article by Cindy G. Foust
I’m starting this month’s column in a happy euphoric state because I get to write about a topic that is near and dear to my heart…food. This month’s BayouLife magazine is what we call our “food edition,” and I couldn’t be happier. Why? Because it’s not about fashion. Or make-up. Or weddings. Or should your toe nail polish match your fingernails. But food on the other hand, now you’re talking my love language.
I often say that I have no hobbies, no friends and no life (of course I have friends, some really good ones, I just never get to spend time with them), because all I do is work and cook. Just kidding… I cook because I enjoy it… it’s not a job! Yes, cooking is my life in so many words. I study the art (not in Italy with an elderly Italian lady in some remote town, although, that is on my bucket list) and I’m constantly trying to figure out a way to make food taste better.
Well, I know butter makes everything, including Kale, taste better, but it will also clog your arteries and make you fluffy. I actually began my culinary career around the age of 15, when the church cookbook was the only real resource you had if you wanted to “experiment” and try something new. As a result, my family was often the guinea pigs for such delicacies like “Cindy’s Stuff” (honestly, Julia Child would have had me deported to the moon if she had tried it, and I’m not sure she would have thought that was far enough), which included ground beef, and a “can” of everything my mom had in the pantry.
Don’t knock it till you try it readers, it was really quite tasty spooned over a big (long sigh…buttered) slab of Jiffy cornbread. As the years began to pass and I found myself a poor college student with three roommates to feed, I began to really brave the culinary front and continued with constant recipe experimentation with my newest guinea pigs. With that little cooking history, I guess you could say I have been cooking my entire life, and I have never tired of it. Just like writing, it’s my passion (I wish exercise could be my passion), and as a result, because it’s what they’ve watched me do all of their lives, my kids have taken an interest.
My son has actually become quite the chef and studies YouTube videos and TikToks about cooking on the daily. A friend of mine actually sent me a text recently and said I needed to make a TikTok in the kitchen cooking some of the food I love. I’m like, “Do you want my children to tell me good-bye and go live with another family? In Utah?” Back to my son cooking like he’s Bobby Flay… he is actually getting married in November (can any of you really believe that? I’ve been writing about him in this column since he was 13!) and I am feeling pretty good that he and his new wife won’t starve to death!
But, where was I? I think I wanted to write this column in hopes of building a wholesome and nutritious bridge to getting your children interested in cooking, especially those picky eaters. I don’t know how it was for you, but when I was growing up, my mom (or Bitsy, who cooked many a meal for me) didn’t indulge her family by making sure there was something on the table that everyone liked. She cooked it… you ate it. It may not have been my favorite, but we scarfed it down like it was (well, except when Bitsy made squirrel…I’m quite sure I threw away many a napkins full of squirrel…in one word…YUCK).
As we have raised our children, Scott and I have subscribed to the same sort of philosophy, we cooked it, and they ate it (well, not always, but most of the time.) My late son, Samuel, at just two years old, loved coleslaw and would “gnaw” the meat off a rib right down to the bone (I know, I know, between squirrel napkins and gnawed rib bones, your stomach is queasy). But I have to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure we did this consciously; I think it has always been more of “we did what we were taught.”
I have had many conversations through the years with friends and family about “picky eater” problems. I mean, haven’t we all? I have to admit, I even have friends and family (you know who you are) who think chicken nuggets are a food group. As I try to qualify in every column, I am no expert, but I am a mom.
And being a mom does qualify me to at least offer up a few ideas on how to get your child to overcome their, shall we say, food phobias. There are literally hundreds of articles written on this very subject. Of course, a few ideas jumped at me, because I found them to be more realistic, than say, blending spinach into their strawberry banana smoothie (isn’t it going to turn the smoothie green? I thought so, so yes, I’m sure (sarcasm noted) that will be very appealing to their eyes and they will lap it right up.) I actually think having your children help make the grocery list is a great place to start.
Take this opportunity to let them put what they like on the list and then have them write different foods that perhaps they don’t like. Explain to them the nutritional value of each and even talk to them about how you prepare the dish. Do a little research yourself, and learn how all the colorful fruits and vegetables play into our diet.
Next, let them go grocery shopping with you (no eye rolls or heavy sighs please.) This can actually be fun, if you let your children help you find the items on your list and cross them off as you go. And then a suggestion, that I’m totally on board with, let them help you with food preparation. Now, I’m not saying you need to buy your six-year old a set of Wusthof knives, but hey, teach them to tear the lettuce for the salad, squeeze the lemons or peel the hard boiled eggs. It won’t be long before they will be asking to bake a cake or even stir fry some chicken they saw on a video on YouTube.
Finally, start introducing new foods to your child or children every week. One article I read suggested you do it every meal, and I say, they need to get in touch with picky eater reality. But once a week, introduce this new food alongside one of their favorites.
As Dr. Joaquin Rosales has always said, “pick your battles,” and if they don’t like it, or they resist, just revisit the same food another time, or prepare it a different way. With all the culinary resources at our fingertips, especially on the internet, there are literally thousands of ways to get your child interested in and motivated to try new foods. Anyone that has shared a meal that I have prepared will tell you, my mantra is, “it’s all about presentation.”
Remember that as you prepare their plate, and make it look as appetizing as possible. Shoot, I reckon (as Bitsy used to say), you could let them help you with presentation, but doing something as simple as using a cookie cutter to make their sandwich. It takes a little work, and I’m not guaranteeing your children will be eating roasted Brussels sprouts within a week, but there is absolutely no reason they shouldn’t be moving in a direction that will help them overcome their aversion to foods that taste delicious and are good for them. Bon Appetit readers… the holidays are coming, and that’s a wonderful time and platform to get in the kitchen!
Cindy G. Foust is a wife, mom, author and blogger. You can find her blog at the alphabetmom.com for weekly columns about home life, parenting, small business stories and insight with a smidgen of literacy. Give her a like or follow on Facebook and Instagram.