Mahatma Gandhi and the Pop-Tart Incident

Here is an excerpt from At the Table, Nourishing Conversation and Food on the subject of differing approaches to parenting:

At left, Sharron Dalton

At left, Sharron Dalton

Sharron Dalton is probably the greatest cook I know. She can turn the dwindling resources of the sparsest refrigerator into a creative feast. For long a nutritionist at New York University with a special interest in obesity, she’s sensitive to the dietary needs of her family and friends. She’s sensible, she’s creative, she’s fast, and as she works she drops pearls of epicurean wisdom as quickly and excitedly as she talks….

Her husband….Den’s a political philospher with the receding hairline and furrowed brow of the anguished thinker….Philosophers tend to have eclectic minds and interests, so conversation before and after dinner ranges widely. That is especially so with Denny, for every observation on every subject has relevance to his search for truth. But one needs to be wary with this master of the Socratic method lest a whole evening pass while you talk and he listens, leading you gently to an understanding of the weakness in your argument–your philosophy of life–but in such a way that you are left thinking the discovery was your own. This is the art of the great teacher. And Denny was my guru.

What a wonderful combination for any evening: great food and great conversation! But with Sharron and Denny such swamis of the kitchen and the classroom, how could it come to pass that there would be such a thing as “Pop-Tarts” in their wholesome larder? How could they have assumed such importance in the lives of our respective families that in our unending conversational pursuit of understanding they are spoken of with the weight and reverence normally preserved for such momentous subjects as Gandhi’s Salt March of 1930 or the Calcutta fast of 1947?….

The Pop-Tart Incident, as we refer to it, was a consequence of Den’s putting into everyday practice the notion of swaraj in the personal sense of obtaining freedom by gaining self-knowledge. “It is swaraj when we learn to rule ourselves,” Gandhi wrote, and this became a fundamental principle in the Dalton’s approach to child-rearing….Den and Sharron were there always to pose and answer questions, and in that way to assist their children in their voyages of self-discovery as they searched inwardly for personal swaraj. But values were not imposed, and resistance to the normative preferences of their parents was tolerated. A final, important dimension of this approach to parenting was a rejection of the popular tool of discipline, for the only acceptable tyrant was one’s own conscience, the “still small voice” within.

Interested in reading the whole, entertaining story, then why not purchase a copy of At the Table, Nourishing Conversation and Food? It is full of humour and food for thought. Just go to: http://www.penumbrapress.com/book.php?id=360.

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About t. a. keenleyside

author of travel/food books and popular fiction
This entry was posted in biography, books, child development, contemporary culture, family, family literature, food and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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