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funny things you have done to make your kid chowish?

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My husband loves food, but was not raised in such a food appreciating family, so I really try and go all out so that my daughter can appreciate all types of food.
From the moment she ate her first solids- sweet potato- her food has been carefully thought out (or intentionally not thought out when I want her to enjoy something trashy like a Five Guys hot dog). Next was her lentil and vegetable soups and fruit purees I brought for the daycare to give her mixed with her cereal. Our main activity at night is cooking. When a friend offered us a play kitchen, we accepted even though it is quite big and what I first thought of was an eyesore. However she now makes "greens and mushrooms" or "soup cake" right alongside me while I cook. I let her dip the chicken or fish in flour or raw egg, making a huge mess in the process. She's eaten almost everywhere with us, including items that are really too expensive for a 2yo to grow fond of like salmon sashimi. Her favorite food outside the house is Indian, I could make something resembling Indian curry for much cheaper but I like exposing her to it.
It's a real hobby for me and fortunately she likes everything except for raw tomatoes and eggplant. What kinds of things have you done that are probably over the top or unnecessary in training your chow kid?

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  1. Nothing that I would describe as "funny", unless you mean "fun" vs. "haha". I did what you're doing which is to let her try as many foods as possible. I also encouraged her to order from the regular menu so that her idea of eating out consisted of more than hot dogs, cheeseburgers, corn dogs, chicken nuggets, fish sticks , cheese pizza, and mac-and-cheese. I would often share an adult meal with her, which not only exposed her to better and more varied dishes, but gave us a bit of a opportunity to bond (sharing a meal; what could be more basically friendly?)
    At home, I would often have her taste something that I made before and after adding a key flavoring ingredient such as garlic or herbs, and ask her to describe the difference. I also tried to make as much fresh food as possible (but I'm not obsessed with that; we've had franks-and-beans, frozen pizza [tweaked], and I often use jarred pasta sauce [also tweaked, and making her try the difference between 'before' and 'after'], and more). This was applied to everything from breakfast to dessert. If she saw something like storebought chocolate chip cookies, I'd get some, then make the same thing from scratch and we'd compare the two (this also helped her develop her communication and thinking skills..."which one is softer and which one is harder? Why is this one softer and chewy?" etc.)
    And it worked! Although, when young, she still enjoyed fast food, she developed a taste for real food, and would at least TRY something before turning it down. And when she was 8, I let her taste a stew I was making; she rolled it around in her mouth while looking up at the ceiling, swallowed, and said "You put rosemary in this, didn't you, Mommy?" :D
    So she helps me a little in the kitchen (although she's 12, she's little, so no stove and, of course, knives). My only beef with her (no pun intended) has been her insistence that she already knows how to stir the dough so it doesn't get all over the place ("Mom, I KNOW how to do it!")...then the bowl tips and we're getting the paper towels.
    But...while she also doesn't like raw tomatoes, she can make a pretty darn good guacamole!
    WORD OF ADVICE: When making baked goods for her classmates in elementary school, keep it simple, as they are more interested in how it looks than if you used real vanilla bean in the frosting or not.
    Good luck!

    1. Well when my older sons were growing up I did things like take them to Oakland and San Francisco Chinatown so they were exposed to non English speaking lovely people anjd all their delicious food. We walked the streets, going into the stores to see the fish in the tanks, sometimes flopping out of the tank, seeing the ducks hung to dry and sausages, bought seafood and produce home. Going to Ratto's buying spices by the bulk, and having them smell the spice, name it, and them ask them to tell me what it is. Back then there was a time when dinner was served they would sing opera. Any change I could take them an ethnic restaurant I would so they could taste the food and experience that part of the world. And I mean other than Chinese and Mexican. Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Peruvian, Afghani, South American, Japanese and this was back in the late 80s and 90s. I bought them their own chopsticks, small ones for little kids, and all the little plates, my dishes matched the cusine. Tea pots, and cups- we would try different teas. I had them help me cook, and asked their input for ideas, and they were so inventive I was always amazed at their thoughts.
      They're older and they eat everything, When we go to ethnic restaurants, we alwaus order food we've never tried.

      And of course we went to many nice restaurants, I remember going to Carmel and eating at the Forest, my youngest after perusing the menu ordered duck and the other one calamari. We looked at each other and said let them have it. They loved it (and still do). What good does it do to let them eat off the kiddy menu, to order chicken strips and fries, grilled cheese? Your really doing your children an injustice. Start them young, make it fun, they'll quickly get the hang of it.
      That's the adventurous part of learning about food trying something new, and now they tell me about dishes to try. I now have a 5 year old I'm raising, he's already trying to the same things swith smelling spices to identify, and he helps cook all the time.

      When my sons were young and I started this, I don't know really why perhaps I was I wanted someone to share my passion with, and thankfully they do. As a parent I think it's important to limit the visits to McDonalds and fast food restaurants. I mean it's okay once in awhile, but with food there's so much more for them to learn and expand upon.

      One last thing, through food, it's evoked a desire to travel to other parts of the world, and they love to fish. They've even caught crawdads(that beats me) and they cooked them and ate them, so in a way it makes them self sufficient. Food is fun, teach your kids.

      1 Reply
      1. re: chef chicklet

        I too loved the fun of those opera dinners at Rattos.

      2. I have three adult sons. I didn't "do" anything to get them to be chowish. One son is a fabulous cook, and the other two cook. I basically let them mess around in the kitchen. There is an age during 5th or 6th grade or a little older when kids naturally try to master new tasks. If the kitchen is available, a kid will probably try to cook. I think the best thing to do is to let him/her try and stay out of the way.

        My beautiful DIL has my grandchild up on a chair with her while she does prep work. She has a little knife she lets this little 3 year old use! They are together, and the child is happy to be "working" with mom. I think it is great.

        2 Replies
        1. re: sueatmo

          My boy and I just had visits after his fourth year, but we spent enough time together that he knew I was the cook in my house, and liked hanging out and watching and tasting. In his occasionally lonely bachelor years he'd ask for pointers, and we'd go out to eat frequently; he's happy with the native foods of his native Nashville, but for instance shares with his wife a passion for sushi, and recently announced that someone has started serving dim sum. When they've come out here to SoCal they kinda go nuts.

          So now they have a daughter, going on three, who loves to "cook" - she's got a bunch of utensils and things, both real and toy. I just bought her a set of some very fine wooden "food"; don't think I have to worry about her, either!

        2. When the boys were in elementary school, I worked in Bolivia. For the month long Xmas vacation, we traveled w/ backpacks, by train and bus, the length of Peru and back up Argentina. I carried 2 large jars of Skippy in my backpack. At mealtimes, they had the choice of the joint's menu or Skippy and bread, No coercion, how much Skippy can one stand?
          Revenge of the kids. when the eldest got married in Seoul. they took me to a bachelor party to a bar that specialized only in live baby octopus.
          Be careful what you wish for.
          ps One worked at a small restaurant near Martha Stewart's summer home in Maine. Pop's bragging rights. He cooked Martha Stewart's birthday meal when he was 16.
          All grown and gone now.
          pps. I just bought a 650 cc motorcycle that the 27 year old will drive, in September, from where we live in New Mexico to Buenos Aires. And you wonder why I have gray hair???

          Dumkeg

          1 Reply
          1. re: Passadumkeg

            There is rumor that Skippy will not just train Chowhounds
            but when thickly shampood will take out the gray.

            Similar stories, though not of shampoo
            abound for backpacks full stacked with canned tuna.

            As to fun things in training to raise up a Chowhound,
            it is most about showing the process and ingredients
            and teaching the child to sharpen the knife
            and when they are ready let them cleave to the board.

            But mostly a matter of laugh and of grin
            as you as adult prep ingredients for pan.

            Sweet memory that when weaned from the breastmilk
            dices of broccoli florets were a favorite food.

            Give allow to the child to learn of the catapult
            in their spring loaded spoon that's full of mashed beans.
            And if you give laughter as you wipe down the wallpaper
            That kid will sure learn that food's fun.

          2. I don't think you can make your children chowish. Kids are going to eat, what they're going to eat.

            In the 70's, we ate regularly at Narsai's (the Chez Panisse of its day). At one meal where I was eating lamb with a reduction of pomegranate juice, my young cousin Chris ate only bread and water (and maybe some unsalted butter). Today he enjoys all manner of foods!