Calvin Awkward, a 17-year-old senior at Woodrow Wilson Senior High, does the family grocery shopping every Sunday morning. His mother works, he explained, and he wants to help her any way he can.
A competent shopper, he says he spends an average of $35 a week to provide dinner every night for himself and his mother, and some of his mother's lunches and all of his. "My mother doesn't give me a list," he said, "I know what to get."He's been shopping alone for two years, but he just recently learned to stay away from the candy and cookie aisles, and frequent those with chicken breasts, cottage cheese, yogurt, frozen vegetables, lunch meats and bread.
It's a shopping habit he began to cultivate three months ago, when Awkward and his mother started a weight-loss diet. Awkward said he not only has lost 10 pounds since then, but has gained more wholesome eating and shopping habits that will stay with him all through his life.
Awkward says his household culinary assistance doesn't stop once he gets the food home, however. He also splits kitchen duties with his mother. Their typical evening meals consist of poached chicken breasts flavored with paprika and poultry seasoning, or broiled fish. "And broccoli," Awkward said. He buys and cooks plenty of broccoli.
Awkward is not an atypical teen-ager. According to the Simmons Market Research Bureau "1984 Simmons Teen Age Research Study," 73 percent of the teen-agers in the United States report that they are cooking at home. Of that number, 32 percent reported that they cooked dinner for themselves and/or their families four or more times over a 30-day period. The study, which was also done in 1981, reveals that not much has changed in four years.
The more recent study, which was done between February and April of this year, is based on a national random sample of 2,185 teen-agers between the ages of 12 and 19. It provides a window to what they like to eat and how often they shop for food.
In the report, 25 percent of the teen-agers surveyed also said that they help do the major food shopping, either by themselves or assisting their parents. When they are not eating at home, three quarters of the teen-agers said, they were eating in fast-food restaurants. Their favorites, predictably, were McDonald's and Burger King. While they indulge in their share of ice cream, chewing gum, soft drinks and frozen pizza, they also reported that they eat their share of cheese, fresh fruit, peanut butter, cold cereals, whole milk and orange juice. Meat consumption was not included in the study, however, because customers of the Simmons study were not interested in that aspect of teen-agers purchasing habits, said senior vice president Edward Barz.
The study's results are typified by four students at the District's Woodrow Wilson high school who either live with working parents or share living quarters with roommates. Each said they juxtapose their busy lives and eating with fast-food restaurants and home-cooked meals. They all do the grocery shopping in their households, and three do all of their own cooking. They said they try to make the meals they eat at home as nutritious and wholesome as their kitchen experience dictates and time allows.
For the most part, when they go to the grocery store they pass up red meats and potato chips for chicken, rice, yogurt and up-scale frozen dinners. What their parents haven't taught them, two in the group have learned from a class at their school called "Foods and Nutrition." The other two learned a good sense of economical buying habits, how to stretch the foods they do buy, and to read labels for nutritional information by trial and error in one case and from his mother in the other case.
Awkward says a nutritional eye-opener came during a lab in his foods-and-nutrition class when students were asked to keep records of the foods they ate over a four-day period. He found that he was consuming 1,000 calories above and beyond what was required just to maintain the 195 pounds he then weighed. "It was a surprise," Awkward laughed. "Now I'm much more aware of sausage, cheese and mayonnaise in my diet ." He's eliminated frequent trips to McDonald's and to the store up the street from school for candy bars. He carries his lunch, which usually consists of a bologna or ham-and-cheese sandwich and a piece of fruit. On particularly hungry days he'll also eat a bag of popcorn.
Sixteen-year-old Kelly McCormack, brought up in a single-parent household, says she has been feeding herself ever since she can remember. At the age of 6 she was poaching eggs for relatives, by the time she was 13 she could cook a three-course meal. Today she says she can put together an entire Thanksgiving dinner -- including the gravy.
While McCormack admits that her eating habits aren't perfect, they have improved tremendously from three years ago when she was a diagnosed anorexic. She said her life had become so busy that she just "forgot to eat." Her weight had dropped from 105 to 85 pounds before she sought a doctor's help.
"I don't even look at my weight anymore," McCormack said, and her weight is exactly where she wants it to be. "I'm solid." Still her life is busy with a full day of school and a job Monday through Friday after school in a nearby Nautilus center. Now she has to eat twice a day to avoid feeling ill and, though she is conscious of the difference in good and bad eating habits, what she eats is dictated by her pocketbook.
On days she can afford it, she'll have lunch at a fast-food restaurant and dinner at home where she lives with her grandmother. She shops twice a week, usually picking up a whole chicken to make into salad or to use the meat for sandwiches to eat on the run. When she cooks dinner at home, her boyfriend is usually there to share the meal, which often consists of baked chicken, salad and corn or tuna casserole. On the weekends she makes a favorite -- lasagna. She says she learned to read labels for her athletic boyfriend, who likes to pack proteins and carbohydrates.
Jonathan Lyon, who plans a military career and already is a member of the ROTC, is a strapping 18-year-old senior with an insatiable appetite. He eats four meals a day, and a snack of cookies and milk at 2 a.m. He has been living on his own for 4 1/2 months. He spends $50 a week at the grocery store, which provides two of his daily meals, plus the early morning snack. A breakfast of yogurt and dried cereal or fruit is eaten at home before he leaves for school. He buys a hamburger for lunch from a nearby Roy Rogers and more fast food for dinner while on a break from his sales job at Hechinger's. When he gets home he cooks his final meal, which can be a LaMenu frozen dinner, a chicken patty, broiled chicken breasts or, depending on what he has eaten during the day, a hamburger.
While he doesn't follow his lessons to a tee, Lyon said his mother taught him to meal-plan, shop and cook ahead for busy weeks. He makes a grocery list and buys exactly what he will consume in a given week. He makes a chart with the foods he buys and when he will eat them. If he makes fettucine for dinner, then he'll cut up a salad rather than eat bread with it. He says he would like to eat more of the casseroles his mother taught him to make, but living alone presents a problem in that he'll have to eat the same thing three days in a row to use it up. All of the students are attracted to dishes that cook quickly. Even 45 minutes from start to finsh is too much time for cooking.
Wesenylesh Hagos, an Ethopian refugee who came to the United States alone in 1981, is a 20-year-old senior. Though she is older than most students at the school, she said her eating and shopping habits have not changed in the three years she has lived in the United States. She arrived without much kitchen training and has had to learn on her own. She is employed as a cashier at one of Giant Food's Save Right stores.
She, like Awkward, does her grocery shopping on Sundays and the staples she buys include fresh fruit and vegetables (never frozen vegetables), plain yogurt, stewing beef and soda. She says she is disappointed in the foods America has to offer, disdaining the taste of hot dogs and not understanding the chemistry of some of our common staples such as flour. Those dishes she does buy already prepared aren't spicy enough for her tastes. Still she has managed to get along, and makes most of her own food.
Judging from the study and the growing number of young men and women taking classes like the food and nutrition class offered at Wilson High (the number of students has jumped from 81 to 108 this year, according to teacher Velma Leigh), teen-agers are taking more and more responsibility in the kitchen and for the foods they eat. What was once a pizza-and-politics culture now consists of wage earners who consider, at least half of the time, what they are putting in their stomachs. JONATHAN LYON'S ORANGE CHICKEN (2 to 4 servings) 4 chicken breast halves, skinned 3/4 cup chicken broth 3 tablespoons worcestershire 1 tablespoon orange extract
Mix broth, worcestershire and orange extract together. Marinate 24 to 30 hours. Broil to desired doneness, 15 to 30 minutes, turning once for even broiling. CALVIN AWKWARD'S POACHED CHICKEN BREASTS (2 to 4 servings) 4 boneless chicken breasts, skinned 1 teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning 1 bay leaf
Lay chicken breasts in a flat, oven-proof pan. Sprinkle with paprika and poultry seasoning. Add water to come half way up the chicken. Put bay leaf in the water. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. WESENYLESH HAGOS' SPICY BEEF (4 servings) 1 spanish onion, coarsely chopped 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 1 pound stewing beef, cut in 1-inch cubes 1 fresh hot pepper, chopped and seeded 2 teaspoons powdered ginger Bread or cooked rice for serving
In a large heavy skillet or sauce pan, soften the onion in vegetable oil over low heat. Add beef, pepper and ginger and 1/2 cup water. Simmer one hour, until the meat is tender, but not falling apart. Serve over bread or rice.