“What’s this?” asked Isaac, my six-year old son, poking his fork at the food on his dinner plate.
“It’s roast beef and mashed potatoes,” I told him, trying to not get frustrated because I knew a dinner battle was brewing.
“I hate roast beef,” declared my three-year old daughter. “I want the other kind you made last time.” She had already shoved her plate away after sticking her fingers in the mashed potatoes.
“Yeah! That Massaman beef! I love that stuff!” Isaac said, also shoving his plate to the centre of the table.
Both kids took off for the fridge and started looking for the ingredients needed to make Massaman curry, doing a pretty good job of pulling out what they needed. Too bad for them that roast beef was on the menu plan and that’s what they were stuck with. When I shooed them out of the fridge and back to the table they grudgingly ate the rest of their supper, begging me to add curry to the meal plan next week because, duh, didn’t I know that they hate roast beef?
Read more: 9 tips for picky eaters>
I didn’t mean to raise food snobs, but I guess, somehow, I did.
My husband and I laugh at the fact that our kids have adventurous tastes, mostly because we were raised on fish sticks, canned salmon and creamed corn. In fact, it wasn’t until we got married that he and I expanded our recipe repertoire to include foods that didn’t come in cans — I was a terrible cook and baker when we first met. Maybe it’s because our childhood meals were bland that we made a point of spicing up our family meals. Curried chickpeas with loads of ginger was one of our son’s first finger foods, and we’re more apt to have butter than barbeque chicken. We’ve never made separate kids and adult meals, and I avoid any recipe labelled kid-friendly or that “hides” pureed vegetables — besides, my kids can smell butternut squash a mile away.
These days, spicy food helps bring to life a cheaper cut of meat (for example, stewing beef goes into the kids’ favourite Massaman curry and we use chicken thighs in the butter chicken, both of which cost far less than steaks and breasts). In other words, more flavourful food is a function of our financial situation more than it is a mission to turn our kids into the next Top Chefs.
I think much of my kids’ picky eating also stems from the high value we place on food in our house — everything from food production, marketing tactics and animal health are discussed at the dinner table. They know that meals made with fresh meat or vegetables tastes better than the stuff that comes out of boxes or cans and, most importantly, they know why it tastes better. They’re involved in meal prep and know the amount of work that goes into preparing a meal (bonus: meal prep teaches them valuable math skills; for example, 1 tablespoon cumin is very different to 1 teaspoon cumin, a fact they learned the hard way the last time they made curry).
Our family’s food tastes sometime makes school lunches embarrassing for Isaac, whose lunchmates don’t appreciate the smell of his thermoses full of chili or garlicky salami. So more often than not, less fragrant snacks are packed.
But I guess that just makes our adventurous family meals even more important.
What are your kids’ favourite foods right now? Do their eating preferences surprise you? Tweet me @jenpinarski