Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Teaching Children Food Tolerance

What Happens When Second Graders Are Treated to a Seven-Course, $220 Tasting Meal

Most of us have children in our lives that can be a bit on the finicky side. I know I do. This week, there was a video making the trade journal email circuit about a group of second graders who were treated to a multi-course dinner at the acclaimed New York City French restaurant "Daniel."

It is charming to say the least. Well worth the 7 minute investment.

Watching this made me think it might be worth a discussion of how to get your children (even the adult ones) to become a little more gastronomically adventurous. 
When I travel, my friends and family can attest that I am the first person to dive into a "Black and White Pudding" or the Offal page on a menu.

Food can be one the greatest pleasures in life.  The more things that one likes, the more pleasures that are out there waiting for you. At one point in my life, I honestly thought there was only one food I could not tolerate - Tofu. At a really good sushi restaurant several years later, I learned to love Tofu.

There are people around me that I know have pretty determined aversions to some foods. I always think that it's a shame because of what they're missing out on.  So how do you get a young person to be accepting of trying new foods - and even more importantly - to keep an open mind after that first taste and not ban it from their lives forever?

I come from an odd circumstance having grown up in the food business with chefs as parents and being an immigrant (100% Swiss). I can never remember being forced to try anything. When something new was introduced to our table, there was usually a discussion as to its flavor, characteristics, origin, history, price, and even how to make money with it. Then there were very discrete intimations as to how good that new food was. Sometimes if I expressed an interest, it would be offered to be shared; sometimes I had to fight for my portion.

This was years before today's glut of food magazines, cooking shows, Hollywood chefs and Hell's Kitchens. Growing up, I have to say that my parents and the people around me in the restaurant business made food interesting, a challenge, and an adventure. 

Fast forward to raising my own children in the restaurant world, I can remember a server somewhere around Disney World being very impressed as my still pretty young children were polishing off a dozen oysters and then asking for more. Early in parenthood, I did not heed this. Just ask Ryan about his hatred for "yellow cheese." Make it fun, keep it interesting, and tell them they can't have any. We all want what we can't have.

Most of us adults will rarely, if ever, be treated to a olfactory extravaganza like the children in this video. Their comments are interesting, and by the end, they understand the adventure and the fun. Next time, you can still do Macaroni and Cheese.

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