My seven year old son has become concerned about coming down scurvy after he and his friend read about pirates in a Stephen Beisty cross-section book. This prompted him to try oranges. Unfortunately after touching one section he was repulsed by the texture and refused to eat it. Still he 's uneasy about the prospect of succumbing to such an illness. He asked about symptoms of scurvy the other night while I was making dinner.
C: What does Vitamin C do anyway? (He scoffs, trying to shake off his fear.)
E: Oh, you know, it helps the body create collagen.
C: What's that?
E: It makes up about every part of your body - your muscles, bones, eyes, teeth. That kinda thing.
C: Well, what happens when people get scurvy? (He starts giggling.) Do they lose their muscles? Do their eyes fall out? And their teeth?
E: Well, yeah. It's a serious disease.
C: Do they die?
E: They used to, but now we know that Vitamin C can prevent scurvy. There's absolutely no reason to die from scurvy these days.
C: Are there other foods besides oranges that have Vitamin C?
E: Sure. Tomatoes.
C: Yuck. What else?
E: Umm. Broccoli. Lettuce (as I make a salad).
C: Mom? I'm going to try lettuce tonight.
E: Really? That's great.
C: I'll try one piece.
Later. At dinner. Carter takes a quick bite of lettuce.
C: I like it. It tastes like apple. It's really good (as he sereptitiously put the lettuce on his napkin).
E: Why did you put the lettuce on your napkin?
C: Dad? Did you know that-
E: Carter? Why did you put your lettuce on the napkin?
C: I don't want it on my plate. It has salad dressing on it. Can I have it plain?
R: Sure. There's more lettuce.
E: No. We don't have any more plain lettuce.
C: Can I have it plain next time?
E: Just remember. You're going to have to eat a lot of lettuce if you want to prevent scurvy.
It's come to this. Threatening my child with scurvy. I will say this. It's gotten him interested in the properties of food. At the grocery store he asks me what vitamins are in certain foods. Like in the checkout line the other day, Carter asked me about garlic.
C: Can garlic save your life?
E: Well, it has properties that help combat certain diseases - it can boost immunity.
The checkout guy looks at me -
CG: Boy, that's an awkward question, isn't it?
E: How so?
CG: Well, you don't think vegetables can actually - they have things that save your life?
E: What vitamins and minerals? You don't believe in vitamins and minerals?
CG: Sure, I mean, I know that. But you know, garlic is just- if you didn't know the answer to his question you could just as easily say phytochemicals. (To Carter) Garlic has phytochemicals which is just a fancy way of saying plant chemicals.
The checkout guy looks up at me and winks. Ah. My friends. This is what we call a teaching moment. Some days I allow these moments to pass and become part of the noise. But in this case, I decide a smackdown is in order.
E: Do you know what those chemicals are?
E: Did you know they can be broken down into alkaloids like caffeine - I assume you drink coffee? Does it stimulate your nervous system or is that just your imagination? Or there are carotenes like lycopene which acts as an antioxidant? Or phenolic acids like capsaicin which can help relieve arthritic symptoms? Do you have problems with vampires?
CG: (rendered speechless)
E: See. Garlic works on many levels. I can't believe you work at Whole Foods.