Another technique for building adventurous eaters is to try to get out more and explore the world of food with them. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to try different foods with your kids outside of the dinner table. Look for ways and places to turn food into an adventure instead of a battlefield over eating the “right” foods.
With the spirit of adventure in mind, here are some ideas for exploring the wide world of food with your kids:
1. Go to food truck round-ups. Seattle now has a great selection of roving food truck/carts. (Portland has even more.) The trucks congregate in one place fairly often, giving you and your kids an opportunity to sample a lot of different and often highly creative food. Check out SeattleFoodTruck.com for more information on what the trucks offer and where they are on a given day, or see ParentMap’s Going Mobile: 7 Family-Friendly Food Trucks in Greater Seattle. There’s usually something for everyone at a food truck. Plus, you’re supporting small local businesses.
2. Attend food festivals, farm events, farmers markets, and the like. Check the ParentMap Calendar and the newspaper regularly for chances to expose your kids to new foods at various food festivals. Although festivals can get hectic, it’s worth the time and effort to get out there. I’ve seen kids who would never eat a crab at home happily eat tons of it when they get to crack it open with mallets and crab crackers. Farmers markets are also fun for kids and provide loads of samples and a wide variety of local produce, meat, eggs, and dairy products. Check the Neighborhood Farmers Markets Alliance for a listing of markets and vendors and to find out what seasonal products are available. Many farmers markets are year-round. My daughter loves busy farmers markets and will happily spend a morning there. She picks out the produce and bags it and likes to try all the samples.
3. Travel. It’s not cheap or convenient to travel with kids, but if you can at all swing it, even if it’s a road trip to somewhere in Canada or the States, you can find all manner of interesting regional food. Many kids are more receptive to adventurous eating when they’re already on an adventure. For example, our daughter ate weird slippery noodles and poke (Hawaiian raw tuna) while sitting on a beach in Kauai. And, as an extreme example, my then-13-year-old brother ate a balut — a fertilized duck embryo — while in the Philippines.
4. Go to ethnic grocery stores. To me, little in life is more fun than looking at the unusual foods that other people eat. If you can’t afford foreign travel, then hitting ethnic grocery stores is a cheap and fun way to experience food in a new way. Buy a few snack foods or candies for the kids to try. In Seattle, check out the HT Oak Tree Market up north, the Viet Wah and other stores near the corner of 12th and Jackson, or some of the small vendors in Pike Market, like the Souk or the Mexican Grocery.
5. Do some supermarket grazing. The supermarket is a great place to discover what the kids are interested in trying. Check out Central Market in Shoreline, Metropolitan Market (multiple neighborhoods), Whole Foods, and PCC. At Central Market, I let my daughter pick out a bunch of different cheeses and we tried them all. That’s how we found out that she loves mozzarella balls and goat Gouda. At the salad bar, we assembled an impromptu tasting menu as she downed several different kinds of olives, a samosa, some tabouli, a taste of clam chowder, and (unbelievably) some marinated beets. Although it sounds barely legal, supermarket staff members were excited to help her try things (i.e., kids are cute).
6. Have a potluck with friends.Potlucks with neighbors and friends strengthen your community bonds, allow families to share the labor of cooking, and give you a good way to get some new food ideas. Potlucks can also expose your children to new and different foods. My daughter got way more interested in melon after a neighbor brought one to a potluck, and my neighbor’s kids downed my split pea soup with bacon like it was going out of style. When kids see another kid eating something, they are more likely to try it
About the author
Elise Gruber is a writer and project manager who grew up in Miami, where the eating of clams and conchs was considered normal. She loves to cook and think about food so is not enjoying the “beige food years” so much. In fact, she nearly burst into tears of joy when her kid yelled, “Mommy, I like beets now!” at the salad bar.