A few years ago, as my kids and I drove down a dusty country road in Connecticut, I pointed out cows in a nearby field.
“Those belong to the farm. They’re raised for the meat we buy and eat,” I told them.
When my kids would dash around my cousin’s organic farm in Connecticut, they would pause to observe the chickens wandering around their pen, sometimes ducking into the henhouse to gather eggs.
“Those are laid by those chickens,” I explained. And sometimes they’d even watch as we cleaned the eggs, tucking them into cartons for sale.
And when we go to the grocery store and see lobsters in the tank? You guessed it: we talk about that too.
Of course, in my house that’s a little more divisive. While my son adores lobster, my daughter won’t touch it. And that’s fine with me — it’s not a pickiness issue, but an ideological one. She personally objects to eating lobsters because they are lobsters — the creatures in the tank with bound claws.
I respect that, even if I don’t agree.
From the time my kids were able to walk, we’ve been talking about where our food comes from. I’ve openly discussed what steak, bacon and more are made from because it’s important to respect our food. They’ve seen me butcher whole chickens (ones that came already defeathered, of course, but still), and we’ve discussed the process that takes a pig and eventually turns some of it to bacon.
Will, 9, and Paige, 7, now routinely ask where things come from. Ham? That’s a pig. Sausage? That depends on the variety. Ribs? Usually a pig, but sometimes cows too.
Perhaps it’s unusual, but I also encourage my kids not to eat anything they aren’t comfortable with. That’s why you won’t see rabbit cross our table, and I personally don’t eat lamb. My kids understand the origins of veal, and choose not to eat that as well. However fish and most shellfish? We’re good with that.
In fact, last summer the kids joined BDN Outdoors Editor John Holyoke and I as we went fishing. They saw me gut fish caught minutes before, and gleefully ate it for dinner later that night. While I don’t fall into the category of hunter or fisherman, it was an important experience for both myself and the kids to think more about the foods we eat.
Respecting our food begins with making a choice to eat humanely grown, ethically killed food, and understanding that those chicken tenders are more than a breaded favorite but also come from feathered birds we’re familiar with. There’s a premium for this choice at farms, farmers markets and select grocery stores like Tiller and Rye in Brewer. Yes, it costs more. But we adapt to that by making the decision to eat less meat and seafood. It doesn’t have to be an every night thing, so it’s not.
And when it comes to preparing and eating, that matters too. When we had a yard in Connecticut, I composted all organic matter. These days I can’t since I don’t have yard space for composting, but I can still save vegetable scraps in the freezer for transforming into vegetable stock for soups and risotto so I often do.
We can also aim not to cook more than we’ll eat. And with a dish like Broiled Teriyaki Salmon with Spring Onion Rice, that’s easy. This quick and easy recipe pairs marinated salmon with a lightly flavored rice that disappears quickly.
For this, you can use store bought teriyaki marinade. There are several varieties available so choose one to your tastes — we recently had a triple ginger version that was delicious. But don’t feel hemmed into store bought marinade — it can be homemade too, if you have a recipe you love.
As I was broiling this salmon recently, both of my kids came into the kitchen to ask about its progress. They adore salmon, and couldn’t wait to try it. And they loved it. In fact, my son, who’s 9, ranked it an infinity out of 10. High praise there for his mama’s cooking — but even more so when they both cleaned their plates.
- 1 lb salmon filets (about 4)
- 1½ cups teriyaki marinade
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 bunch spring onions, thinly sliced
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup dry rice, prepared
- salt and pepper, to taste
- In a resealable bag, combine the salmon and marinade. Allow to marinate for at least 1 hour.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and set the salmon filets skin side down on it, discarding any leftover marinade. Heat the broiler on high. Broil the salmon for 6-8 minutes, until it flakes easily with a fork. Watch carefully though: it will burn.
- Meanwhile, in a saute pan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the spring onions and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 3-5 minutes until softened. Stir in the cooked rice and season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
- Divide the rice and salmon evenly among four plates and enjoy.