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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???


          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!

            1. I don't try to make them chowish, but I expose them to everything. I have 1 and 2 year old boys. They LOVE food! We take them out for Italian, Korean, Japanese, etc. My 2 year old loves sushi. He eats squid and eel. One of his favorite dinners is grilled eggplant parmesan. We don't treat anything as different or weird or funky. It's all just food. I think too many adults say "ew" or "i don't eat that" so then the kids do too. If I don't like something (like eggs) I just don't put them on my plate. My boys will never hear me say I don't like them or I don't eat them. So they don't learn to say those things. They just eat what I give them.

              1 Reply
              1. re: rizzo0904

                Those kind of kids are fun to have! My oldest was a toddler when he fell in love with squid and octopus and eel (must be gateway chow?), and when we realized that the kid would eat virtually anything, it really freed up our options to be adventurous and try as much as we could - sometimes, I'll admit, just "to see if T. will eat it..." In that, I guess he was sort of a partner in the whole eating adventure. (He did have a war with vegetables for about five years, beginning with kindergarten, but his love of cabbage brought him back.) His sister fell right by that tree as well. They're really fun kids to eat with through the years!

              2. To impart to our child not just eat from the mild
                but also the mellow, the medium, the spicy, beyond....

                To discern different textures from smashed beans to ground meat
                and tech them to make some good mashed potatoes
                Do we hark to do better than that?

                1. DS is still a toddler and becoming more and more chowish as the days go by! It all started when we intoduced him to solid foods (all homemade of course) and has developed from there!

                  When he was super tiny, I'd wear him on my back while I cooked and he held the wooden spoons and ladles for me. Just had to reach over my shoulder to retrieve what I needed. We visit all sorts of ethnic restos on a regular basis,too. Once I got the sideeye for letting my 9 m/o eat sushi rolls. I kindly told the old lady that I was pretty sure he was eating the same thing as Japanese children. That has been my philosophy ever since and by golly the kid refuses to eat bland food! I call it a total win!

                  Probably the funniest thing to date was letting him help me boil pasta last night. I stood him on a chair about 3 feet away from the stove and let him throw the shells into the boiling water. He had a blast!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: MamaCrunch

                    Be careful!! My ds was "helping" with pasta too and ended up putting his hand in the boiling pot of water. 4-5 trips to Shriner's Hospital and he's now fine, but it wasn't fun! Especially when the first doctor thought we abused him..... Thankfully he was holding a wooden spoon when he did it so his fist was clenched and his palm was spared.

                  2. I don't have kids but I had to work real hard to get my husband a bit more chowish when we got married. I knew I had my work cut out for me when my mom served chicken breast with the bone in and he had no clue how he was supposed to eat it. Apparently his mom was the queen of the boneless chicken breast. His main food groups were pop tarts, bacon, pasta with butter, and toast. He turned his nose up at lots of things I made so it became a challenging little game for me. I would sneak veggies into things without telling him until after he ate it. If he knew what was in something he would immediately decide it wasn't good. So I stopped telling him what was in things until after he ate it. I also realized that what I called something or how I presented it to him made a difference. He hated gravy. I've had his mom"s gravy and understand why. So even though he's had gravy many, many times, I never serve it in a gravy boat. I will pour it on his plate myself and call it a sauce or a glaze. There's still plenty of things he won't eat but through the years he's gotten far more adventurous with his menu selections. He doesn't cook so he's at my mercy there. Either he eats what i cook or he goes hungry. His mom used to tell me how fussy he was but honestly i think her cooking had more to do with it than his being fussy. We have an agreement that he will at least take a bite and try new foods. If he hates them, that's fine. At least he tried it. We go to lots of different restaurants and he's come to realize that no matter what the style of cuisine there's usually at least one or two menu items that he might like, if not more. Honestly, kids are probably far easier to deal with.

                    1. Sending links from Chow, of course!

                      But when they were younger, herb smelling challenges in the garden, and of course, home cooking, unusual ingredients, "good" restaurants. Our town is mostly chains, and the kids friends ask them why we go 30 or 45 minutes to eat in Napa or San Francisco. They don't try to explain.

                      I chuckled when son insisted on pre heating the oven for something he was baking with friends, and one of the boys told him "don't be naive!"

                      1. When our grandson was small he'd eat anything with chicken in the name. So he ate chicken ribs, pork chicken, mahi chicken, lamb chicken, etc. Today, he's a teenager and eats anything, with one exception - asparagus (you thought it was going to be chicken, didn't you!).