Those of you out there either with small children or those of you who have raised small children will identify with the idea that many kids, though not all, have quite narrow tastes when it comes to food likes. Perhaps this is a regular part of development; I don’t know, I actually haven’t done any formal research on the topic. We here at Casa Horne have delightful children (we think!) yet they have always been “challenged” in this area. I myself was quite the finicky eater as a young child, yet as an adult I enjoy most foods put in front of me.
However, our little fussy eaters were quickly becoming difficult to the point of ill-mannered at the table. Mealtimes around here had turned into something of a battle. There was complaining, “I don’t like this!”, “I can’t swallow the food!”, “I want yogurt instead!”; general whininess, and frustration on the part of the two parents, who desperately yearned for meals to be a time of peaceful family interaction and happiness.
Jay and I finally decided something must be done. I had gotten to the point of rarely cooking foods that I knew would be turned down flat. Though I actually love to cook, I began to strongly dislike my job as the food prep person around here. And the kids certainly weren’t enjoying their meal experiences either. So, a couple of weeks ago we instituted some changes around here. I am happy to say they have been met with huge success. In the last two weeks our children have eaten foods they would never have dared to touch before this. Some of those include: yellow fin tuna, tabouli, fresh tomato, grilled mushrooms, and tomato-basil-mozzarella salad.
So, you ask, what did we do to our children?
Well, we set up a simple rule: at the start of each meal, the two older children are each given a plate of food which includes small portions of each item we are serving for the supper. Their job is to finish that first plate we give them: no complaining, no asking for something different, no spitting something out because one didn’t care for the texture, and everything should be eaten. After that, they are free to ask for second helpings of two or more items in the meal. (We say two so that they cannot just pick one food they like and eat only that for the remainder of the dinner.) And after those are finished, they can eat their fill of anything else they like.
I am so thankful to say this has worked beautifully, though the first evening we tried the new system was rather rough. Now, Abigail and Jonathan are actually interested in trying new foods and they often ask us questions about where each thing came from. (Abigail’s mostly interested in what died so we could eat it!!) But anyway, we are all enjoying a new atmosphere at meals. What a blessing!
This weekend, after a long week teaching at and participating in VBS, and due to this, a week of not cooking at all, I was in the mood to actually prepare a few meals. I was even in the mood to try making something new. Jay and I perused the grocery circulars together on Saturday morning and picked out some foods which were on sale this week. We have had two delightful dinners, both with new food items we’d actually never cooked before ourselves, let alone given to our children.
The first was Ahi, or yellowfin tuna, something my Island Boy grew up eating during his childhood. The catch was that he grew up eating it RAW!! (No, we didn’t make the kids eat sashimi.) We prepared two pieces of the delightful fish: one we seared on each side and kept raw in the middle – for Island Boy; we rubbed the other piece with a bit of olive oil and some of our garden herbs and grilled it to rare on the inside (which, I learned, is how good tuna is cooked and eaten). What a treat this was. And guess what? I actually liked the raw stuff too! Jay mixed a great wasabi sauce and we felt like quite the gourmets. The kids thought the tuna tasted like chicken, but we talked about how it was actually a fish.
Then, today after church, our salad that accompanied our meal was a mozzarella/tomato/basil concoction: something I’ve always wanted to make. It’s quite easy and the little stacks of red tomato slices, bright green basil leaves and milky white mozzarella are very colorful and quite pretty. I think the basil ended up being a bit strong (even for me!) but overall we really liked the salad and I’ll prepare it again sometime, perhaps with a few tweaks.
At any rate, even if the children do not beg for second helpings of some of these more exotic foods, we feel they have made tremendous progress and we are very proud of them. I myself am again, quite happy to be the Cook, and all of us are enjoying a blessed time around the dinner table. Hallelujah!