In our culture, we are programmed from birth to love food.
Rich sweet foods are connected to love and warmth. We
associate grandmothers and parties with cookies, cakes and
chocolates, not with celery and carrot sticks. Emotional
nourishment is linked to physical nourishment. Many words
for those we love are words used for food: e.g. sweetie,
honey, sugar, zisskeit, motek etc.
Besides this, food has a chemical power which is addictive.
We all know how we feel sleepy and mildly euphoric after a
good cholent on Shabbos. Sugar has a particular power
and many people use sugary foods as a way to calm themselves
and medicate away anxiety and stress.
But what has happened to us in this generation? And what has
happened to our youth? Manufacturers are contriving new
snacks and more snacks, to capture the market. We, the
consumers, show our appreciation by buying more and ever
more. Gone are the days when we had special treats for
Shabbos, only, and something extra for Rosh Chodesh. Gone
are the days when a small packet of crisps was shared
amongst several siblings and only on special occasions!
We begin this addition to snacks in kindergarten. When a
small child leaves the house at 9:00 and returns at 12:30,
or has lunch at kindergarten, does he really have to snack
between breakfast and lunch? Surely a drink and perhaps one
plain biscuit [cracker] would suffice? Or perhaps an apple?
[What about the use of snacks as bribes, to get children off
Older children buy snacks or take them from home, to be
eaten in recess. All too often, the snack is ripped open in
the street, consumed rapidly, although it may be straight
after breakfast. The wrapper is discarded on the road for
the road sweeper to clean up, and amazingly, the child does
not faint from hunger in school without the much needed
In `olden days" when children fell down, they were picked up
and comforted with a soothing kiss. A kiss healed most
discomforts. Not anymore. It has to be a sweet of some kind.
What are we doing to their teeth? Besides teaching them that
food is a pacifier for all ills. One more effect of all this
is that one in four children are now overweight. This
phenomenon is widespread throughout the Western world.
Hundreds of mothers complain about the surfeit of food. In
Israel, when girls finish school around two, they bring
their friends home to do homework or to study for exams.
"Mummy, I know it's straight after lunch, but
everybody offers snacks." The guests expect large
quantities of pretzels and smarties [M & Ms; adashim]
or crisps [potato chips]. They do not help themselves to one
or two; they invariably consume whatever is served, and
believe it or not, complain when there is `not enough' and
the hostess feels humiliated. Thus in a large family, snacks
are a sizeable amount of the weekly budget. [Ed. Check this
out the next time you make a quantity order at your
supermarket or wholesale outlet! Even better: try
eliminating unessentials one time!]
Many young women say I am old fashioned and why not give
them packets of crisps or Bamba when they ask for it? But
there are many others who feel it has all gone too far and
that one does not have to eat every half hour in the day!
These same mothers also feel that water is not just for
washing - it is a delicious drink.
Someone once coined the phrase "mouth hungry, and not
stomach hungry." Stomach hungry is genuine physical hunger.
Mouth hungry is a hunger for something other than food. For
stimulation, attention, rest, comfort or love. Eating
becomes the way of dealing with feelings and all feelings
are labeled as hunger. And we encourage children to eat when
they are tired, anxious, angry, lonely, confused or
In 1948, less than 1% of children in the Western world was
overweight. In 1965, it was 5%. In 1994 the figure jumped to
13%. Many youngsters are already suffering health
consequences. A pediatrician in the University of Colorado
notes that children now have fatty livers, which precedes
cirrhosis of the liver. They also have obstructive sleep
apnea which is a condition in which excess flesh around the
throat blocks the airways, causing loud snoring, poor sleep
and a chronic lack of oxygen that can damage the heart and
lungs. Most of our children are not overweight, but they
certainly eat too much junk food too frequently.
Lastly, I want to mention the gifts, mainly of food, which
seem to be a must for every occasion. It was a great idea
the first time, when a girl presented another one with a
small bar of chocolate called `Perfect' or something else
apt before an exam, with a note saying, "May you have
Perfect results." But now, girls expect these gifts as
routine, and vie with each other to buy more and more, and
bigger and better bars of chocolate or other things with a
suitable witty comment. We cannot turn the clock back, but
maybe we could stop it for a while?
[Ed. It would be interesting to see what other readers feel
about the subject of food. If they have succeeded in their
home -- or beyond it. How they deal with birthdays in large
families etc. re: food. We welcome your comments, even short
ones. Can be faxed directly to FAMILY EDITOR at 02-538-7998
or sent to Weinbach, Panim Meirot 1, Jerusalem.]