Kids’ Culinary Frontiers
Every morning, I read the comics online. I find it a good way to ease into my day. Today’s Calvin and Hobbes struck me as all too familiar. The scene (in case GoComics.com takes it down after 30 days) is set with Calvin asking his mother what’s for dinner. Calvin’s mom responds "Tortellini." Calvin, clutching his neck in disgust, yells "Oh, no. Not Tortellini. I hate tortellini!! Oh, gross! Yecch! Tortellini." Pinching his nose shut, he continues: "Nothing is more disgusting than tortellini!! Can’t we have something else?" When Calvin’s mom tells him "No", Calvin proceeds to the dictionary to look up just what Tortellini is.
This struck me as familiar. I love to cook. Often, I’ll try new things. My most recent culinary experiments involve lentils. Inevitably, however, NHL throws a huge stink over the food. If it isn’t on his "approved foods list" (not available for parental viewing and subject to change without notice), he simply won’t eat it. The most we can do is get him to agree to a "No Thank You" bite. Of course, he then tries to pass off the minimum amount of food in his mouth as his No Thank You bite. No, NHL, one solitary lentil in your mouth is not a "bite." If we do coax/threaten him into eating, he’ll eat very little and then tell us he’s full. Of course, two seconds later he asks if he can have dessert. Kids must have Main Meal stomachs and Dessert stomachs because the former is inevitably full while the latter is on empty.
I’ve read The Sneaky Chef and Deceptively Delicious. While I’ve tried some of those recipes to mixed success, I don’t like the idea of hiding the foods from my son. I don’t want him growing up thinking that chicken nuggets and pizza are the best foods out there and vegetables are to be avoided as much as possible. I also don’t want to have to make two different menus every week: One for B and me and one for the kids. While, I might give them a pass on some of my dishes (say the ones that go heavy on the heat), I want that to be the exception, not the rule.
I also want my kids growing up knowing that trying new foods is a good thing. To this end, I’ve tried to break a long-time hatred I have for all things coconut. (History Time: At a friend’s birthday party when I was young, I was served coconut cake. That night, I got really sick. It probably wasn’t the cake, but my young mind formed a strong bond between coconut and feeling awful.) I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t like it, but I don’t loathe it anymore either.
How do you get your children to eat healthier? How do you get them to eat what you put in front of them without hours of screaming back and forth? Most of all, how can you get little ones (specifically ones 5 years and ones 19 months old) to try foods that they’ve never tried before without first assuming that they are going to taste awful?