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iCarly’s Spaghetti Tacos and Making Kosher Cool

I am ever-amazed and conscious of how much peer pressure plays into what we eat. I keep a kosher home and choose to eat only kosher meat outside the house. I feel safe sending my son to school at the JCC because it is kosher, but each time he goes to secular back-up care, I have to give him a pep talk about why my meat loaf is so much cooler than the food provided at school. We even play KosherLand, the Jewish version of CandyLand so I can try to make kosher seem fun and acceptable in the eyes of a five year old.

Documenting the effects of peer pressure on our children’s diets, the New York Times recently ran an article about the popularity of spaghetti tacos, an outgrowth of the Nickelodeon show iCarly. The main character Carly is raised by her brother who is a likable but somewhat clueless character who serves his sister this Italian-Mexican treat. What started as a gag by the writers has become a household staple meal for many children and their parents. The parents interviewed in the article didn’t seem surprised about the influence of television on their family diet (though one parent wished that Carly would eat broccoli with her taco).

Aside from the magnitude of influence that iCarly has on our nation, the article surprised me with the knowledge that the writer’s wife is Hungry Girl, Lisa Lillien, the author of a daily email about “healthy” food for women. Apparently, food peer pressure does not end when we grow up. Like her husband-writer, Lillien uses the concept of “cool” to get people to eat a certain way. She has over a million subscribers to her daily e-mails as well as several magazine columns, and guest appearances on day-time talk shows. She generally promotes low calorie foods, but she uses too many chemicals and additives to be considered “healthy.” This doesn’t stop her fans from indulging in fat-free whipped topping, and buttery spread desserts.

One of the hardest parts of being a mother in today’s world is sorting out the good and bad peer pressure. With regards to health and nutrition, Zachary and I play games about how cool it is to get to five fruits or vegetables a day and that seems to work fine. When everybody else around him is eating non-kosher food, I find it a bit more challenging to keep his values consistent with my own. Next year when he starts public school, I can only hope that he learns through my example and is able to self-navigate through Kosher Land.

Aliza Sherman, JD is a Tax Professional and Mother of two small children who enjoys cooking kosher meals for her family.


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