Some guys think about sports. Others think about cars. I am constantly thinking about food and cooking. I focus on planning menus, buying ingredients, storing them, preparing them, and, of course, eating them, but there is one thing that really dominates my mind: what my kids think of the food I serve.
I’ve introduced them to brown sugar, bacon, and gruyere, so I feel like they should understand that I have their best interests at heart, at least when it comes to flavor. Yet, somehow, they’re reluctant to trust me. Do you know how long it took me to convince Nina that eggs with ketchup taste good?
She liked eggs on their own, and she liked ketchup on French fries, but no amount of salesmanship on my part was going to unite the two for her. Eventually she relented, and now she eats them that way all the time, much to Santa Maria’s dismay; she hates ketchup. I don’t mind it though: in my lazier moments I like to invoke President Reagan’s alleged judgment that the condiment is a vegetable. It makes me feel like I'm feeding them well.
I ran into a hard time the other night when I served my wild boar and lentil stew. They should have liked it. They were fond of its main ingredients: pork, rice, and lentils, all things they’ve eaten previously. The seasoning, a vaguely Indian combination of garam masala and thyme, was something they've enjoyed, too (as of late, my last-minute, commercially prepared meal of chicken tikka masala has become perfectly fine by them).
Yet when I put the boar stew in front of them they froze. Pinta backed away from the table. Nina broke into tears, and managed to get down five little bites. The tears were particularly painful for me. I knew she was crying because she wanted to please me by trying the dish, yet at the same time she found the whole thing reprehensible.
I gave up, and offered them a dish of the plain rice and lentils. Nina wolfed hers down; clearly she was hungry. Pinta didn't bother with more than a few mouthfuls, and I can't blame her. Plain rice and lentils is just plain nasty, unless you're five and feeling like that's what you need.
Later that night Pinta stood in the kitchen with me looking at the pot of stew (there was a lot left over, given that half the family didn't eat any), and said to me, "I know I'll like it, I just need to get used to it."
It's hard to know what's the best way to get kids to eat new things. Parent Earth, a new site about food and families, has a video that offers some helpful hints. The host of the clip is so calm that she seems like she's from another planet, but her advice is very down to earth.