I have a picky eater. We all hear on occasion some parenting advice about how if you just expose your kids to a wide range of foods from a young age you'll never have a picky eater. Meet my daughter, "K". She was exposed to a wide range of foods from a young age. She started out life as a girl who would try and like what was offered to her. Over the years she has eliminated almost everything except for cheese from her list of acceptable foods. To increase the difficulty of feeding her, she became a vegetarian about a year ago. She doesn't like the taste of meat and objects ethically to eating meat. I both support her decision and also despair of how difficult it is to feed a vegetarian who only likes a few vegetables.
As her food preferences have narrowed I try really hard not to make food into a struggle. It's okay to not like certain foods. I hate bananas. I always have and every few years I take a small taste of something with banana in it to confirm. Yep, I still hate bananas. However, I am firmly convinced that for most of us there are foods we don't like and foods we only think we don't like. If you never try it you don't know which is which.
So last summer we took a trip to Asia. It was a really good opportunity for K to expand her horizons and try things she didn't think she would like. Her older brother really got into the Ramen scene in Japan and wanted ramen many times a day. K first took a hard stance against trying the vegetarian ramen but soon hunger overcame her hesitation.
At Kitchen Explorers we aim to offer kids the chance to learn to make the foods they love. K has taken my cookie making class more than once and now she can make a batch from start to finish all by herself. That's the kind of confidence in the kitchen I want to pass on to my students. But I also want to challenge them to try something new. Take a small taste of something unfamiliar, and see what they think. In our classes we sometimes have 'down time' while food is cooking. During this time I will occasionally offer the kids small tastings of potentially new foods- a weird looking fruit or vegetable they have never tried, a taste of a dish traditional to another culture, a snack food enjoyed by kids from another country. These are optional tastes and the kids usually like the challenge. Don't be surprised if they come home asking you to buy some okra chips or black sapote!