There was a deal on organic strawberries at my local market — this relatively new market that opened up in my neighborhood that had everyone in my building giddy. “So convenient!” “It’s changed my route!” All kinds of funny statements. All true. There’s nothing special about the market. A perfect example of strategic marketing. It’s a Key Foods renamed “Urban Market” that has fancy black bags and nice font to satisfy the “creative” “food savvy” people who live here. But it *is* convenient. Clean. Average prices for the most part. Three blocks away. And open on Friday nights and Saturdays…when the other market nearby, managed by Hassidic Jews, shuts down for Sabbath.
The strawberries. They’re not in season (peak season here is April – June), so I wasn’t expecting much. They were mediocre at best, pretty bland. What struck me, though, was how oddly shaped they all were. And well, I did something I was forbidden to do as a kid and played with my food.
I understand the “respect your food” “people are starving” angle that my parents pounded into me. And even though I’m not part of the “war generation” I remain very conscious of my food and where it comes from and how lucky I am to even contemplate these things. But it got me to thinking that there must be some benefit to the playing process. And, oh, yeah. There is. Well, according to this article I found, Messy Kids Who Play with Their Food May Be Faster Learners, there may be. Seems young children were more likely to learn words for certain non-solid objects like oatmeal and glue when they were allowed to explore the substances by using their hands and making a mess: “context and behavior are both important factors in the acquisition of a child’s early vocabulary. This sort of early learning may be linked to improved cognitive development later in the child’s life.”
Not exactly creating sculptures that I envisioned but if I were allowed a guess or a bet, after the squeezing of oatmeal and making a mess, in time, the playing might just evolve into something more structured. That’s the hope, at least. Have this perennial favorite ready when that happens:
I wonder if any of this applies to adults. Just projecting probably. Wish the University of Iowa folks would do a follow-up study on adults. I’ll be keeping an eye out for it.