Kids and food.
Matthew Forney wrote an interesting piece in the New York Times today entitled, "Scorpions for Breakfast and Snails for Dinner." He and his Italian-born wife have raised their children, ages 9 and 13, in China. This means that his kids eat a lot of things that the average American child has never seen, let alone consumed.
As Matthew puts it, "Think of a child staging a sit-in at his suburban dinner table because there’s a fleck of dried parsley on his breaded fish finger, and you have imagined everything my children are not."
Clearly, he is proud that his kids are adventurous eaters. He has taken steps to make it so. It is a thought-provoking piece.
When I was 13, my mom made me eat goat brain. It was offered to my family on a steaming dish of goat parts while my father was guest lecturing in Monterrey, Mexico.
My mother, anticipating rebellion, fixed me and my sister with a penetrating stare before either of us could utter a word. "This is a gesture of hospitality by our hosts," she hissed under the laughter and the chatter and the exclamations of cabrito! "You only need to try a little. And say thank you."
The message was clear. Food is not just a collection of vitamins and minerals and proteins on a plate. It's a key part of our social experience. There is meaning in a refusal that has no connection with the cabrito being offered.
Since then, I have eaten every novel food that has been offered to me. Cow cheeks in Italy. Gefilte fish at my first Passover with my husband's family. Haggis in Scotland, accompanied by a deep-fried Milky Way bar, a bottle of Cavi, and a kiss by a tipsy, elderly bagpiper. (A story for another time)
I'll try anything once. And I say thank you.
The point is, kids can be a tad picky when it comes to food. So can adults, for that matter. Giving new foods a try can be important, however, for the social reasons I have just described and for the myriad enriching moments these experiences can bring. Had I not tried each of these new foods, I would be deprived of many stories and many memories of places and people. The burden is on us to teach our children not to deprive themselves of such opportunities.
So, Mom, when you read this, thank you.
So, being a hardy food blog reader with an interest in all things new and tasty, what is the most interesting, or off-putting, or unexpectedly delicious item that you have ever been offered?