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Amongst other things, this is a love story.... the theme changes occasionally... this year it is fitness and learning to love yourself.

22 August 2013

Just add salt.

The first year I started cooking for my bonus kids was tough.  They seemed so afraid of some of the new foods I made that they would cry and even gagged a few times...they were used to their Dad cooking simple meals or buying them 'treats'.  I did my best to try and please them but there was no way in my lifetime that I was going to let these kids eat hot dogs, pizza and chicken nuggets as a staple on my watch.  Junk food was no longer to be considered a treat, and a whole lot more salad, vegetables and home made food was going to be on the menu.

Four things I did to introduce new foods.

1) Make a dish they have learned to love. The day before I make them something they never used to like but now do. I reminded them how they used to hate it, and praise their maturing taste buds. "When you were babies you only liked milk, now you are growing up and enjoy lots of new foods"... I encourage a conversation about the first time they tried something and the first time they liked it. I remind them that the food is the same as always but their taste buds are different.  I promised them that we only make them eat healthy, fresh food because we love them. If we didn't care about them we would let them eat all the rubbish they wanted and they would end up being unhealthy and most likely unhappy adults. I shared a few 'little known facts' based on my own experiences, like you only have to try a food 17 times before your taste buds learn to love it. The kids love reporting that they like a food before the 17th taste, though we never really keep count. It goes something like this. Child says "Ida I love celery now and I have only tasted it 9 times."  I say "wow you are growing up fast, soon you'll be asking me to cook mushrooms!"

Thanks Keli Nina Perkins

Add lots of salt and/or sugar.  If your kids love fast food and highly processed rubbish, all the real flavours come from salt and sugar.  I add extra salt to new dishes and let them add more salt, until I'm sure all they can really taste is the salt. Of course each time I cook the dish again I add more of what we like and a lot less salt. One chilli seed at a time (not the whole chilli) to build a tolerance. I introduce new flavours slowly, for example, I chop or wipe onion or garlic over the board then chop the other vegetables, so the subtle flavour of onion is on everything but you can't see it, then occasionally a few finely chopped pieces make it in to the dish... oops! It took a little time but now I don't have to keep onion in a separate dish for the adults, we all eat onion in our salad.

Keep them a little bit hungry and they are more likely to eat a new dish. This,I learned from a Grandmother who raised her 9 children, on a farm by herself after her husband died in his early forties. Serve a small breakfast and lunch and no snacks throughout the day. When the mid afternoon munchies arrive I offer them some water, if they don't want water then they are not really thirsty or hungry. If they are 'starving' I remind them that poor kids are lucky if they eat once a day, and they will survive the two hours until dinner time just fine.  No sweet drinks on the table, but plenty of water (for all that extra salt!).  Prepare the new food alongside a small portion of one their favourites. Give them too many choices and they are not going to try something new.  They are more likely to taste and appreciate a new food if they are hungry.  I also encourage them to help me in the kitchen and do little taste tests along the way.

Give them information.  What makes people unhealthy and fat, what vitamins make people's bodies grow strong, brains smarter and skin glow?  What is really in a hot dog and what is candy really made of.  I make them aware of how they are always hungry an hour or two after a pasta meal but rarely after a well balanced meal. I planted seeds and we watched them grow and tasted our produce with and without salt, accompanying other foods and decide what tastes better with what.

There were some meals where nothing seemed to work, so they ate a hefty serve of rice or potatoes, but with a bit of persistence they have learned to introduce almost everything into their diet, they even ate a mushroom and a brussell sprout each the other night, without complaining.  They ask me to make salads and flavoursome soups now, of course they still always ask for pancakes or burgers and I've heard them coaching their cousins about trying new foods, because they have learned that life is so much more interesting when your taste buds aren't boring or afraid of new flavours.