This article was written by Sarah Rich in March 2007. We're republishing it here as part of our month-long editorial retrospective.
For better or worse, most people acquire eating habits as kids that remain ingrained into adulthood. Of course plenty of you out there grew up on Doritos and now live on sprouts, but the majority tend to stick with what we know. Therefore, the best way to create a healthy adult is to teach a kid to eat right.
At Doors of Perception this week, we've been focused on addressing food issues through design. One great project we learned about is Kinderkookkafé, an eatery in Amsterdam where food is cooked and served by children. Debra Solomon told us about Kinderkookkafé by sharing a dining experience from the previous week, when her friend, 2.5-year-old Tula, invited her to lunch. Tula prepared a meal for Debra all by herself, having learned cutting and cooking techniques from her adult sous-chefs at the café.
The place is part restaurant, part cooking school. Parents drop their kids off in the afternoon and return to eat the meal the children have made. No adults are allowed to eat at Kinderkookkafé unless they've been invited by a child. Tula prepared a pizza with dough from scratch, fresh tomato sauce and plenty of vegetables. Debra told us she complained that the kid-proof knife was too dull to accommodate her masterful skills (certain safety precautions remain in place for baby fingers).
The point here, clearly, is to get kids connected with the food they eat, and to do it in a way that is serious and empowers them with regard to selecting ingredients intelligently and preparing them well. It's one thing to give kids a bowl of cake batter and let them make a mess while baking a cake; it's another to provide a setting where young people can be innovative and even semi-professional in their interactions with food. By learning the chemistry and complexity behind putting together a meal, kids can develop their own tastes for a healthful meal, and learn the pleasure of eating something made with their own hands. And parents can learn something by eating what their kids make!
The Kinderkookkafé experience also addresses another important component of developing balanced eating habits: dining with others. As another Doors participant, Margie Morris, pointed out in her presentation, our bigger bellies are a result not only of the food we're eating, but the way we're eating it. Studies have shown that people often snack and binge in private, whereas we eat in moderation when food becomes a social ritual.
By getting kids cooking and sharing the meals they prepare, Kinderkookkafé establishes a strong foundation for building good habits that stick around. Kids can include their families and friends in their process, and take their newly learned practices home. In this way it's through fun and not through force that eating good food as a group activity can regain its importance and foster good health.
Kinderkookkafé is part of our month long retrospective leading up to our anniversary on October 1. For the next four weeks, we'll celebrate five years of solutions-based, forward-thinking and innovative journalism by publishing the best of the Worldchanging archives.