Cooking, feeding and introducing our little eaters to a variety of foods is a topic that is close to our hearts. Our culinary chronicles and the recipes that I post attest to our ardent desire to raise children who are enthusiastic eaters with a large palate and willingness to try just about anything. I was reminded about children’s finicky eating habits at the weekend celebration when a family member was very surprised to see Sophia eating a bagel with cream cheese and lox. Why wouldn’t Sophia be eating a bagel with lox? Lox is salted fish and I know for a fact that our families grew up eating smoked and pickled fish since early childhood.
Sophia is not a huge eater, her slim build attests to that, but she has a huge range of foods that she eats including smoked and salted fish. I shouldn’t sound smug and know-it-all about introducing kids to new foods since we have yet to see if Eliza will be as big of a culinary enthusiast. And so I can only share my philosophy on raising a savvy eater. Both Evan and I are adventurous eaters though at least in his case, that was not always true. He has over the last twelve years significantly expanded his palate and now even I strive to keep up with his adventurous nature (trying pickled pork ear is not always an easy feat for a very pregnant woman but I’ve done it and it was quite good).
We both believe that attitude plays a huge role in any undertaking and that includes cooking and eating. We love to cook and almost never look at it as a chore instead choosing to welcome ingredients and new recipes into our kitchen involving Sophia to partake in prep. work and cooking. We try, even though she is still very young, to have conversations during dinner asking each other about our days and what we are going to do the next day or over the weekend. I won’t lie and say that cartoons have made a permanent exit from our dinner table but they are not as significant of a presence at every meal as they used to be.
We started involving Sophia into our cooking about a year ago and before that, we involved her in menu planning and growing our ingredients in our little garden in Maryland. Nowadays, Sophia readily offers to help us cook and routinely tries the things we chop and dice while watching pasta boil or meat brown on the stove. I try to talk to her about what happens when we are cooking. Yesterday we talked about our eyes watering when we cut onions. Evan didn’t simplify the answer much chiming in with “a sulfuric compound escapes the onion when its cut into and makes our eyes watery”.
Our cooking approach extends to our eating approach whereby we don’t make a huge deal out of new foods and I will often offer her something new without announcing it and sometimes more or less incognito. We also do not subscribe to the “diner” philosophy and try to cook dishes we can all eat as a family instead of succumbing to making several dishes to please every family member. But after all is said and done, Sophia is still a child and she does have her own preferences. She doesn’t like melted cheese and would gladly eat dark chocolate at every meal as her main course. She likes pomegranates and all things sour and tangy. Sophia will usually choose a salty pretzel over ice cream. Her favorite condiment is furikake (shaved bonito fish flakes, seaweed, and sesame seeds). We like to ensure she eats a healthy serving of fruits and vegetables often resorting to the first this and then chocolate tactic which has so far worked.
Having moved back to Philadelphia will hopefully have a more positive impact on our cooking and eating bringing our friends and family to our dinner table more often. We are starting a new tradition of enjoying Sunday Dinners with anyone and everyone who wishes to participate. The only requirement is that anyone who joins in must host a sunday dinner of their own. Our first such dinner was fittingly, last Sunday after enjoying Old City Fest with my sister, brother-in-law and nephew. I served homey chicken stew with root vegetables and peas.