WINTER 2011. MUSHROOM. 02.11.11
Walking through a small farmer’s market one rainy weekend morning, I was reminded of how dramatically kids tastes are shaped by their parents and the foods parents bring into the home. As we walked between the tables of root vegetables and hearty winter greens, our 5-year old picked up a beet and asked me to buy it. My husband and I looked at each other and exchanged a grimace, as if saying the words in unison in our heads: Eeew, beets! They taste like dirt! Neither of us likes beets. They are not a food we order in a restaurant or buy in a store. My son had never tasted beets, but something made him want to try them. A woman within earshot gave my son a wink and suggested we roast them and serve them with a salad of oranges and goat cheese. Hmm, I thought. Why not? I have lost count of the times I’ve said no to Froot Loops or cloyingly sweet snacks disguised as fruit. Here was my opportunity to say yes and overcome my own food hang-ups in order to broaden the palate of my growing boy.
I roasted that beet holding my nose all the while (discreetly, of course). The dark red juice staining my cutting board and dripping from my knife nearly made my toes curl, but I peeled the beet and served it straight up without any seasoning. He took one bite, then another. And then he asked for more until it was gone. That night, I asked him the same question I ask each night before lights are out and covers are tucked: What was the best part of your day? We’d had a full day of fun-filled activities that included a metro ride and a parade, so imagine my surprise when he replied: I really liked that beet, mommy. Maybe it was the taste of the beet, or maybe it was having found pleasure in something that causes his parents to squirm. I can’t know for sure, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is the powerful reminder that kids’ palates are clean slates, ready to develop their own likes and dislikes if we’d only let them.