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Whiteness, Food Colors, and Food Culture

In How on 4 September 2015 at 8:00 am

Food Colors and Food Culture

“No race ever yet ate black bread when it could get white; nor even brown, yellow, or other mulatto tint.”

Dr. Woods Hutchinson in McClure’s magazine, 1906.

In the mass conversion towards refined and processed foods that has swept much of the world over the past few generations, many foods normally occurring in a wide variety of earth tones, became white, as if a formidable fairness cream had descended upon the food industry.   White flour, white sugar, white bread, white spaghetti, white rice, white upma ravva, white urad dal occupied the markets.  At first a status symbol for those who could afford them, refined foods later became a status symbol for those who need not eat the coarser grains because they lived a delicate life and could hire workers to do their heavy lifting for them.  Eventually they themselves became cheaper than their whole grain counterparts, while the nutritious polish and peels were diverted to the livestock industry.

Thirty years ago, Sidney Mintz unpacked the social, economic and political context of food in his seminal work, Sweetness and Power.  The history of whiteness and power with respect to food offers much to explore.   While evolutionary biology may account for our predilection towards the quick calories that processed foods offer, taste and food habits evolve under a variety of influences and cultural messages.  Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Father’s Day

In How on 21 June 2015 at 3:21 am

With best wishes for father’s day, some inspiration from father of thirteen, Leonhard Euler:

Euler claimed that he made some of his greatest mathematical discoveries while holding a baby in his arms with other children playing round his feet….

Euler claimed that he made some of his greatest mathematical discoveries while holding a baby in his arms with other children playing round his feet….

Thanks to J J O’Connor and E F Robertson, School of Mathematics and Statistics, Scotland.

Discipline and Pre-School

In How on 30 March 2015 at 4:23 pm

My son, who is 3.5 years old, has in the last few weeks been having a lot of discipline related issues at preschool. He screams no for everything and yells back at the teachers and his friends and refuses to participate in any group activities. He chooses to cry rather than talk to show his frustrations.  What is making this worse, is that he doesn’t behave like this at home at all.  Dad and I keep getting calls from school about his “bad” behavior.  They want us to control his behavior as they are concerned that the other kids will pick this behavior from him.  I have tried talking to him, explaining to him, bribing him, pretending to be upset with him and nothing seems to work.  There have been no changes in our family or routine. 

– Mama of two in Austin

The frustration you describe reminds me of my own observations of life for a 3.5 year old, which I find to be a time that kids recognize that the world does not make sense and that some questions will not have satisfactory answers.  It is a painful recognition and while we cannot take away the pain, we can be patient listeners.  The intense physical, intellectual and emotional growth of toddlers and youth goes through various spurts.  We may not see any reasons for these changes in behavior but in fact their world is changing every day and they are scrambling to keep up.

Read the rest of this entry »

Learning to read Indian languages

In Books, How on 14 March 2015 at 3:00 am

How can our children learn to read in Indian languages?  Where do we find children’s literature in our native languages?

Many Ask Amma readers who are well-versed in several languages would like their children to grow up with them as well.  As some of us know, being children of multilingual parents, if we live in predominantly monolingual environments there is a risk of losing touch with our multilingual and cultural heritage and with the wit and wisdom expressed in particular languages.  If we speak these languages every day then our children grow up understanding them but what about reading and writing?

Prasanna Rakshasadu (The Peaceful Rakshasa).   Fun topic and font make a difference for beginning readers.

Prasanna Rakshasadu (The Peaceful Rakshasa). Fun topic and font make a difference for beginning readers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Work while baby is awake!

In How on 29 December 2014 at 5:09 pm

Everyone says, “sleep when baby sleeps.”  But how on earth am I supposed to do that?  My parents and in-laws were with us for the first year but now we are on our own.    My wife is an artist and I am an occupational therapist.   We set our hours so that one of is with him at all times.  My wife at least can sleep while feeding him but I don’t have any chores that I can do lying down.   When our son sleeps is the only time I have to get anything done at home!  If I slept I would wake up to piles of laundry, nothing to eat, stacks of unopened mail, and no time to take a shower, let alone read a book or go to the gym. 

Baba of a 1 year old in Ann Arbor

As this was one piece of advice I followed early and often, let me tell you how I did it.  In order to sleep when baby sleeps, you need to work when the baby is awake.  I have talked about this at La Leche League meetings and many people say that they wish they had heard this advice earlier, so I am going to try to spell it out. Read the rest of this entry »

How can I help my baby sleep at night?

In How on 15 November 2014 at 8:00 pm

My baby wakes up 10 times at night, nursing even when she is not hungry.  How can I peacefully help her sleep at night?

Mother of a 10 month old in Chandigarh

As they say with every phase of breastfeeding, این نیز بگذرد‎, or “this too shall pass.” 

Often it is just when we have figured out how to handle a given situation that it passes, leaving us wondering if it would have passed anyway or our efforts made any difference at all.  Sometimes what we thought was a problem was actually a solution to some other problem we did not recognize.  Once solved, it passes. Read the rest of this entry »

Baby-led Weaning

In How on 30 October 2014 at 5:24 am

I want Ragi“What do you think of baby-led weaning?”

I was calmly chopping vegetables with Radhika, a friend and member of Ask Amma today when she asked me this question.  What is baby-led weaning?  I thought.

“What are the possible thoughts about this?”  I asked.

“I mean, should you purée the food?  What about the baby food they sell in the store?”

Hmm … As someone who never bought baby food from the store, and who did not purée food that is not normally puréed, I had to take a few steps back to answer this question. Read the rest of this entry »

Has your baby doubled her birth weight?

In How on 13 September 2014 at 1:12 pm

When do babies double their birth weight? 

I’ve heard this question so often these days, yet it was not a topic that came up regularly when I was a new mother.  When in doubt, blame the internet.  Sure, we had plenty  internet in 2003 but we didn’t have such ready means of comparing baby weights and collecting ever more factoids over which we could check our status and see how well we were or weren’t keeping up with the Joneses.

So, compared to the new mothers of today who give their babies age  in weeks and continue giving the age to the tenth decimal place,  I actually don’t know exactly when my daughter doubled her birth weight but I can say it was between the age of 7 and 8 months.

Babies on the train.  It is unclear whether they have doubled their birth weight.

Babies on the upper berth. It is unclear whether they have doubled their birth weight.  But they are enjoying the train!

Read the rest of this entry »

Make good bread better

In How on 26 August 2014 at 12:00 pm
Voila! Whole wheat bread.

Voila! Whole wheat bread.

Mostly for the sake of bread aficionados in India who pine for a loaf of really whole grain bread every time they see the third-rate impostors in the market, I posted Baking Bread at Home, which you can do either in a bread machine or in an ordinary oven.  You can also use a convection oven, adjusting time and temperature.   Note:  Do not try this in a microwave oven, even if it claims to have a convection setting.

Please.  Just don’t.

Friends in Mozda tell me that they get delicious bread out of their solar oven and I take their word for it.  Everything tastes better out of those solar ovens.

For those who have no solar ovens, here is a interesting development: I recently learned that someone is selling bread machines in India, Read the rest of this entry »

How do kids’ tastes change?

In How on 18 July 2014 at 7:07 pm

I have been trying to understand how toddler’s tastebuds change, but unable to find right sort of literature for it. My son used to love all fruits and green smoothie until he was 11 months old.  His appetite reduced a great deal and after sometimes his tastebuds too changed drastically. Slowly he stopped eating fruits and green smoothie. He only used to have some bits of watermelon until 10 days ago. He stopped that too now. He only eats occasional chickoo.

Yummy in my tummy!

Yummy in my tummy!

I had read in several places about how mother’s diet affects child’s liking to certain foods through breastfeeds. I have done everything by the book, consumed lots of greens, fruits, etc. I thought it was working too until quite recently.  I really want to understand how his mind works and chooses certain foods over others.  Will he ever get back to fruits now? Read the rest of this entry »

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