As I grow older and hopefully wiser, I don’t know why, but I think about my grandmothers a lot. They were strong women. Their spirituality, beauty, and earthiness strikes me to this day. Theirs was a life full of ritual. The rituals could be as simple as picking fresh herbs from the garden, separating each leaf, grinding them in stone, and then making an amazing healing salve or a yummy chutney out of it.

Every single day, they cooked fresh healthy meals. Cooking was an important part of their persona. Eating local was important as was eating seasonal foods. They knew that variety in diet mattered for their kids’ health and it would provide the anti-oxidant, vitamin, and mineral protection that was needed. Food was not just food. It was a ritual. They knew which vegetable or fruit was digested better with which grain or lentil. Preparation of spices had umpteen steps. I can’t believe how hard they worked!

The thought I put into the family meals is no-where close to grandma’s, but I do consciously try to follow some of their rituals. One is to prepare “ghee” or unsalted clarified butter. Ghee is a gorgeous, nutty, golden, liquidy version of butter. The French call it “beurre noisette” and they use it in pastries and sauces. I like to cook with it or add it to cooked foods. I find that it has a high smoke point and does not burn fast when heated. Adding small quantities to soups, lentils, rice, and homemade bread takes the palate to a different level. I make pasta and curry sauces with it as well. I prefer making ghee from fresh butter from local farms or organic butter if available. Preparation instructions are available on YouTube, Food Network, and many other sites. You can easily store and use it for two months at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Ghee is well known in Ayurvedic medicine as a digestive, an anti-oxidant, a burn salve, and a memory booster. Of course, just like butter, it is high in saturated fats. So moderation is important. Use it as a substitute for butter or oil, not an addition. And margarine…no thanks. When cooking for my family, the more natural ingredients the better. The grandmas knew that. And I am slowly learning that as well.

Tell me, what are your family rituals pertaining to cooking? Share your thoughts.



“She’s so skinny. Why don’t you feed her?” I can’t count how many times I heard this about my child. Every time I heard it, I would take a mental step back as if I was slapped. Sounds extreme? No really, that comment hurt. If only they knew how much thought and work I put into feeding the kids.

“Maybe it’s genetics,” I thought to myself. I used to be a finicky eater myself in childhood. Maybe it was the toddler appetite slump. This is real and most young kids go through it. My fear, however, was that my child would never grow out of this slump. So what did I do? First, I reconciled myself to the fact that my child was not going to gobble down food (like many of the other kids we knew). Second, I had to force myself to stay focused on one goal. And that was “to create healthy eating habits for life.

Today I am sharing one of my successes with you. The success is in my own realization of one very important fact. The fact that children like structure in their life. They need it and they respond to it. This structure should most definitely be extended to the dining table.

Set the meal times and snack times. It will simplify your life and it will allow your child to learn that food should not be grazed on all day.

Structure the plate. At every meal, create a plate with three different components. For instance, let’s say, you prepare a plate with green beans, cut apple, and baked breaded chicken nuggets. Have your child rotate taking bites between each component. In this case, first one bite of beans, then one bite of apple, then one bite of chicken and so on and so on. Treat it like a game. This will keep them focused on their task (or game) of eating and they get the variety of foods they need (without realizing it).

It takes a couple of weeks for the kids to get used to this routine, but they will respond positively to it. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas as well. What has worked and what hasn’t worked for you?

Photo courtesy: Stuart Miles /