Here’s a question: how do you get your kids to try something new? We’ve deployed various methods over the years, including but not limited to: bribery (eat this, get that), blackmail (you don’t eat this, you don’t get that), begging (dear god, I am begging you, just one bite), guilt (but poor mommy spent twenty minutes making these fava beans for you!), rebranding (well, yes, if you want to get all technical about it: white broccoli is cauliflower, happy now?), and camouflaging (what? the pancakes taste weird today? Hmmm. I’m sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the flax seed we put in the batter). Each of these techniques has its place, depending on your level of existential dread and desperation, but each always tends to leave us feeling a little cheap or duplicitious (but only for a second). Which is why, these days, we’ve been so into the idea of getting the kids to invest in their own food, and their own choices: if you involve them in what they eat from the beginning, they’re a lot more willing — excited, even — to give it a shot. I think there’s a basic management principle in here somewhere, which I could articulate if I knew anything about basic management. My best attempt: if you give your li’l employees a seat at the table, they’re a lot more likely to care.
At the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning, we handed Abby and Phoebe a ten dollar bill and told them to spend it however they wanted, as long as they promised to eat what they bought. They came back five minutes later, after some truly epic hand-wringing — should we get the cider donuts? apricots? a pound of bacon? special juice? a mini cherry pie? we don’t know what to get! — with a small bottle of lavender honey and two artisanal sourdough rolls in a brown paper bag. Once we got home, they immediately made themselves sourdough and honey sandwiches; not a classic combination, I’ll grant you, but really, what’s not to like? Then, at the supermarket on Sunday, we tried it again. We told Abby she could pick any new thing she wanted, as long as (a) she’d never tried it before, and (b) was willing to try it now. This is what she came back with:
And this is how she described it, along with the whole idea of shopping for herself and taking a little responsibility for what she eats. Getting invested, I suppose, is another way of thinking about it. Buying in. Committing. Anyway, in Abby’s words:
Can I actually tell a story? So I walked into the supermarket and we decided to look at the vegetables and fruits first. I looked at all those yummy green beans. Then we walked towards the fruits. I love raspberries! We saw a big orange fruit with spikes coming out. I asked my mom, ‘What the heck is that?’ My mom told me, ‘Oh, that’s bitter, you won’t like it.’ But then I went over to my dad and said, ‘Look at that weird fruit’ and he stared at it in a freaky way. He picked it up and said, ‘Oooh, you wanna try it?’ And me and Phoebe said, ‘Okay!’ Once we got home, I was having a playdate with my friend Madeline and my dad said, ‘Let’s see what it looks like inside’ and me and Madeline were really interested. Inside, it was green juice with grayish-green seeds. And — hey, you can’t start a sentence with ‘and,’ Daddy. Stop! No! Okay, so we took a spoon and tried it. My dad told us we could spit the seeds out, because they didn’t taste that good, but the juice was delicious! I love that fruit. Well, I like it, not love. Every weekend, my whole family does stuff like this. We go to shopping and buy fun snacks, vegetables, pasta, and all different things. I always feel like I’m part of the family when I shop because I get to shop, too, and get to try a lot of different things. I like picking food out by myself because it gets me excited to try it just because I picked it out. I usually pick out new things. Like miso soup and the spiked fruit that I had today. It usually goes really good, but sometimes it doesn’t work out so well, like when it’s something I don’t like. I’m a good shopper.