Sampson: The intent of ChopChop Maryland is to get families cooking. While we want them to cook all parts of a meal -- soups, stews, entrees, side dishes, and salads -- it's most easy to initially draw kids in with dessert. If I could only eat one dessert for the rest of my life, it would definitely be a crisp: It's adaptable to every season (you can substitute almost any fruit for the apples), easy, inexpensive, uses readily available ingredients, fast, and, most important, delicious. People forget that you can make wonderful desserts that are not laden with sugar and fat. In fact, this one is so healthy, I've been known to eat it for breakfast.
Sharfstein: I won't tell anyone. In public health, we often focus on the content of the food going into someone's mouth -- not on the act of cooking. Working on this project with you has helped me to realize that we can promote healthy eating by encouraging parents to cook with their kids (or is it the other way around?). From your vantage point as a cookbook author, what makes this work?
Sampson: The very process of cooking creates ownership of the meal. So basically if you hand a kid (or an adult, for that matter) a food they aren't so sure of, they'll be more hesitant to try it than if they make it themselves. I believe your very own son hated peaches until he made our Peach Crisp, right? The most effective approach is to try small changes at a time.
Sharfstein: At first, he said he would make the recipe with me, but would not eat it. After he tried it, he kept going back for more. Then he denied he ever said anything negative about peaches. One of the biggest challenges for us is to promote this type of activity beyond the families that may already be doing it -- into a broad range of neighborhoods and communities. We really appreciate ChopChop Maryland being available in Spanish -- that's a start. We also have made recipes available through text message -- people can text CHOPMD to 43186 to sign up (text CHOPES to 43186 for Spanish). And we are partnering with a wide range of community organizations and advocates. But what success have you had in crossing ethnic and income lines with a message of healthy eating? What works and what doesn't?
Sampson: We've made it a priority to use foods that are accessible and affordable and recipes that are simple and kid friendly. We use recipes from all different cultures and we don't beat anyone up with our message of healthy eating: We strive to make it fun and hope that the rest follows from there. So my guess is that many people -- not just you -- can get their children to eat healthy foods by getting them involved in the process rather than lecturing to them about what they should and shouldn't be eating.
Sharfstein: Your second Maryland recipe was for Roasted Squash with honey. I have to admit, I never had tried squash prepared this way before. My kids had a good time scooping out the seeds. We all got our hands a little slimy. But the results were great again. Just a few ingredients, simple preparation, and I've been getting emails from people saying they served it during fancy dinners.