy treats that, you know, that instead of a Kit-Kat or a Twix bar or something, might seem a little bit, sort of, less than exciting but if you engaged children in the process of making the sole product, if you really get them invested in may be the shopping and the ideation and choosing their favorite ingredients, then we begin to teach them that they have a lot of control over the foods that they eat and really hoping to create lifelong fluencies with food.
NNAMDIOnto the telephones, here's Colby in Washington, D.C. Colby, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
COLBYYes, hi, Kojo, thanks for taking my call.
COLBYI also grew up in Mt. Pleasant, lived there about 30 years on Monroe Street and it was a wonderful environment. You know, I remember being in the kitchen with my father, cooking dinner with him, each and every night and, you know, and him introducing me to all the different foods and he was always very creative and very interested in making, you know, different types of food that he'd never tried before, ethnic foods and so it was a wonderful, not only bonding experience but, of course, I learned a lot about food as well.
NNAMDITestify yourself Bart.
SEAVERWell, Mt. Pleasant, I mean, it's the great melting pot and it's just absolutely fabulous and Colby, thanks for sharing, you know. Just the great old businesses up there and it's funny, you can always tell in older Mt. Pleasant, you know, someone whose been there for a while 'cause we still call it the Best Way and now it's the Best World, the big market up there. And having seen some of the shifts in the neighborhood, the demographics, certainly. But, you know, just some great food experiences there and people really bringing a sense of celebration, of their home cultures, to their new country and God, how blessed and fortunate we were to be the recipients of sharing some of that with them.
NNAMDISpeaking of home cultures, Colby talked about cooking with his father, when he was growing up, in order to prepare for this show, I started having some memories of what my functions were in the kitchen, as a kid, with my mother. And you can go to our website, kojoshow.org, to see some of the instruments that we used. My mother always used grated coconut in a lot of cooking. I was the coconut grader, the appointed coconut grader. And in those days, we used an old Indian instrument that I used to have to sit on, break the coconut in half, while it was still in the shell and then grate it on this instrument, I was the only kid in my family who could do it and so it was my assigned task.
NNAMDIThe other assigned task I had was pounding the plantains when we made what was called, Fufu. You put the plantains in the thing and you used a long stick and you just pound the plantains. For some reason or the other, as a kid, I loved doing that. Green plantains were a lot more difficult to pound than yellow plantains required a lot more energy but I did that, those were my tasks and that's how you kind of started to learn the ingredients of your food and how to prepare them.
SEAVERHow are your fingerprints doing? You still have any after all that coconut grating?
NNAMDINo, not very much 'cause when you made mistakes, that's what happens...
SEAVERYou have problems getting through customs now?
NNAMDIExactly, yeah, you had to grate your fingers. Tell us about your experiences growing up, give us a call, 800-433-8850. That's precisely what Michelle in Silver Spring, Md. wants to do. Michelle, you are on the air. Go ahead, please.
MICHELLEHi, Kojo, hi, thanks for having me. What a great theme for the show today. And my question is, maybe I just need a little bit of help in the kitchen with my son because he's an only and I know a lot of people have just one child. I grew up with two brothers and, you know, we'd have bigger family dinners together, like, on a Sunday. And so there'd be a reason to go out and buy a bunch of corn and chuck it together. And, you know, there'd be bigger projects. And we were more interested in different kinds of food, I guess, my son's very picky.
MICHELLEBut I find it really hard to take him out to do a pick your own, you know, blueberries and when he's not interested in eating them, I can get him to make his own salad dressing, he's very excited about that. But I was just wondering if there were any ideas that your guest has about, I don’t know, getting him in there when we're, you know, we're smaller sized and the scope of interest is smaller as well.
NNAMDII don’t know, Bart, any ideas?
SEAVERSure. Well, you know, one of the things we have in the cookbook is these monthly challenges. And one of them is a farmer's market challenge. And, you know, in D.C. area, we're blessed to fact -- blessed to have access to farmer's markets and just about everywhere, you know. And they're popping up more and more every day.
SEAVERAnd one of the challenges that we say, you know, make it not about the ingredients, make it personal. Have children, challenge them to go meet all the farmers at the farmer's market and then go back a week or a month later and see how many of their names they can remember, so that we're really beginning to personalize a relationship with those who are so noble, to produce food for us.
SEAVERYou know, maybe if you're going out to pick blueberries, yeah, maybe, they might not be interested in eating the blueberry them self but what about what about making blueberry jam or making a blueberry infused maple syrup that simmers away on the stove, perfuming that whole house so that it becomes, you're, sort of, taking that experience and adding it to something that your child already likes and already identifies with. And that's, I think a big part of getting people to try new things, to begin to co-associate food experiences with other aspects of their life that they already enjoy.
NNAMDIHey, Michelle, thank you very much for your call and good luck to you. One of the things you might consider doing is looping your children into a cooking activity that's generally associated with adults. You should know that Bart is a big griller. It's not too late to break out the propane or charcoal, even though the June chapter was devoted to that art. Why do you think it's important to loop kids into an activity that's usually considered a very adult job?
SEAVERWell, you know, just as you began this segment, you know, that NPR offers children a window into the adult world, I mean, I remember very early on listening to songs for aging children. You know, that incredible, incredible show on NPR. And I remember sitting in the back seat of the Volvo station wagon just wondering to myself, really, am I going to have to get old? Am I going to have to age as a child?
SEAVERAnd so I think just the same way that grilling, often considered, you know, the adult's activity, stay away from the fire pit, offers children a sense -- you know, gives them a feeling of responsibility, of growth, a sense of pride that they might be able to participate in this. And grilling, I think, is one of the most valuable and most fun techniques about cooking because so often we feel so harried and busy and put upon by the act of cooking dinner for our family. But when we grill, we literally stop. We take our lives, we gather it onto a tray, we exit our house, move outside and we slow down. And it becomes a wholly different process separated from the sort of busy norms of our daily life.
SEAVERAnd so by introducing children to that, I think it really begins to instill a sense of food and its preparation as celebration of coming together around the family -- you know, as a family around a meal, around its preparation. And certainly to me there's nothing so sexy and sultry as that faint whiff of smoke coming off of a grill. And the very sort of physical interpretation of cooking that you really understand that it's the application of heat to moist delicious ingredients. And, you know, the final result is so charismatic.
NNAMDIAnd the pride that a child gets from being able to perform a task like that, it's like being taught to carve the turkey at a very early age when you can bolster your friends, I now carve the family turkey. It's an adult experience but it's something that a child is essentially capable of doing, if taught in the right way.
SEAVERYeah, and it teaches that sense of responsibility and mindfulness, which is so important in the kitchen. Hey, I have run professional kitchens for a long time and I've had some line cooks that didn't quite understand that, you know, grills can really hurt you. So I think teaching them early age on is a good idea.
NNAMDISpeaking of Bart running a professional kitchen, let's talk with Daniel in Arlington, Va. Daniel, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DANIELHey, Kojo, how are you? This is Daniel Leverson (sp?). I'm not sure if you remember me or not.
SEAVERYeah, hey buddy, how are you?
DANIELI'm doing well, man.
NNAMDIYou used to work for Bart, didn't you?
DANIELI did. I was just starting off in professional restaurants. And Barton was actually the first person to pay me to make horrible mistakes in his restaurant. And I was a food runner and I would spend my off time trying to work around the kitchen and learn what I could from him and from Josh Wiggin (sp?), his sous chef at the time. And one thing that Barton really instilled in me was sustainability.
DANIELAnd actually now I have a vinegar business based out of Virginia. And I source exclusively from the same agriculture operations out of the state. And so it's different from sustainable agriculture obviously but I'm trying to move in the right direction. And what I wanted to ask you is, you know, now that you're involved in the educational side of things, how do you, on both a consumer level and for -- on the level of youth, how do you educate people in understanding what sustainability means beyond simply understanding as oh well, I shop at Whole Foods or I buy organic-labeled produce or beyond that. How do you get them to really make the next stop into understanding the producer?
NNAMDIYou take us back to Barton's earliest appearances on this broadcast. But go ahead.
SEAVERWell, Daniel, first of all, man, it's great to hear from you and thanks for keeping up over social media with me over the past couple of years. And I did not pay you to make mistakes in the kitchen. I paid you to bring the incredible good attitude that you did and the will to learn and the positiveness that infected everybody else in the kitchen.
NNAMDIDrat, I thought it was a call from a disgruntled former employee. But go ahead.
SEAVERWell, I'm sure there might be plenty of those who will call in later. But Daniel, I think your question is absolutely essential because I think too often we think of sustainability simply as a method of production, that a vinegar, a seafood, a vegetable is produced in a sustainable manner or not in a sustainable manner. And I think by doing so we -- by looking at it through such an acute lens we forget to sort of calculate and include the human aspects of it.
SEAVERYou know, are we sustaining communities? Are we sustaining the health of the people who are using this product? Are we sustaining cultures and traditions that really matter, that are really part of the human reality that ultimately I think at the end of the day we are trying to sustain through our efforts.
SEAVERAnd once we introduce that human element, once we introduce the story of the people behind the products, then we really begin to relate to them. We really begin to be able to invest emotionally in the purposes, in the methods. And, you know, potentially in the higher costs associated with it. Because we then understand, you know, the exponential return that we gain from a society that is acting as a society of good neighbors. And I think that that is ultimately what sustainability is purposed with is, you know, sustaining ourselves while also looking out for our neighbors and being part of a thriving human community.
NNAMDIDaniel, thank you so much for your call. We've got to take a short break now but if you've called to join this Food Wednesday conversation, stay on the line. We will get to your call after we do a little bit of talking about our fall membership campaign. We'll be returning to this conversation so stay on the line. If the lines are busy, shoot us an email to email@example.com. Have you used time in the kitchen with young family members as a way to tell them stories about earlier generations? You can share those tales with us. You can also go to our website kojoshow.org, join the conversation there and find some recipes from Barton Seaver there also. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIOur guest is Barton Seaver. He is the director of the Healthy and Sustainable Food Program at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard School of Public Health. He's also a chef and National Geographic fellow. He's got two new books out, "Foods for Health" and "National Geographic Kids Cookbook: A Year-Round Fun Food Adventure." We're inviting you, if you'd like to, to join the conversation with Barton to call us at 800-433-8850.
NNAMDIWe've talked recently about the role of recipes as not just instructions but as stories in their own right and repositories for memories. Well, who is Tillie and what stories do her ginger snaps tell?
SEAVEROne of the great things that I had -- the great, you know, areas of fun that I had in developing this book is National Geographic, as I mentioned, is known for exploration. And there are many ways to explore. And one of them is that through food we explore ourselves. We explore our families, our cultures. And Tillie is my great grandmother on my wife's side. And this is her ginger snap recipe.
SEAVERAnd part of the August challenge in the book is to write a -- you know, what do we do in August? Well, I think of, you know, heading over to grandparents' house to hang out for a little while and, you know, be together with multi generations. I think that this is a real opportunity to gather some of these stories, these recipes that tell us incredible tales of the experiences that our families have had through immigration experiences, through moves throughout various geographies of this country, that really go a long way to informing us about who we are or where we've come from. And to a large extent can help us write the stories of our own future.
SEAVERSo Tillie's ginger snaps is a wonderful way to pay homage to a woman who's, you know, been such an important influence in my family, and especially in my wife's family's life.
NNAMDIAnd to serve alongside these cookies you've got a hot cinnamon apple cider in the November chapter. Listeners will find recipes for both over at kojoshow.org. Now, we encourage you to call 800-433-8850. Here is Anita in Derwood, Md. Anita, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ANITAHello, Kojo. Thank you for taking my call.
ANITAI was just saying that I love to cook with my children ever since they were really, really young age. And one of the things that I think it brings to my children and to the family, other than the pride you instill in a child, is also sort of a vehicle to bring in culture. And for me being born in Uganda and my husband being America -- being American, sorry, on October 9, which is Ugandan independence day, I always go out of my way to prepare a Ugandan meal for dinner. And so I always involve my children from the very beginning from the shopping.
ANITAAnd, you know, they learn then how to make the meal and what different foods mean for different occasions. So just recently, you know, we had our chicken nut sauce, we had some ugali which is the ground maze meal thing and black beans. And then my husband always introduces in the old bay. And in the end we have quite a fusion at the table. And he's from Albuquerque, N.M. so we always have like a New Mexico day as well. And, you know, we incorporate all kinds of things, you know, in the kitchen.
ANITAAnd they love to come in and help. And my son turning 15 tomorrow has actually learned how to chop onions without getting it all up in his eyes and running out of the kitchen and...
NNAMDIThe crying experience, yes.
ANITAYes. And I just so enjoy it. And I recall when he was about three years old and I said to him, would you kindly wash the apple for me? And he got, you know, the dishwashing liquid and, you know, put it all over the apples and washed them all. And, you know, just the little stories and things that I think at the end of the day what I'd like to do one day, in my dreams, is write a cookbook of all the things that we cook together in the kitchen, you know and hope that that carries on in their own homes.
NNAMDII'm sure Barton thinks that's a great idea.
SEAVERYeah, well, just make sure he's not washing the apple with the chemicals with the Mr. Yuck sticker on the bottom. But, you know, I think it's such a wonderful gift that you bring. You know, the joy and beauty of America is that we are all of different places. And you being from Uganda, you know, I would encourage you please, share those meals with your son's friends and with your neighbors. I mean, show them, you know, what wonderful bounty and breadth of flavors and cultures and tastes are out there. And that's what makes food fun. And, you know, you bringing that culture here to share with us is really one of the great gifts that we have in this country. And so thank you for doing such.
NNAMDIAnita, you seem to be having such fun doing it too. Thank you very much for your call. You too can call us at 800-433-8850. What healthy ingredients have you embraced in your diet recently that you hadn't tried before? What made you give them a go? As you can tell, we're going to be talking about healthy foods very shortly with Barton Seaver. Bur first, seasonal choices are an integral part of this cookbook, teaching kids what's available when, not just in the U.S. but around the world. Winter brings squash and lots of root vegetables. Two that have similar tastes but different techniques are acorn squash and sweet potato. How can these vegetables help kids both eat well and have fun?
SEAVERWell, I think just by showing that the diversity of food that's out there. And the diversity of tastes and textures is so much fun and interesting. And if everything is ubiquitous, if everything is just white and mashed potatoes and that's all that you ever see then I think we miss out on so many of the joys and experiences that are available to us.
SEAVERAcorn squash cut in half length -- you know, from top to bottom, the seeds pulled out, then maple syrup and butter, you know, mixed -- just put into a little patty put into the cavity and then roast it off at 350 degrees until it's bubbling, moist, aromatic, you know, filling the house with these aromas of slightly caramelized squash and the heated butter and maple syrup mixture. And then you mash it all up with a fork and, geez, I mean, this is vegetable posing as a dessert here. And it's not sweet and, you know, it's actually quite healthy for us.
SEAVERAnd it also gets people, you know, looking at -- it gets kids to see these vegetables as fun, as almost alien like shapes of the gourds that come into farmers markets and markets at this time of year. And, geez, I mean, what a fun way to engage kids at dinnertime.
NNAMDIYou'll find the recipes for Barton's roasted acorn squash hearts with honey butter and spices and his mashed sweet potatoes at our website kojoshow.org, where you can also join us to ask a question or make a comment. You can also call us at 800-433-8850 as Harold in Washington, D. C. did. Herald, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
HAROLDHi, hi. Thank you for taking my call.
SEAVERI'm a big fan of both of you and I actually met Barton many years ago -- well, eight years ago. And I was going to open a restaurant in D.C. and I -- watching -- he was talking about "End of the Line," this movie and I -- after that I've been very particular about where my food comes from.
HAROLDBut I do want to share that I grew up in Guatemala. And when he was talking about his upbringing in Mt. Pleasant, my mom taught me so much. She was very resourceful and everything was fresh. And I would just hang out with her all the time when they would cook for Christmas and all these elaborate meals that would take forever to make. But I got time to hand out with her. And that's helped me tremendously when I -- now that I opened a restaurant. It's a sandwich shop and it's great.
HAROLDSo my question, I guess, and comment would be that what -- as an owner it's something that's really hard to talk to vendors and give us products that are not too expensive but they are from local farms. So I know things have changed but maybe comment a little bit about what -- or how do I approach that with vendors to encourage them to get more product from the local areas or local farmers.
SEAVERWell, I think that there's a number of different pathways to do this. The first and foremost, which is to really request diversity. You know, if we're just requesting the same commodity products -- I mean, potatoes coming from Idaho are absolutely going to forever be less expensive than a potato coming from Maryland and Pennsylvania just by virtue of the scales of efficiency here.
SEAVERBut if we begin to look at acorn squash and maybe, you know, in your sandwich shop doing a butternut squash humus or something like that as a spread instead of a mayonnaise, beginning to introduce creative, fun, new ideas that take advantage of that local produce but also putting it on the plate in ways that sort of minimize the cost of that. But also it puts your own creative spin on things. It begins to take advantage of those ingredients that farmers can grow at competitive prices to nationalized commodities.
SEAVERBut it also begins a dialogue. People say, oh, butternut squash hummus. Wow, that's so interesting. You know, huh. Or a spaghetti squash salad that goes on top of, you know, a chicken salad sandwich instead of a coleslaw for a little bit of texture, taste, crunch, a little bit of tarragon flecked in there for, you know, punctuation. Woo, this begins the conversation that then creates the value that you need to gain and return for some of these products. And it's really that story, it's that conversation that allows for these relatively sort of reinvented food systems to really take hold in our communities.
NNAMDIHarold, thank you so much for your call and good luck to you. Barton, in addition to the kids cookbook, you've also collaborated on a new book highlighting healthy foods. How did these two books come together at this time?
SEAVERWell, as National Geographic's editorial theme this year has been about food and feeding our planet, it was the perfect time I think for National Geographic publishing to sort of plant a flag in the ground about how food is an exploration of our world and how food does affect nearly every aspect of a relationship with nature. There was a great poet and author Wendell Berry says, how we eat largely describes how this world is used.
SEAVERAnd so talking about food, beginning a conversation is so important. And health is frankly why most people come to a conversation about food because ultimately we sit down to a table for the purpose of sustaining our bodies. And there's, you know, a huge constituency there that will begin to listen to conversations about this. And none of this is polemic. None of this is prescriptive rather than it is just inspirational. It is informational in the way that National Geographic tries and succeeds.
NNAMDII was about to ask about that because the kids book is a cookbook, but "Foods for Health" is not, at least not in the typical sense. How do you think people can best use and deploy this book?
SEAVERWell, geez, I mean, even when I go through it -- it's 150 ingredients written in a catalog form. You know, a couple pages each, maybe it's spelt, amaranth, maybe it's cauliflower, whatever it is. And each entry has a little bit of biology, a little bit of history, a little bit of culinary use sustainability. And of course a little bit of the nutrition aspects of it. And so while it is not a cookbook technically, it's an inspiration book.
SEAVERAnd reading through we begin to understand what a healthful pantry of ingredients looks like. We begin to understand how to healthfully shop at a grocery store so that when it becomes -- comes down to a Wednesday night and we're harried between ballet practice and soccer and football and whatever else, we open the fridge and wow, there's good healthful options there that we've become fluent in. And that fluency is something that we've really tried to instill from the children's book to the "Foods for Health" book to really enable people to personalize a relationship with food that allows for a lifelong successful and healthful relationship.
NNAMDIAs we mentioned, the book is called "Foods for Health." The other book is "National Geographic Kids Cookbook: A Year-Round Fun Food Adventure," both by Barton Seaver. In the last few years there's been a lot of focus on healthier diets, both in public policy and on our plates. But do you think there's still a significant hurdle to overcome when it comes to how people think about foods that are healthy?
SEAVERThere is. I mean, I think that first off the word healthy has, for too long, been associated with sacrifice. It's for too long been associated with not delicious. You know, it's been sort of there's delicious food and then there's healthy food. But the bottom line is the two are one in the same.
SEAVERAnd I think that especially now going around to top restaurants in D.C., mid-level restaurants in D.C., food has become very healthful. I mean, what makes food fun to eat? It's the textures, the flavors, the colors, the seasonality, all of the aromas that come from seasonal cooking, that come from vegetables. That these are the things that we so admire in good balanced dishes and foods. And these also happen to be the things that are healthful for us.
SEAVERAnd you know what, at the end of the day if it takes a little bit of butter to get that broccoli into your mouth, fine, so be it. That broccoli is better for you than the butter is bad. And, by the way, you know, we're back to arguing about whether butter is good or bad for you or not. But food is ultimately meant to be enjoyed. And no food can be healthful if it doesn't actually make it into your face.
NNAMDIWell, I am so very glad you mentioned that it has to be enjoyed, it has to be fun because one of the things I found heartening about "Food for Health" is that, look, if you're needing proof that food and drink that's healthy can also be fun, beer, wine and coffee all make the cut in this book.
SEAVERAbsolutely. As is supported, you know, by NPR now. And it's no longer the era of the tote bag. It is the era of the pint glass.
SEAVERI mean, we are -- we have moved on. This is an evolution that I support.
NNAMDIYes. You can find that also in "Foods for Health." Here is Harold in Washington, D.C. Harold, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Oh, we spoke with Harold already so let us move on now to Denise in Washington, D.C. Denise, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DENISEHello, and how are you?
NNAMDII'm well, Denise.
DENISEThat's wonderful. Listen, I would like to speak to your host as well -- I mean, your guest as well...
NNAMDIYeah, because you're a Mt. Pleasant girl.
DENISEI'm a Mt. Pleasant girl. I'm from Jamaica originally. My lineage is Jamaican. So we would go, not only to (word?) really. We would go to El Caribe on Sundays. We'd get dressed up, go to El Caribe and it was a wonderful restaurant. I grew up in the 1700 block of Hobart Street, the zoo was my backyard. I graduated from Sacred Heart Academy. Every day I had to pass this little Spanish -- no listen, Best Way wasn't Best Way. It was a Safeway when I was growing up.
DENISEAnd across the street from the Safeway was a little Spanish restaurant where we would buy a quarter pound of skin. And not mentioning Heller's Bakery. You have (unintelligible) you must mention Heller's Bakery.
NNAMDIOh yeah, you got seat -- Pleasant Street cred all right.
SEAVEROh yeah, and the Kilimanjaro Club and the Church's fried chicken and all those little great places, yeah.
DENISE(unintelligible) the whole nine -- let me tell you about another cookie that is wonderful. A ginger snap cinnamon and cardamom. Cardamom is an Indian spice, which my grandma -- it was a wonderful cookie, okay. So we not only had Caribbean food, we had Cuban food, we had paella that my son made from Panama. It was just a wonderful place to live. And I make these -- except for pork, we don't eat pork any longer -- I make these things to this day.
NNAMDIOh, good for you.
DENISEGod bless you guys and I am a supporter.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your support, Denise. We got an email from Eileen who says, "At Sunset Hills Montessori School in Reston, cooking is part of the elementary curriculum. Each week a mixed age group of 1st through 6th graders prepare lunch for the entire upper school. The menu often reflects our geography studies using ingredients that are not typical for many of our students. Cooking is also part of community service at least once a year when the children prepare brown-bag lunches for Reston's Embry Rucker Shelter. And the 4th through 6th graders are even having a bake sale this week because they would like to buy a chameleon to be a class pet." Talk about getting kids involved.
SEAVERWell, I think that's a wonderful thing. You know, even up at the college and university level, I have a lot of interaction across the board with many, many different colleges and universities, not just in the food service but in the academic side. And there's a real commitment now from universities, the realization that here they are graduating. You know, some of the next generation of leaders of our planet, of our businesses. And they're realizing that food and a fluency in food is part of an absolutely fundamental core of competency for people to have once they graduate into this world.
SEAVERAnd I gain great hope in that. I think, you know, this example of the Montessori school is absolutely fabulous, that it needs to start from an early age. And this is exactly what we're trying to affectualize with this cookbook.
NNAMDIMore about that from Cynthia in Arlington, Va. Cynthia, your turn.
CYNTHIAThank you very much. It's a very exciting topic. I've been almost a lifelong lover of cooking. And I'm not a grandmother and my children have asked me to do a cookbook. So this has been on my mind for a very long time. And I just wanted to add the thought that one of the -- we've lived overseas for most of our lives and come back here (unintelligible) that's why I'm here now.
CYNTHIABeing overseas I had a long time ago before the internet, I had the "Joy of Cooking" book. And one of the recipes...
NNAMDIWe're running out of time very quickly.
CYNTHIA...one of the recipes I made was Marengo chicken. And Marengo chicken was said to be, in the book, Napoleon's dish that he sent his -- after the Battle of Marengo he sent his cooks out to...
NNAMDITeaching history through cooking is what you're talking about here.
CYNTHIAThis is what I'm saying. And my children, until this day, remember about the Battle of Marengo. So I think it's a very nice way also to teach history through cooking.
NNAMDIBart Seaver, you get the final word.
SEAVERWell, I'd just like to say thank you for all of your comments and questions today. And especially, you know, how many Mt. Pleasanters have come out of the woodwork here. And it just shows you how much the food culture of that, the integration of multicultural families and communities really brought about the restoration of that neighborhood. And how deeply felt the love of that community still is.
NNAMDI...contributed to all of your lives. Barton Seaver, the director of the Healthy and Sustainable Food Program at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard School of Public Health. He's also a chef and National Geographic fellow with two new books out, "Food for Health" and "National Geographic Kids Cookbook: A Year-Round Fun Food Adventure." Barton, always a pleasure. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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