Some of our earliest memories are sensory. While your children may not remember everything about that trip overseas when they were 7 years old, the rainbow-colored visual of sweet and chewy macaroons in Paris, or the taste of fresh juicy papaya eaten with sticky fingers on the beach in Fiji, might live with them forever. Those early memories could spark a lifelong love of food and travel as it did for chefs like Anthony Bourdain (oysters in France, age 10), but at the very least it will enrich their childhood and nourish their imagination. The more we travel, it becomes obvious that one of the best ways to get to know a culture and connect with its people is through its food. Dr Susanna Block, mother, pediatrician and creator of World Baby Foods, makes the observation that “In a world of conflict, cuisine offers one small but easily travelled bridge between people – over which even the youngest child may pass.”
Raising your child to be a global eater makes it easier to eat out and travel widely, to places where the “kid’s menu” is non-existent. It also increases their awareness of the world around them and the social politics of food. Seattle culinary student and aspiring chef, Tom Alfarozierten spent some time living in Provence with his wife Adriana and two kids ages 10 and 6, and offers the following advice:
“Part of raising children as global eaters, includes not only offering multiple options when dining so they can experience different flavors, but as they grow – even starting at age 4 or 5, introducing an understanding the cultural significance of food (how did this dish come about, is it from Mexico or is it from Argentina or somewhere in Europe). Additionally, making choices in what we eat has impacts beyond just satisfying our hunger or appetite or meeting nutritional needs – of course framing it so it makes sense to them.”
So with that in mind, get ready to feed your little world citizens with our favorite tips on fostering culinary and travel curiosity in your family!
It’s Never Too Early to Begin
Thrill your infant’s tastebuds with meals from World Baby Food and TastyBaby. These brands carry spicy global flavors like Indian and Thai, and remember there is a difference between spice and heat, so your bambino will enjoy all the great flavors without the burn!
Then get inspired by reading Hungry Monkey, a book by Seattle food writer Matthew Amster-Burton, who shares his adventures in eating with his daughter Iris. From her first, accidental bite of a chocolate donut as a baby, she develops into a gloriously curious young diner with an early love for pad-thai and all things spicy and asian. Read the first three chapters online for free!
We love these Edison training chopsticks! Get them here.
Travel your Own City or Town
Take a mini vacation and visit your local Chinatown/Asian Market, or other ethnic groceries and specialty food stores. Find some unusual ingredients and learn about them when you get home. Seek out international restaurants with a novelty to the way food is served. Conveyer-belt sushi is guaranteed to fascinate the youngest of diners, and older children will love the unique dining experience of Dim Sum, Tapas, Fondue and Moroccan.
The Kitchen as a Classroom
Spend some fun family time together tasting, cooking and discussing your favorite cuisine or regional dishes. Let your kids pick the country, choose one from your family’s heritage, or tie it in with history and social studies lessons at school. Keep a “dining map” on the wall in your kitchen or dining room. Let your kids stick a pin in each country as they try its food.
Pick up some fun products from Playful Chef – we love these “French Food Regions” placemats and their Farmer’s Market and Cooking kits for tiny hands.
Resolve to Try Everything Once, but Keep it Fun
Make a concerted effort to try a wide range of foods as a family, but let your children form their own opinions about new foods and cuisines. If you loathe oysters or Indian food, wear your best poker face until the little ones try them. Ask your kids to describe what new things taste and feel like texturally, and have them articulate what they like/dislike about a particular dish. Accept that we all have our preferences at every age, and that there may even be a scientific basis for pickiness.
Embrace Real Fast Food
Release yourself from the pressure of being supermom (or dad!), and blow off the sit-down family dinner for the night. Instead, take your little darlings on a walk to the local farmer’s market and try food from the stands, hit up a local taco truck, eat gyros, and try some bubble tea or Indian dessert. Make it a point to visit the market and try the local specialty wherever you go – home or away.
Shop for or bake some sweet treats from lands afar. Try macarons and madeleines from France, lamingtons from Australia and Baklava from Greece/Turkey. Taste some more unusual candy like Indian sweets and Asian rice candy. Going sweet is guaranteed to get picky eaters at least interested in foreign foods!
Join us over the next few months as we share some hip and delicious ideas to incorporate food and related traditions from across the world into your family mealtimes, get togethers and everyday life. We’ll feature fun and creative dinner menus, seasonal wine and food pairings, glamorous party and entertaining ideas and lots more. In the meantime, we’d love to hear about how your family eats globally. Do you have your own tips on raising a global eater? Let us know!
More great ideas in Raising a Global Eater Part II!
If you are passionate about food like me, stop by Wanderlust and Lipstick each week for WanderFood Wednesday, where you will find amazing pictures and food that will inspire you to travel the world and bring the world’s cuisine a bit closer in your own kitchen!
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[…] week in Raising a Global Eater: Part I, we explored some fun ways to encourage travel and culinary curiosity in your […]