Gather, eat, nourish

by Cynthia Lair

This article was originally published in April 2008

a family

A candid moment on (Left to right) Steve, Cynthia and daughter Jane.

(April 2008) — The dinner bell rings. Family members scoot their chairs up to the kitchen table to share a home-cooked meal made from fresh food. This iconic scene has faded some in the last few decades. Schedules for even young children are orchestrated so carefully there’s hardly time to wolf down a sandwich.

I teach a class at Bastyr University on how to do cooking demonstrations and one student wanted to design a class on breakfasts that could be eaten in the car. I was horrified but at the same time understood that this is where we are in our culture.

It’s time to stop and assess. If the family meal is in danger, so is our health on all levels. The two young men who made the documentary film, “King Corn,” set out on their adventure largely because they learned their generation would reduce its life expectancy due to being raised on poor quality, industrialized food. This prediction, plus the startling rates of childhood obesity, diabetes and other maladies, must give us pause.

The first edition of my cookbook, “Feeding the Whole Family,” came out in 1994 where it was part of a small garrison of books recommending whole organic foods. The book found its place in a category called “health foods” for people who shopped at “health food stores.”

In 2007 when Sasquatch offered to publish a newly revised edition, I was pretty darn excited. When the health of our children is threatened, we all have to rally! I also was moved by the outpouring of literature and media on the topic of eating.

Luckily, we have a bunch of stupendous writers converging in their message about what’s up with our food. Michael Pollan’s book, “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” and the more recent “In Defense of Food” challenge consumers to know how their food is produced and what the cost is to the planet, the farmer and personal well-being.

Barbara Kingsolver in her book, “Animal Vegetable Miracle,” documents the real deal about eating locally. Marion Nestle gives us the skinny on shopping and eating in “What to Eat” and reminds us to “eat less, move more, eat more fruits and vegetables and go easy on the junk food.”

Mr. Pollan’s mantra, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” provides an even more succinct prescription. Nina Planck reiterates the fresh, local organic message in her book “Real Food.”

These books offered support for revising “Feeding the Whole Family” and inspired me to provide families the practical means to implement their messages. Since PCC and farmer’s markets offer animal products produced in a sustainable and humane way, I chose to include more recipes with poultry and meat. I agree with Pollan that our diets should consist of “mostly plants” but recognize that vegetarianism is not appropriate for every person in every phase of life.

Another revision is that all the fats in my recipes are stable fats that have been used in traditional cooking for centuries. Butter, ghee and olive oil are the stars, with coconut oil and unrefined seed oils as supporting players. The work of Udo Erasmus and Mary Enig helped unravel the misunderstood links between fat (saturated and unsaturated) and disease. My faith in simple foods from grandma’s pantry is stronger than ever.

For reasons many of us don’t fully understand, food sensitivities, especially in children, are increasing so I address how recipes may be altered to accommodate. The ever-widening choice of natural and unnatural sweeteners are mentioned, too, since the typical American eats 80 pounds of high fructose corn syrup each year and 16 pounds of non-caloric sweeteners such as aspartame and splenda. Scary.

My commitment to feeding our babies and children well extends to the Web, where many of the recipes are demonstrated in videos set in a humorous family context at Yes, cooking collard greens can be funny!

Feeding the whole family is not just about what you and your spouse and your offspring ingest for dinner. It’s also about all the ripples that result from how we eat.

Sitting down together and sharing good food has enormous power. This ritual is an essential element in the spiritual glue that holds us together as families and communities. I invite you to join me and reaffirm your commitment to wholesome family eating, to nourish the next generation. Choose and prepare food that’s worthy of being blessed and make time to gather with others to eat whenever possible.

The newly revised third edition of Feeding the Whole Family is available at all PCC stores. In addition to online cooking demos and writing books, Cynthia Lair is a PCC Cooks instructor. In May, she’ll teach “If I Only Had Some Greens” at four PCC locations. See the PCC Cooks catalog in stores, or online at

Also in this issue

Pacific Northwest's first Green Festival

With its focus on sustainability, Seattle is a natural place to host the nation’s largest “green” consumer show, the Green Festival, a joint project of Global Exchange and Co-op America.

Your co-op, April 2008

2008 board election begins this month, Notice of annual PCC membership meeting, Board report

The hands that feed us.

When we think about the food we eat, we may wonder about how and where the food was grown. But rarely do we think about the two million farm workers nationwide — and the 300,000 here in Washington — who tend and harvest the fruits and vegetables we enjoy so much.