I have been in Southern California for about a week. I am here for some work obligations, and also to "babysit" two boys. The boys are 11 and 14, and they are like little brothers to me. I've known them since they were born, and we all truly enjoy hanging out together. I convinced Jack, the oldest, that my name was "Cool Jen" when I was a baby, and the name has stuck. Even as young men, they still introduce me to their friends as Cool Jen.
Of course, someone local could have watched them while their parents were gone for a couple weeks, but I cherish spending big chunks of time with the boys by themselves. It gives me an opportunity to check in with them, and to do random things with them that their parents don't have time to do. When they are on a normal schedule, it involves two incredibly busy working parents and a lot of sports. But when I'm with them, I usually have time to drive them around Southern California following a spotlight to the end (which was, disappointingly, the grand opening of a lame Chinese take-out), and take them bowling, and do all manner of activities.
What does this all have to do with food?
I think that Jack and Mark's parents will readily admit that I am more adventurous than them when it comes to food. They feed the kids well, but it's often the same sorts of food all the time. I think that their eating habits are much in line with most Americans. The boys have no complaints and it works well for the parents. But opening their eyes to my way of eating is one of the ways that I really can influence them.
I remembered this week, though, that it's tiny little things that make a huge difference to them and that I don't have to take them to an authentic Chinese banquet, or to my favorite izakaya, or do much more than make a roast chicken in order for them to them stop and think about their food, and what they like and what they don't. They notice the way that I live my food life and are curious about it.