parenting

eat the rainbow

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Naturally my attempt at patenting my most recent discovery is already plastered all over the internet. I should have guessed it would be. Okay, I wasn’t really patenting something, just had an idea.

I’d heard that we should teach the kids to eat from the rainbow. And though we’ve always insisted our kids eat their vegetables, or at least try them, I thought it might be fun if the kids chose to eat the colours from the rainbow, then colour in the shade to complete their rainbow that day.

As with all things parenting, I’d vacillated between not insisting they try anything to eating everything I put on their plate: the kids in Africa are starving you know… It was likely the first power trip I attempted as a parent, and since I did it a lot in the first years (they do like to eat), it has been one parenting theme I’ve spent a lot of time lording over my children.

And as with all things parenting, I’ve settled somewhere in the middle. Watching your child gag at the dinner table cause they really don’t like “x” is really not worth the emotional memory, for them or me. Yet at the same time, I’m not serving fish fingers and French fries for lunch for the next fourteen years. This is just not real food.

A book entitled, “French Kids Eat Everything” convinced me that kids should try everything. They should be exposed regularly and early to the good stuff, but we should offer the food, not force it down their throats. If they’re hungry, they will indeed eat. If a one year old French baby has sampled more vegetables than a North American adult, we North Americans just might not be thinking outside the box enough.

I was asked many times how we got the kids to eat long-cooked dry beans, collard greens and rice for days on end for six weeks in Kenya. It was easy actually. It was the same reason we ate those things. We were hungry. No magic tricks required. When you subtract popsicles and potato chips, candy and desserts, kids get hungry.

It’s not necessary to amuse their innocent palate; rather, expand it. Of course they’re not going to like Brussel sprouts or steamed spinach from day 1. Does anyone? I suppose if you caramelize them and sauté a few pecans, it might help. But sample it repeatedly, and it will most often, become, at least, familiar and tolerable.

Often the ethnic foods that we are offered from young childhood, those eccentric flavours, or at least eccentric to the common culture, become some of our favourite flavours. I’m especially fond of deeply smoked farmers’ sausage; the kind my Mennonite grandpa prepared in his garage. The pungent aroma laced itself thick across the yard before I stepped off the farmhouse verandah. Throw that that with a dry curd cottage cheese pocket, known as vereneke, and you have one of my favourite meals.

I’m a die-hard, try-anything kind of person. A true gastronomic adventurer, except maybe that balut that a high school boyfriend thought I should one day try (a developing duck embryo boiled alive). Need I say more?

I’m a wee bit of a coffee snob. Starbucks doesn’t quite cut it for me. My children, and probably plenty of my friends, might not join me on an expedition in fine dining. When once I asked what fine dining establishments were in the local area, I was given directions to the nearby Applebees. No offence, Applebees, but you were not what I meant!

I, too, preferred blocks of cheese melted on bread in the microwave for post-school snacks. I, too, preferred Kraft Dinner mac and cheese. I, too, preferred grilled cheese sandwiches. Can you see my gastronomic childhood preferences? Dairy-free I will not be.

At the end of our eat the rainbow day, we had an incomplete arch. ROY G BIV was not fully represented. The kids learned that B does not stand for brown…there’s no toast, rice or bread in that rainbow, though I’m a pro-carb kinda gal. Seriously, who is going to stop eating bread for the rest of their lives… And though we like drinking from a cow, white is not a colour. Hard to get those purples. Maybe I’ll finally convince the kiddos to try my roasted eggplant sandwiches. They’ve certainly adapted to my green juice fetish…bottoms up!

4 thoughts on “eat the rainbow

  1. My childhood favourite is vereneke too! Try the cottage cheese ones with rhubarb and blueberry ones covered in that delicious smolt fat (cream) sauce and you have sent me to heaven! At our house the kids have to try everything, everytime it is on the table, you never know when you might start to like it…we have had a few pepper haters, turn pepper lovers with this strategy. Our slogan at the table is “you can taste the love!” and truer words have not been spoken, now if only some local restaurants would add that special ingredient in their food. Thanks for the great read!

  2. Awesome blog post. Talking about Brussel Sprouts, my S is an exception. He had them for the first time at a Thanksgiving dinner about 3 years ago (he had just turned 4), and ate them to the exclusion of everything else (turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping, etc). But he does have parents on both sides who really like them, so not really a surprise.

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