To try the recipe for a Green Eggs (and No Ham) Sandwich, adapted from ChopChop magazine, click here.
Last spring, with the help of a few great friends, I launched ChopChop, a non-profit quarterly food magazine for kids aged five to 12 and their families. ChopChop's mission is to educate kids to cook and be nutritionally literate, and to empower them to establish better eating habits for a lifetime of good nutrition. Our vision is to reverse and prevent childhood obesity, and our goal is to get a copy in the hands of every child.
I may be new to the nutrition field, but I'm certainly not new to writing about food. I've been writing cookbooks forever—21 books in 25 years—and I couldn't love a profession any more. There was probably no better way for me to make a living than spending my days cooking, eating, thinking about food, talking about food, reading about food, feeding friends and family, and making them happy by doing so (especially when they got to critique carte blanche). But 17 years ago, when my daughter Lauren was born with a chronic disease so rare it isn't even classified as an "orphan disease," writing cookbooks began to feel like an empty profession.
It became obvious that there was a need for ChopChop, and that to get to doctors I needed to be a non-profit (I re-started Kid2Kid) and raise money.
I didn't want to spend my time not mattering, so I turned to health care, both for answers to her illness and to give back a little. I joined three boards and spearheaded a few hospital projects. While I found the bureaucracy absolutely frustrating and silly, I decided I needed a career change. But honestly, it was clear I didn't have the necessary skills. So instead, I wrote more cookbooks. And I helped my then seven-year-old daughter with her self-inspired project: She brought toys to kids in the hospital in a little red wagon. We formed a non-profit and called it Kid2Kid.
And then, two years ago, sitting in a stranger's living room listening to Tony Lake, foreign policy adviser to then-candidate Barack Obama, I had a sudden insight: I knew without a doubt that Obama would win, and I decided then and there that I wanted to be his executive chef. (Tony can vouch for my hubris. I brought him hot chocolate chip cookies to win him over.) Fat chance! But I realized that I did, in fact, have the skills and maybe more importantly the passion to help address childhood obesity.
Over the next few months, an idea took shape that matched my skills to my goals: I would give recipes to pediatricians to distribute during well-child visits. Kids would learn to cook and take some responsibility for their own health. They would have fun, bond with their parents or caregivers, and stop eating so much damn junk. They would achieve nutritional literacy. This could be my own "little red wagon" project.
I called Barry Zuckerman, chief of pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital. I knew Barry because when other hospital administrators seemed more worried about whether wheeling toys through hospital corridors violated arcane regulations, he wholeheartedly supported it. I knew that not only did Barry think outside the box, he barely knew there was a box. He loved the idea of ChopChop and pushed me to get more feedback from other doctors. Literally every single pediatrician said, "Bring it on!"
My son's pediatrician, Dan Slater at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, actually asked, "Can you get it to me in two weeks?" In spite of my excitement, I challenged him: Would he really have time to talk about cooking with a patient when he had only 30 minutes to cover an endless array of topics, among them seat belts, bike safety, oral hygiene, physical hygiene, physical activity (including the dictum to learn to swim), boundary setting and rules, sleep habits, school, growth and development, strangers, sport safety, safety at home, healthy friendships, and bullying?
His unequivocal response was yes. He told me he talked about healthy eating all day long with his patients. "But I have no tools. If you give me healthy recipes, then I'm not just talking about it; I'm giving my patients something they can really use."