Five Little Chefs – That is a pineapple….or is it a mango? How many times have you or your kids misidentified fruits or vegetables? Mine do it quite frequently. The first recipe Little Chef C made was Chef Robert’s Seared Mahi Mahi with Mango Sauce. In referencing this recipe later she said she wanted to “make the fish with the pineapple sauce.” After some thought I realized she was mistaking the mango for the pineapple. Why would she get the two mixed up? They seem so different to me. We needed to put the mango and the pineapple side by side and discuss the similarities and differences.
Kids love to investigate and learn. If they learn about the components of a recipe they will be more interested to eat it. If we eliminate the scary factor foods have because they are unfamiliar we will be a step closer to helping our kids eat a wider variety of foods.
The produce department is a perfect place to teach your kids about fruits and vegetables. Discovery is all about observations. Point out a fruit or vegetable and call it by its name. Ask leading questions such as what color is it? Is the skin smooth or rough? Does it look hard or soft? Where do you think it grows; under ground or above ground? For some, like apples, you can show them there are different varieties like red and green. In the mound of apples you can show them some are small and some are large.
Observation is the first step to understanding fruits and vegetables. The next step requires hands on experience. Recently we were in the produce department and one of my Little Chefs was curious about coconut milk. No matter how long we talked about the hard hairy outside, the fact that it grows high up on a tree, or the sound the milk makes when you shake the coconut she would not understand the taste unless we opened it up.
What did we do? We bought a coconut to investigate at home. Kids like to make predictions. What do you think will be inside? What color will it be? Little Chef A said, “I wish I could try the tender meat.” I asked why she called it “tender meat”? She responded, “I read it in a book.” I was happy for that book because it made her wonder.
The Little Chefs helped their Dad open the coconut and catch the milk. They helped scrape out the meat. Now it was time to smell and taste.
First up was the milk. Little Chef C said, “It looks like water…..I like it.” Little Chef A said, “It is not my favorite because it does not have that much of a flavor.” Little Chef D said, “It has a bad flavor I don’t like it.”
Next was the “tender meat.” Little Chef A said, “It is hard. I wish I did like it but I don’t.” Little Chef C said, “It tastes good.” Little Chef D said, “I don’t like it.” After giving it more thought Little Chef A said, “Next time I want to blend the meat and the milk together in a blender to make coconut milk.” (She means the kind that comes in a can.)
A couple days later we were watching Iron Chef America and saw Bobby Flay open a coconut A LOT faster then Dad did using a different method. Little Chef C said, “We should have opened our coconut that way!” Even though each Little Chef had a different opinion when they saw it on the show they had a connection to that coconut. They could relate to what Bobby Flay was doing and they were more interested.
We have a rule in our house everyone has to try a little of everything new. How do you know you don’t like it if you haven’t tried it? Whether they liked it or not they are now more familiar with a coconut of this type. If there are more then one type like apples buy a few varieties and let them tell you the differences. They are smarter then we think. They will come up with one being more sweet and another more sour.
If you tap into the curiosity of kids they will want to have exposure to a new type of food. By teaching kids about different fruits and vegetables their misconceptions will be eliminated. I’m not saying they will like everything they eat. They will discover the truth on their own. They will have a personal connection through that investigation which will lead them to healthy foods around them.