I wasn’t the most adventurous kid growing up though I read like crazy and admired from the pages of books, kids who went on marvelous and scary adventures. Nancy Drew and friends tackled bad guys without blinking an eye, even if they were rescued from time to time by their boyfriends or her father. Encyclopedia Brown was never stumped by any crime going on his neighborhood. I also admired the smart aleck kids who got away with mischief like The Great Brain. But I never realized that in my own way, I was adventurous … that is through food.
Growing up Japanese and Chinese, we ate a weird amalgam of Asian food. My mom started cooking a mixture of half brown rice and white rice back in the 70’s to make us eat more fiber. The short grain brown rice never cooked through so it was crunchy and unappetizing, making us appreciate the fluffy long grain white rice we ate at the Chinese restaurant.
We ate raw fish via sushi and sashimi — not so chic as it is today. And sea cucumber, my dad’s favorite, at the Chinese restaurant. We ate American food too which my mom cooked and later, my sister and I tackled using a Betty Crocker cookbook as inspiration.
But we still weren’t that epitome of an All-American family where I lived in Southern California and I think it was because we, as kids, did not grow up playing sports. My friends grew up playing AYSO soccer and softball. Tennis and volleyball too. They were competent at bowling. I only took summer after summer of swimming lessons and that’s only because I jumped into the deep end of a pool as a toddler and nearly drowned.
Those swimming lessons were my sole connection to team sports though and when I hit high school, I joined the swim team. I mad the JV team and I never felt less geeky in my life. With 2.5 hours of swim practice a day, I was ravenous and ate 5 meals a day, plus scavenged from my friends on the football team whose mothers packed them two sandwiches for lunch. Food and sports. They kind of defined being American for me.
Now that I have kids of my own, the one thing that really bugs me is when a kid only eats off the children’s menu at a restaurant: chicken nuggets, hamburgers, pasta with red sauce. The very foods that are the most American make me annoyed by the lack of diversity. My husband and I insist that our kids eat from a rainbow of flavors from around the world: Brazilian churrascaria, Argentinian empanadas, dim sum, sushi, matzo ball soup, sweetbreads, tongue, pigs ears and more. Much, much more!
As for sports, I am thrilled when my kids want to try something new (and their pediatrician likes them playing different sports simultaneously to prevent injury). We try to get them to try every sport under the sun. They spent the year snowboarding, skiing, diving, rock climbing, boxing, surfing and playing tennis, golf, soccer, and volleyball.
Try everything is what I want to teach my kids. Go follow your heart and explore the great world in front of you. Do it through food. Do it through sports. Do it through travel.
It’s funny but I make rice the same way for my kids: short grain brown rice mixed with white. My mother-in-law taught me the secret to avoid undercooked brown rice with overcooked white rice. Soak the brown rice overnight first and then cook together!
How about you? How do you balance family life and living a healthy lifestyle?
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