Food & Drink: Just ONE Bite

Kids don’t like a lot of things. Knowing that, I don’t get why people allow their kids turn their noses up at whatever’s on their plate. I know parents who don’t even feed their kids vegetables AT ALL, since they figure if junior isn’t going to eat them, why bother?

A cup o' corn on the streets of Bangkok. Veggie-riffic!
A cup o’ corn on the streets of Bangkok. Veggie-riffic!

Here’s the problem with that. Besides bringing up kids who only want to eat McNuggets, or stuff that comes wrapped in paper, it’s unhealthy.

My mother had a rule about dinner. You had to eat at least one bite of whatever it is you THINK you don’t like. One bite. Chewed and swallowed. No spitting it into the napkin, or burying it under the mashed potatoes.

Growing up, I couldn’t stand tomatoes. Now, ketchup was fine, so was tomato sauce. But as soon as there was an identifiable bit of ACTUAL TOMATO!!! on the plate, I was done.

I also hated liver. I mean really. The taste, the texture…knowing I was eating internal organs. It didn’t matter how much I hated something, or for what reason. Under my mother’s law, I still had to cut off a fair sized bite and taste it. After that single bite, if I was still sure I hated whatever it was, I could leave the rest of the serving on the plate.

If I tried to protest, it didn’t matter. I could sit at the table for hours, not allowed to leave until I’d tried. A couple late nights, sitting in my chair long after the others went to watch The Dukes of Hazard (the original run) taught me it was better to take that bite, and get it over with. many people may think that’s horrible, but IT WORKED.

A strange concoction in Thailand.  Which tastes AMAZING.
A strange concoction in Thailand. Which tastes AMAZING.

This rule was adapted from a rule of my mom’s childhood. Dinosaur times when money was tight and you cooked what you had, cleaned your plate, and liked it. My grandfather would insist we ate stuff we didn’t like because that’s all that was being served. There was none of this frantic hand-wringing a lot of parents have over their child missing a meal, or two. The way my grandfather saw it, either you were grateful to eat what was served, or you saw it put in front of you for breakfast. And lunch. And dinner again. There’s a story in my family that famously makes the rounds every time a cousin, niece or nephew begins to turn up their nose. The time my aunt sat staring at a plate of cold baked beans, through 5 meals, or a day and a half, before she broke. My mom took a slightly less authoritarian spin on this. Thankfully.

Egyptian Cuisine
Egyptian Cuisine
My grandmother and her sister; likely dealt with much more authoritarian dinners than I did.
My grandmother and her sister; likely dealt with much more authoritarian dinners than I did.

As an adult now, there’s almost nothing I don’t like, or won’t eat.   I also try to try everything; and that’s led me to some amazing culinary treats on my travels of the world;  chicha morada in Peru, a purple corn-based drink the looks like Kool-Aid.  Tiny coconut crepes from a street vendor in Thailand (though I had no idea that’s what they were when I asked to try one!), Kushari, a traditional Egyptian chickpea stew that’s delicious. Or the vile-looking electric-green Calaloo soup that is creamed with coconut milk and greens that tastes amazing.

Caribbean Calaloo Soup (Photo: latinfood.com)
Caribbean Calaloo Soup (Photo: latinfood.com)

As it turns out, I like tomatoes now. Liver too, although I prefer it in an appetizer called rumaki; wrap the liver in bacon, throw a water chestnut in the centre, and broil until it’s crispy and golden.

This blog entry is not meant to preach to parents about how to raise your kids; no, you can find plenty of other places to get that.  This is simply about what worked in MY family, in hopes it may inspire you; after all, if you’ve come all the way here, you might be looking for some suggestions, non?  This post merely  goes to show you tastes change. If I’d been allowed to have my way, I probably would have a much less adventurous appetite. Hopefully it also shows you getting your kids to take chances is definitely not biting off more than you can chew.

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3 thoughts on “Food & Drink: Just ONE Bite

  1. From Gillian Robinson Riddell via Facebook~~
    Tots!! That’s pretty much how it was in my house growing up and I’ve followed a similar sort of food-ology with my girls. When the 3 year old was about 15 months she wouldn’t eat anything. But I’ve always refused to go down the chicken nuggests and ‘kids’ food road and just given them whatever is being cooked for dinner. After a few months, she got over it and now has a very healthy veggie appetite (broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower- if roasted, with parmesan!) And we still enforce a ‘3 bites of everything’ (sooo mean!) rule. Yup, there are tears and tantrums sometimes, but that’s life.

  2. I’ve been thinking about this post ever since you wrote it. And I really agree in principle. In my house, dinner is whatever I choose to make (and I almost always choose a healthy meal that features all four food groups). There is no alternate menu for fussy eaters. And I do strongly encourage the children to try a bit of everything, and will even withhold dessert if something goes untasted. I model this myself, always giving myself a small serving of foods I may not enjoy.

    We talk a lot about food. We stress that we are lucky to have lots of healthy food to eat when so many people are hungry. We talk about the nutrients in our foods and how they help our bodies. We remind our children that if someone makes food for us, their feelings might be hurt if we say that we don’t like it,

    But ultimately, I don’t require them to eat any food. That’s because I have always taught my kids that they are in charge of their own bodies. This lesson is in large part safety related. Their body, their choice. They don’t need to let someone touch them if they don’t want. They don’t need to follow someone if they don’t want. They don’t need to smoke or drink if they don’t want to, even if their friends are pressuring them to. And, if they don’t want to put (insert food here) into their bodies, despite rewards and encouragement offered, they don’t have to.

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