SUMMER 2011. GRAPES. 09.16.11
For those attempting to provide wholesome, nutritious meals – if you are reading this now, I assume you are one of those people – there is but one enemy that lurks in just about every space imaginable. It’s in your house. It may be in your car. It’s probably in your purse. It’s at school and at every school event, work event, sporting event or party on the planet. Yes, I could only be talking about The Snack – destroyer of appetites, deliverer of needless extra calories and on most nights, bane of my existence.
If you have children, it quickly becomes clear that control in our snack-obsessed society is virtually unattainable. Unless you are willing to live under a rock, shun birthday parties, avoid extracurricular events and keep your children away from well-intentioned family members with pockets full of nefarious delights, it just doesn’t seem possible to avoid the problem. Might we actually be hungry for dinner without the unending parade of juice boxes, pre-packaged “snack-sized” treats and other junky vittles facing us at every turn? Probably. But it seems I’ll never know for sure.
Though healthy snacks can sensibly bridge the gap between meals, snacks more often equal a solution to a question no one actually asked. I’m having a bit of a writer’s block. Time for a snack! These children are getting restless. Give them a snack! I need to assemble a meeting. Better offer a snack! Let’s have a play date. Okay, but we must have a snack. Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times wrote a pithy essay for the paper’s magazine on this very topic. Her dry wit and well-argued points reveal the ridiculousness of the situation we’re in thanks to a variety of forces. The girl’s got a point, don’t you think?
Of course, not all snacks are bad. But the choices are often broad. Will my child choose the apple when he’s also offered a crinkly little bag of cookies or a fistful of chips? Even a healthy bite offered just before a meal can be detrimental. I’ve permitted the 5 p.m. banana only to watch my child stare at his plate an hour later. Would he have eaten chicken and green beans had I denied the banana? Hard to say. And is he any worse for the wear? Probably not.
This week’s feature ingredient is a snack-time favorite for its portability, not to mention it’s great taste. How often do you see grapes used for anything other than a snack? It’s predictable context includes laying next to an assortment of cheeses or rounding out a fruit platter. A lucky bunch might get frozen for a cold treat. Very rarely do you see grapes pan roasted or grilled, taking center stage in a meal. This week’s lineup offers three non-snack variations with grapes, one of which came from For Cod and Country, a book with which I’m growing increasingly enamored as I work my way through it’s beautiful pages and simple, yet carefully constructed recipes. I will be giving away a signed copy of the book this week to one lucky reader. Learn how to snag that book right here. Gotta run for now. I just felt a pang and I’m not sure I can make it to dinner…