Sunday, January 8, 2012

Rick Steves & me

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity at work to host an event featuring Rick Steves.  He had just debuted his show about Iran, so was available to do public showings and talks about his experiences.

Of course, it being a college audience, there were quite a few questions about Rick's stance on pot.

I found Rick to be rather stand-offish.  I suppose that, as a celebrity, he gets annoying people pulling on his shirt-sleeves all the time.  Or maybe he's just shy.  He's a bit of an odd duck, that's for certain.

After the event several people and I helped him carry the boxes of books he was selling back to his car.  He had parked in an underground parking garage and couldn't remember which floor his car was on.  After walking around three floors, my arms stretched to their limit, I finally turned to him & joked, "I hope you're better finding your way around with a map than you are in a parking garage".

Except I was was only half-joking.  Seriously, man, I'm carrying a massive box of BOOKS!

I think of that encounter any time I hear Rick on NPR, as I did yesterday.  He was chatting with a caller, a housewife from Oklahoma, about not being able to travel as much in adulthood as had been possible during the woman's youth.  The woman mentioned her website and I was intrigued:

She - Sasha - is making a dish from every country in the world each week.  195 countries, 195 meals, 195 weeks.  It's a brilliant idea, and one I will try myself.  I travelled quite a bit in my 20s, even living in France for a year, and miss globetrotting immensely.  What a fantastic way to incorporate new cultures and new cuisine into our everyday lives.  I love it!

Gene and I have talked a lot about how we want to influence Kaelen's attitudes toward food.  I went to lunch with a friend a while back and she bemoaned the fact that the restaurant "didn't have any kid food, like chicken nuggets".  Why is processed chicken-type meat considered "kid food"?  We want - perhaps naively - for Kaelen to grow up eating the same foods we eat.  I won't be a short-order chef, cooking different things for different members of our family, nor will we use drive-throughs as a regular means of getting sustenance.

OK, I will cop to a weakness for Wendy's, to which I succombed more than once during my pregnancy (pre-gestational diabetes diagnosis).  Damn those fries!

If you're interested in introducing your kid to new cuisine, read the book "Hungry Monkey".  A friend recommended it to me and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  It's funny, contains interesting recipes, and, for those local to Seattle, mentions many places locals will recognize. 

We look forward to introducing Kaelen to farming and teaching him how food grows.  He'll grow up with a backyard flock of chickens and a yard full of edibles.  I can't wait to see him chase a chicken around to catch it, as our neighbors' kid does.

How do you introduce your kids to new cuisines?  What advice do you have?


  1. From years of observing several friends with extremely picky eaters (one so bad that it's literally pathological and the child sees a specialist) I honestly believe that in some fundamental ways, parents "create" problem eaters. I don't in any way blame the parents; it's so so very hard to let a small child remain hungry, and so so very instinctive to work hard to get them to eat something... anything! But it's been easier for me to see (from my objective distance) how a parent who continues to prepare separate food essentially validates the child's suspicion that strange foods are "scary" and should be avoided.

    And it is based on fear. The kids I know who are really picky now range from 9 -12 years old and all of them act distinctly uncomfortable when confronted with a food outside their normal limited repertoire. Just yesterday, an 11 year old boy was over playing with my son and - despite the fact that he was clearly hungry - couldn't bring himself to even take one bite of a plain peanutbutter sandwich because it wasn't his regular brand of peanutbutter and was on whole wheat bread (and remember, I'm not his mom, so there were no typical power-struggle dynamics going on). Sadly, each of these kids have also started to become embarrassed around food, because they are old enough to be aware that their behavior is irrational, but they don't know how to control it.

    Lest you think I'm all theory and no practice... I have an 11 year old who has significant ADHD, ODD and a tic disorder - so we have no lack of very real challenges - but one thing that's never been a problem is his acceptance of a wide variety of foods. I think that not restricting my diet while breast feeding ( for 15 months) helped to condition him to changing taste sensations from the very start. And when we started into solids, I didn't do tastless rice porridge either. I was careful to introduce foods slowly, one by one, but worked pretty quickly into giving him a modified, pureed version of what we ate. At the times he showed pickiness about foods (as ALL kids do), I didn't make any big deal about it; I just told him that this is what we have now and there'll be different food at the next meal, and then made myself NOT WORRY if he wouldn't eat it. I should also note that we all have food preferences and I respect his dislikes (cooked mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant) and don't add them to his serving.

    I do realize that I'm fortunate with my son's eating, and some children are far more challenging around food, but I also think that our actions have much more impact than we realize.

    And now I realize that I've written a diatribe and I'll stop and go back to lurking ;-)

    Congratulations on the baby, and I hope you're eeking out a few consecutive hours of sleep each night!

  2. Oh hey, I was listening to that same segment! I meant to check out the site but was driving at the time. Thanks for reminding me. :)
    Hope your baby is doing well.