Cooking for a large family can be a challenge some days. Trying to figure out not only what recipe to create but how many different palates in my family will actually appreciate it can be quite the conundrum. When our house was full of with all eleven of us, it was a lot of mouths to delight.
I know food is supposed to sustain us and all, but I am a believer in it should taste wonderful as well. Every night may not be a home run, but I want to sit around the dinner table and feel like I at least got on a base. So I do enjoy planning meals whether it be making faithful tried-and-true recipes or experimenting with new culinary creations.
In our house we don’t make everyone eat everything or every single bite. I personally detest cooked peas or liver. I could muddle through liver with a bucket of ketchup and mind over matter, but if you made me eat a spoonful of cooked peas, the experience would be just as unpleasant for you as it would be for me. The gagging, the choking, the noises and distorted facial expressions would be just awful. So everyone tries what we are having for dinner, but if a family member truly just doesn’t like the taste of something, they can pass on it. I don’t think it is an obedience issue, or an issue of disrespect or even being ungrateful or somehow misconstrued as evidence of a sad spiritual walk. I really believe it boils down to texture, taste or smell and we all experience the world through our own senses.
Age five seems to be a magical age in our house when their appreciation for the food we are eating seems to really kick in. We should have bought stock in Cheerios for Joshua when he was little and Lydia could be queen of Stonyfield yogurt. I know they are getting a balanced diet throughout the day and so it just isn’t worth a battle at dinnertime to me. Don’t read me wrong, I am not a short order cook. If they really don’t like our meal, then fruit and yogurt or good old pb&j it is. It doesn’t happen every night and the older they get the less frequently.
I think because we have not made food a forced issue my children have learned to be adventuresome with eating and willing to try new things. All my children appreciate a good meal and each one has a fairly seasoned palate. They love Greek, Italian, seafood, Thai, Chinese (even sushi), and Indian food, just to name a few. They will eat curry chickpea mushroom burgers with a Greek yogurt condiment, vegetable terrine, salads, vegetables (including brussel sprouts), any fruit under the sun and the list goes on and on.
So for my family, cultivating my children’s interest and trust in our dining experiences has aided in growing them into well-rounded, healthy eaters. Sure, they like pizza and nuggets, but they would choose a pesto chicken sandwich over chicken nuggets any day. So if you come to my house for dinner and a child under five is having an alternate meal, don’t worry. It won’t be too long before they will be asking for second helpings of citrus-seasoned tilapia with a parmesan citrus noodle blend with squash and zucchini.
I would love to hear your thoughts, theories and methods of how you encourage your children’s love of good food.