When our kids were young we had a wonderful nanny, Pat. Among Pat's many amazing child-rearing techniques was a device to get our kids to eat unfamiliar foods she called the "no thank you serving." They had to try one spoonful of the unwelcome food, but if they still didn't like it, a simple "no thank you" spared them the second serving.
When we traveled to far off places like Egypt, Morocco, Taiwan, France, England and Spain, our kids automatically deployed the "no thank you serving." In Taiwan, they tried konji, a rice gruel topped with meats and pickled vegetables. In Morocco, they tried pigeon pie. They discovered that they really liked konji, but said "no thank you" to more pigeon pie. In France, they discovered that Thai-style frogs legs were delicious and tasted a lot like chicken. One of their favorite dishes in Spain was a cold soup made with grape sorbet and garlic. When we traveled to Japan, they tried natto, a slimy and odoriferous food made from fermented soy beans. In England, bangers and mash was not a hit with either, but they tried it and became acquainted with an infamous British cuisine.
At home, our kids brought back tales of friends who ate only beige food -- white bread without seeds or herbs, plain rice, plain noodles. I also noticed that at restaurants some parents handled the problem with elaborate instructions about how to prepare and deliver the beige food their children liked. Pat's "no thank you serving" might have opened up for them the wonderful world of food in all of its colors, textures, shapes and flavors but sadly that opportunity was lost. Food, after all, is an expression of a culture and a people and one of the joys of being alive.
Today, our kids are adventurous eaters, and they're open to trying things that are unusual or unfamiliar. Through their childhood epicurean experiences, they have learned to approach life with an open mind. Whether it's new foods or new experiences, they're always willing to give it a chance with a "no thank you serving."
With a Perspective, I'm Vinita Nelson.