The other day I asked Kirstie if she wanted to take oatmeal cookies to school as a mid-morning snack. "No way", was her answer. Not because the cookies have oatmeal or because her friend once told her they looked like bird food, but because she was afraid the teacher might ridicule her and take them away. She pointed out that her teacher does not tolerate sweets or junk food as snacks in class. If it looks the part, in the wastebin it goes! I was kind of shocked and asked if this had happened before. Had the teacher mistaken one of my wholesome oatmeal cookies for sugar bombs and unmercifully left Kirstie without a snack? Fortunately, that wasn't the case. She had merely given the children a warning.
Of course I applaud the teacher's initiative to enforce healthy eating, but what is actually considered healthy these days and in this case, what does the teacher herself consider healthy? Are the children who get those shop-bought cookies flaunting words like "whole-grain" and "low sugar" on the package better off than Kirstie who gets the homemade kind? Granted, there is sugar in my cookies but absolutely no e-numbers or other mysterious ingredients.
A while ago, I worked in the language department of a Dutch high school where I got a front row seat at witnessing what teens were putting into their mouths. To put it mildly, I was appalled by what I saw. The norm was chips and energy drinks for lunch and candy bars with a coke as a snack. Those who were convinced they were eating healthy, were fuelling their growing bodies with everything but real food. Like the girls who ate crackers with diet cheese spread and washed them down with aspartame ladden soft drinks. When I pointed out that there was probably no cheese in their spread, but chemicals and that they were better off drinking water instead of their fancy drinks, they dismissed my argument as old-fashioned. But how could I blame them when they are part of an ultra modern society that has unfortunately, over the course of many years, lost all touch with food reality? We no longer know what the word healthy means. Scary, especially considering the fact that we're living in the days of teenage burnouts and ADHD.
Leaving the obvious culprits like fast food aside, let me take a moment to tell you what I believe healthy eating really is and why I think we could all be a little more old-fashioned.
I believe in eating like our grandmothers did. If I don't recognize an ingredient as food, why should I treat it as such? I am not afraid of sugar, salt and fat because with moderation, there is no such thing as 'bad' food. I am also old-fashioned enough to believe in home cooking and in the importance of taking out time to teach our children about real food. We should show them how fruits and vegetables grow in our garden or maybe take them to a farm some time so that they could milk a cow, pick their own apples right from the tree or watch how milk is churned into butter. Healthy isn't defined by the words that some clever food manufacturer slaps on their packaging. Eating healthy means using common sense and daring to be old-fashioned. There's nothing wrong with homemade oatmeal cookies. They're very old-fashioned. And they're very good...
Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies
Makes 24 real cookies
100g soft butter
130g unrefined cane sugar
2 tsps vanilla extract
60g all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
60g mixed nuts, chopped
Preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking sheet with baking paper. Beat the butter and the sugar in a large bowl. Lightly whisk the egg with the vanilla extract and add to the butter and sugar while continuing to beat. Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon into the bowl. Add the oats, raisins and mixed nuts. Stir everything well with a wooden spoon. Wet your hands and use a tablespoon to scoop up the dough. Form it into little cookies, place on the baking sheet and flatten them out a little bit with the back of a fork. Bake the cookies for 10-15 minutes and allow them to cool completely on a rack so that they become nice and crunchy.