Goodbye to 2020 — and what a crazy year it’s been — and while ushering in the new year, I’ve been thinking a lot as to what I can do with the blog. For the last nine months, I’ve been doing a lot of cooking, meditating, and working on my personal growth, but I must admit, I’ve missed writing.
My son turns into a full fledged adult this year. YAY! We’ve been waiting for 2021 for quite some time. We had planned to go to New Orleans with him for his 21st birthday, not only for him to order his first cocktail — legally in the US — but also, for him and his dad to re-connect with their Creole roots. At this moment in time, we are unsure if this will even happen, but if anything, 2020 has taught me that our resiliency as humans lie in our ability to overcome adversity and to move forward, adjusting whenever necessary.
So, for 2021, I’m going to continue writing, but taking a different approach. Some of you may have read the article Raising An Adventurous Eater for Orange Coast magazine’s Baby Issue last year. I’m reposting the article below (with a few edits) as an introduction to those who may not have read it. I will be featuring more anecdotes, in 2021, about how my son came to be the culinarian that he is today, plus other food-related memories which have stuck out in my almost 30-year journey as a food writer. Would love to hear any feedback you may throw my way!
From Orange Coast Baby and Beyond issue, 2019:
Children are the most honest, authentic humans on this planet, and also the most malleable. Friends used to compliment my son on what a good eater he is, but it wasn’t always this way. You want your kids to eat a variety of foods so they get the proper nutrients, but oftentimes your little ones simply aren’t excited about what you put in front of them.
I remember when Sebastian was a toddler. My mother would tell me to only give him bland foods so he wouldn’t become a picky eater. That never made any sense to me. Do YOU want to eat bland food? I was that mom who tasted baby food before feeding it to my son. Flavor was a huge component from the start. A definite “yes” to squash, pumpkin, apple and prune, but potato was a definite “no” — although it always mind-boggled when he savored the pureed meat (ack!).
We dined out several times a week, naturally deferring to the dreaded, ubiquitous kid’s menu for my toddler when we did. For a year or two, Sebastian munched on chicken nuggets/tenders, pasta with cheese, or a hot dog, while his dad and I dined on succulent lamb chops (photo from Zarzuela many years ago) or a bowl of piping hot cioppino. These were definitely not my finest moments.
One night, we were at a restaurant without a kid’s menu. Sebastian shared our food, and that started the “I want a hot dog, but when I see your food, I want that, too” phase. He inhaled my meal while I reluctantly ate his because I didn’t want to waste it.
Though his curiosity was on the right track, his new habit of food sniffing triggered additional challenges. Sebastian’s preferred meals now consisted of pho, udon noodles, or pasta. He loved Bolognese sauce, but vegetables… not so much. I found myself chopping carrots and zucchini, hiding them inside the homemade marinara sauce I’d prepare in bulk. Ironically, he loved onions and garlic — go figure.
But that too passed, and by the age of seven, he was quite the little connoisseur. During Restaurant Week that year, my friends wanted to try a fine dining restaurant. No á la carte menu, so Sebastian had his own three-course meal. Entree choices were pork or fish, and since he was in his “seafood makes me gag” phase, he selected pork.
He gobbled up the appetizer, but when the pork arrived, my friends were hiding their dismay at the extremely flavorless — and very rare — piece of meat. Not Sebastian.
He took one bite, spat it out, then loudly declared “It’s yucky!” And to this day, he will tell you that he remembers dessert being the best beignets he’s ever had.
I learned that children generally aren’t quick to accept new foods. Studies have shown that it takes many tries before they come to like them. I’ve never forced my son to eat anything, because I grew up in an environment where you ate what was put in front of you, and too bad if you didn’t like it. My rule was, you try everything on the table, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to finish. I’d introduce the same food again a week or two later with the same rule. Sadly, Sebastian still doesn’t care for broccoli, but loves broccolini and Brussels sprouts.
Mealtime shouldn’t be miserable, so don’t make it that way. It’s not a big deal if kids take a bite and turn up their noses at it.
My little sniffer has grown up to be a highly adventurous 19-year-old with a palate that rivals the best of us. He is a worthy dining companion no matter which part of the world we happen to find ourselves in.