Last weekend, some friends invited us over for a barbecu. They have three kids and the father is from New Zealand. He’s an amazing cook and didn’t disappoint when he made lamb chops. Upon arriving, the first thing they told us was that at their home, the children eat the same meals as the adults and this evening would be no different. Great for us as the same rule applies in our home. I’m a busy, working mom and I don’t have time to make different meals for each family member. Furthermore, I accustomed my daughter to an array of foods from the moment she could eat solids.
Especially in a cosmopolitan city like Washington, D.C., I think it is imperative that children be introduced to all sorts of ethnic foods. I come from a “foodie” and multi-cultural family so for me, it was very important that my daughter be raised in an eclectic culinary environment.
For my husband, a Cuban-American, it was important that the first fruits she ate be tropical. And so, on her first visit to Miami, at four months old, she tried mashed papaya and mango. And for my half-Italian self, it was important that she become accustomed to pasta and tomatoes as soon as her first tooth came in.
Slowly but surely, we introduced different foods and saw her excitement and enjoyment with each one. Having friends from around the globe, it is also important to us that she not only eat the foods that prevail in our cultures but theirs, as well. At 18 months, we went to a good friend’s Indian wedding and she happily munched on Nan and Chicken Masala. And at our Kiwi friends’ barbecue, she asked for a second helping of lamb chops with sweet potatoes and cherry chutney.
I won’t lie, there are many foods she spits out. Greens are not among her favorites and if you offer her chicken nuggets with French fries, she’s not likely to turn you down! I know this is normal and all we can do is experiment with different things and just see what she might like. No food is forbidden to try and we’ve given her everything from olives to liver….she loved both. The other thing we’ve been told repeatedly is that while children may spit something out one day, they might love it the next. So, she may not want those carrots on Monday but I’ll try them again, perhaps cooked differently, on Wednesday.
My main goal is to open her mind and introduce her palette to everything a wonderful city like D.C. has to offer. We’re lucky to live in a place abundant with gourmet markets and amazing restaurants. It’s OK if she opts for McDonald's every once in a while but it can’t nor should be the norm.