Something popped in to my Facebook feed earlier in the week declaring shock over what Curtis Stone feeds his toddler. Would you believe he feeds his young lad such exotic foodstuffs as omelets, crab, pasta, lentils and steak?
Interestingly enough we eat all of those things in our household, I am sure that you are not surprised.
Omelets are a bit fiddly for a family of 6 so I stick with frittata instead.
Generally we don’t bother feeding the kids steak as such because they prefer other types of protein and we don’t eat it very often ourselves anyway but when we do they enjoy it, wrap it in bacon or prosciutto and top it with some cooked mushrooms and everyone is happy.
S turned to me and said with a smile of utmost pleasure ‘Thankyou mum for making this dinner’ when I created Cataplana for the first time. That has crab in it.
My family will fight over the lentils left in the bottom of the bowl when I put them in a salad.
Pasta is just normal food, isn’t it? If I need a quick dinner for the kids or all of us that is one of my staples.
I am often complimented on the variety of foods my kids eat. I caught up with friends recently and met their 3 year old twins for the first time. I watched them demolish lamb cutlets, grilled haloumi and arancini balls. It was awesome. My friend told me that one thing she was determined about as a mum is that her kids are be great eaters, she had made that resolution after eating with my kids and watching them devour their olive, caper and anchovy pizza. That made me happy. Big time.
Somehow there has become this unusual Western perception about what kids do/don’t should/shouldn’t be eating. I am sure that you would have seen Jamie Oliver banging on about it at some stage. I am fairly certain that my Gran didn’t make separate meals for my mum and her siblings and I know that my mum never made different meals for us. Likewise, I find it hard to believe that Indian children aren’t fed curry or that Italian children turn their noses up at antipasto, for example.
I’m not sure where the concept came from that vegetables need to be ‘hidden’ in food or that highly processed convenience foods are treat food.
Last night we ate a salad of rocket, quinoa, chicken and vegetables. Bowls were happily cleared. Earlier in the week I made a fennel & pear salad to go with our grilled pork, unfortunately I didn’t get to save any for my lunch the next day because the kids emptied the bowl. There were Mexican meatballs one night and they were spicy but they ate the lot, although S had a bit of a sad because he wanted to swap me for the last piece of veggie lasagna. Pasta with roast cauliflower, chilli, lemon and olives, devoured. There was no coaxing, with the exception of suggesting Sebastian give cherry tomatoes another try.
All that we have eaten for dinner in the last week is not atypical and none of it was time consuming or complicated. My kids have never known their nightly meals to be any different to this kind of stuff, we eat what I see as being ‘normal food’, plenty of mums feed their families this way. That was clearly evident by way of the comments made about the Curtis Stone story.
On Wednesday night as we drove past our nearby KFC and Pizza Hut S truck up a conversation with J about how some of the kids in his class say that KFC is their favourite food. I asked them both if they have tried it, knowing full well that they have but it’s been so long that they possibly don’t remember. They both told me that KFC is yuck and so is McDonalds and Hungry Jacks, although neither of them have ever eaten it. Hungry Jacks is guilty by association I suppose? We talked a bit more about food and then moved on to the next topic.
I was telling Woody about the conversation later and he said ‘brainwashed’ and rolled his eyes with a smile on his face but then he stopped and said ‘actually, not brainwashed’.
With that statement he nailed it. Our kids are not brainwashed by marketing that certain foods are the things they they should want to eat. When they do see something that looks appealing I’ll teach them the difference.
‘Do you want the stringy cheese or the brie or the cheddar or some other kind of cheese?’
‘What tastes better, the fast food hamburger or the burgers we make at home?’
‘How do you feel on the inside after eating fried food compared to something I cook at home?’
That’s the kind of language I use. I don’t tell them that certain things are bad for them or naughty or whatever. These days I don’t even suggest that mainstream fast food is sometimes food because I would rather take them out for dinner a couple of times a year for an amazing meal that they appreciate than buy them cheap food, that they don’t truly enjoy, regularly. Kid’s menus in Australia generally suck and promote this idea that fried food is what kids enjoy. Baby Mac wrote a great post about it last year.
I know that there are plenty of people out there who are keen to change the way that they eat and their kids eat. I’ve shared advice on encouraging good eating habits for children before but the main piece of advice I am putting out there here is to think in terms of the language examples I’ve given. Talk openly with your kids and let them make considered choices about what tastes good. If they have eaten a diet with a bias towards processed foods you will find that their tastebuds are accustomed to the higher sugar and salt but it doesn’t take long to recalibrate.
Let me know if you have any particular questions you would like me to talk about were food and children, or food and ourselves are concerned. I’d love to answer them for you if I can!