My little boy has a more sophisticated palate at 3 than I did at 20. He asks for Gouda or Mango cheese (Manchego), and his little hipster side loves bubble tea (don’t worry, we watch to make sure he drinks slowly and only a couple of boba at a time!). He’s tried everything from sushi to Brussel sprouts, and foods from a variety of countries. And his true food love? The olive bar at Phonecia Downtown where he can get his fill of all the different color olives!
Now, mind you, he doesn’t LOVE all the things he’s tasted, and there’s so much more out there to try. Our rule is he has to taste something before he says he doesn’t like it, and he generally has to eat at least something of the meal we’re eating. But, he’ll still take chicken nuggets or pasta over almost anything.
Because we like to travel and eat different cuisines, we wanted it to be normal for him that food has a variety of looks, textures, tastes and smells. When we try something new, we learned it helped if we did it with excitement, instead of dreading what his reaction would be. He would totally pick up on if we thought he may not like it, and then live up to that expectation. But, when we smilingly highlight an ingredient or two, especially if it’s something he’s had before, he’s much more likely to try it.
We also tell him all meat is chicken until he tries it because it’s a known favorite. Probably not the most solid parenting right there, but whatever, it works!
Aside from making mealtime easier, in the back of my mind, I don’t want him to be THAT kid. The one that sees a classmate’s ethnic lunch and goes “Ew, that’s disgusting!”. Because I had that happen to me on more than one occasion and I used to hate when my mom packed Indian food for lunch. She’s an amazing cook and did a fabulous job learning a variety of cuisines, but we had our fair share of Indian food growing up. And it would look and smell different, and some kids were just not cool about it.
I hope instead that we teach him to want to be adventurous with food and appreciate the diversity in taste. And give him the courage to say “It’s ok that you don’t like it. I love it – it’s delicious!”
It’s never too late to start - we're lucky to be in Houston with so many fun cuisines to choose. Most Houstonians have got their Tex-Mex fix down, but the next time you go out for dinner, try some injera from Blue Nile, a mild curry from Thai Gourmet or a samosa from basically anywhere on Hilcroft! And don’t forget the dessert!