Sunday, January 11, 2009

Trust Me

Over the last few months, I realized something about how my family eats. We have the designated 'picky eater' (number one son); we have the 'good eater' (number two son); the chef (my husband), and the culinarily open-minded one (no, not the dog. Me. The dog is not discerning at all.). And among us non-chefs, I have decided that our openness (or not) to food is not about tastes: it's about trust.

Bear with me here. I think I might be on to something.

When I offer prince number one any food that is new, non-starchy, named in a foreign language or presented in a form different from what he is used to, he gets suspicious.

"What's in it?"

"It comes from a cow, just like steak."

"What does it taste like?"

"It doesn't really have a taste. It takes on the flavor of the sauce."

"What kind of texture does it have?"

"Soft and firm, like a noodle with ridges." I say all these things honestly, trying to take away the scary newness factor to get him to take a bite. This happens with every new food.

In the end, after much poking and examining of the new food, he will likely decide the insides look like brains, the color looks like poop or it smells funky, and politely decline while reaching for the rice.

Prince number two, on the other hand, will look at a dish of tripe in front of his father and say, "hey Dad, can I have some?" Indeed, when he was first learning to talk, he would climb up on his father's knee and say, "What's dat? I EAT DAT!" Similarly, if my husband is cooking (or eating) something I've never seen before, I'll take the offered taste without question.

This does not happen when I cook. That's because it's common knowledge that I'm not very good at it. Oh, I haven't ruined anything, really, but when it comes to putting together flavors and textures that complement each other in a dish, my husband is the king in this family. My children know this. They love me, but as young as they are, they are wary of my cooking.

My husband exudes a confidence in the kitchen, even as he rushes around shooing everyone out, that makes us exhale with relief. We don't know what's coming, but we know it will be good. We know the flavors will work, and we will likely enjoy it. We trust him.

It is because of this trust that my sons and I have tried tripe, snails, and a variety of other things that would never have been uttered in the same sentence with the word 'food', in my opinion. And they were good. We trusted my husband to lead us into tempting dining scenarios, and we were rewarded with expanded palates.

Like any relationship, one with food must be built on trust. We must be open-minded, and count on those we love to help us broaden our horizons. I think it was Julia Child who said, "'Tis better to have tasted and spat then never to have tasted at all."* Or maybe it was Auguste Gusteau from the Disney/Pixar movie, Ratatouille? Either way, it's true. Be daring. Open wide. Cheers!

*With apologies to Alfred Lord Tennyson


Anonymous said...

I agree with you... but you haven't solved the problem of how to get picky eater to eat!! Let me know when you have a solution!!!

Christine Orchanian Adler said...

Just keep plugging away. Offer foods again and again, just like with toddlers. Familiarity breeds comfort, in this case. My son just tried tomato sauce again recently, and ate a meatball sandwich! Shocking! Don't give up...