Thursday, February 13, 2014

Not So Basic

Thanks in part to the influx of food TV shows, blogs, web sites and celebrity chefs; people are trying new ingredients and recipes.

It’s not easy to get someone to taste a food they’ve never had before.  And since the invention of prepackaged foods, many folks have never been exposed to a whole array of vegetables, fruits, and seasonings. 

I’m not kicking the working parent (I was one) but quick and easy gave way to many a child turning up their nose at fresh foods because they weren’t exposed to them at a young age. (Granted children develop their own love/hate relationship with all foods based on some inner taste meter adults will never budge.)   A child exposed to a diversity of different foods at a young age will at least have the opportunity to experience (and hopefully enjoy) a larger array of food choices along life’s path.

It’s difficult to expect a school age child to voluntarily eat fresh carrots, from salad bars, or other fresh ingredients if they’ve never had them at home.  Any child may reach first for French fries and cheeseburgers but a child exposed to different vegetables, seasonings and fruit as a toddler may allow diversity in their diet as well.  (I use the word “may” because we’ve all had kids/grandkids who have had all the advantages and still rebel.)

Gardening provides busy families with fresh food as quickly as walking out the back door and picking a ripe tomato.  Letting children help with the planting, pulling weeds and watering can develop a sense of ownership encouraging them to eat what they produce.

Planting cabbage, peppers, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, cilantro, carrots and other summer goodies is not all that hard.  Planting easy-to-raise vegetables in a flowerbed or around the foundation of your home is pretty darn easy.

Exposing your child to gardening teaches them how the food looks, smells and develops throughout the growing process.  Cauliflower and cabbage are big heads.  Brussels sprouts and broccoli grown on a stout stem.  Pumpkins and gourds develop on vines.  Peas are inside a pod.  Carrots, beets, potatoes and radishes grow underground.  And no child should miss out on spaghetti squash.  Children don’t know these things unless they’re exposed to these differences.  

The color factor is important for children to witness.  Pumpkins and tomatoes start out green.  Purple, orange and gold tomatoes are all good.  The watermelon radish still tastes like a radish.  Purple green beans, cabbages and peppers are still good to eat. 

Will a child voluntarily take care of a plant throughout the summer with no adult encouragement?  Not unless you have that rare child who has the gardening bug early in life.  Helping a child to garden is an exercise in teaching responsibility, patience and perseverance to get a good end result.  Life lessons for sure.

Will all these foods score a hit with all kids?  Obviously not.  It will expand their world by opening possibilities to different cuisines from around the world.  A little Internet search prior to planting something like cilantro or dill can give a parent/grandparent a whole history lesson incorporated into gardening.  

You do your child a favor by exposing them to a variety of foods early in life.  The only thing more tiresome than a finicky child is an adult guest at a dinner party or in a restaurant who turns their nose up at most everything being served.   I feel sorry they’ve limited their palette by excluding some of nature’s most wonderful tastes. 

Bravo to the home cooks (both male and female) who are now trying those quirky different recipes we see posted on social media.  The current “buffalo wild wing cauliflower” bites recipe is certainly a fun way to introduce fresh food into the Super Bowl snack world.  And, bravo to the parents who put something new on the menu even when the effort is not rewarded with enthusiasm.  If you end up with a picky eater, well, mom and dad at least you tried!

As Robert Brault said so well, “Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden.” 

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