She thought maybe she wanted to be a spicy cheese puff.
Or a bologna sandwich. On white bread with plenty of mayo, of course.
Maybe on Saturdays she’d be one of those ice cream sundaes you could get from her favorite drive through.
On Monday at school, she told her teacher who asked Tilly if she knew what was in a spicy cheese puff. Tilly didn’t but she raised her eyebrows dramatically anyway and answered, “Um, deliciousness.”
Her teacher told her to read the ingredients, so Tilly tried. “I can’t pronounce any of these things! Is this some kind of trick?”
Not at all, her teacher said. But spicy cheese puffs and bologna and her favorite drive through sundaes weren’t made just from normal foods. In fact, some of their ingredients weren’t foods at all. They were things people put in foods to make them cheaper and longer lasting and extra good at making money for the very big companies who invented them.
“How do you invent food?” Tilly asked. Her teacher explained that there were lots of people whose job it was to think of flavors people will like and find the cheapest way to make those flavors into something people will buy and then package it in a fancy box people will love looking at more than all the other boxes at the store. Sometimes they were really smart and used words that made people think the foods were healthy even though they weren’t. At all.
Tilly was confused. “But…we all eat spicy cheese puffs… Why would anyone want to sell people something that wasn’t healthy? Especially if we are what we eat? Isn’t that doing something wrong?”
Her teacher thought Tilly was onto something and suggested she go spend some time this week researching about where different foods come from. Then, maybe she could spend this Saturday at the farmer’s market instead of the drive through.
If Tilly was going to be what she ate, she thought she definitely ought to learn about her options so she headed to the library. She pored over books and clicked through websites gobbling up information faster than spicy cheese puffs.
She learned all about healthy foods being things that weren’t processed. Processed was when people put gross things in food and did a bunch of strange stuff to it until it wasn’t really food anymore.
She also learned that a lot of the unhealthy foods and what it took to make them did bad things to the environment on top of all the scary things it did to people’s bodies. Sometimes it even hurt animals. Tilly loved animals and she knew all about how important it was to make choices that were good for the earth. And if you were what you ate, Tilly couldn’t be a bunch of stuff she didn’t even know how to pronounce.
On Saturday, she was armed with new information and ready to head to the farmer’s market with her weekly allowance. But she was worried. Spicy cheese puffs, whatever else they may be, were delicious. What if this new healthy stuff wasn’t?
At the farmer’s market, Tilly gathered up the courage to talk to the farmers about what she was doing. She explained all that she’d learned but she told them about her fears too. Tilly wanted to be healthy and delicious.
The farmers offered her samples. Tilly tried a peach, a cherry, a tomato still on the vine. She tried homemade bread with fresh strawberry jam. Then she tried the strawberries that had made the jam! She didn’t stop there. She got braver and braver. She tried a cucumber and a cucumber made into a pickle. She tried beans inside a tortilla made right there and then she even tried the corn that had made the tortilla! She tried fresh mint in her lemonade and watched the farmer’s daughter squeezing the lemons to make it. She wasn’t any older than Tilly!
On and on Tilly went through the farmer’s market until she knew exactly what she wanted to be.
On Monday, she went back to her teacher and told her, “I want to be a rainbow!” To celebrate, she gave her teacher some fresh fruit salad that she’d made all by herself with ingredients from the farmer’s market. Now her teacher could be a rainbow too if she wanted.
Her teacher was so impressed she asked Tilly if she’d share her fruit salad with her class and tell them what she’d learned. Tilly stepped to the front of the room and dramatically raised her eyebrows. “Did you know that you are what you eat?” she asked the class. “I’m a rainbow but we should talk about what you’d like to be.”
Do you want to be a rainbow like Tilly? Here’s a great place to start.
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