I don't mean to brag but my five-year old can eat with chopsticks. And his favorite restaurant is called "Silken Tofu." It's a Korean restaurant that we often frequent, despite and because we are usually the only non-Asians in the joint. It feels very authentic, unlike the more showy Korean BBQ restaurants we used to frequent on 34th street in Manhattan.
Also, my eight year-old recently brought home his "Getting to Know Me" project where he had to write down his hobbies, favorite foods, etc. And do you know what he claimed his favorite food is? Sushi. I chuckled at that because we honestly don't take our children out for sushi that often, now that we live in Philly, but he's so much like me in his love for "exotic" foodstuffs. Among his other culinary favorites are snails, goat cheese, giant prawns, and tandori chicken. The five-year old turns his nose up at most cheeses, but loves green olives, Chinese bubble tea, vietnamese pho and bun (rice noodles), and jamon serrano. And even though neither one of them will get near a peanut butter sandwich and consider most breakfast cereals unacceptable for morning consumption, they also eat regular foods as well.
But the thing is, I can pretty much feel okay taking my sons to any restaurant in the world and know that they'll find something they like to eat. No matter how "strange" or different the food may be. In fact, they both seem to relish the idea of eating things that others might find unappetizing. I'd like to take some credit for that, but for the most part all I've done is feed my kids the same thing I eat since they were little babies. I never make separate meals for them because mommy and daddy's food is too complicated or spicy. To be honest, my eight-year old can handle far spicier food than I.
Still, many parents moan and groan because their kids won't eat anything besides a very regimented diet of chicken fingers and tater tots. The only vegetables that are acceptable are green beans and veggie booty. And of course I know that some kids just come out of the womb with very particular palates and would rather starve than eat something with cumin or cloves, but for the most part, it is the parent who shapes their kids eating habits. And for me, eating provides a window into other cultures. So when I take my kids into that Korean restaurant they learn something about Korean culture, even though they may not even realize it now.
Here's an article from Time Out Chicago about a great way to tantalize your kid's taste buds with kid-friendly foreign fare. It's about Chicago, but the idea can be applied in any city. What about you? How do you get your kids to challenge their taste buds? Does food cause fights and meltdowns in your house? Is your kid a food snob? Let us know.
Here's to happy eating!