Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Shevat 5761 - January 31, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Home and Family
One Person's Opinion

by L. Kohn, Jerusalem

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 on time?]

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 snack.

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 bored.

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.]


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