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The Unnatural Cook

a chronicle of weekly meal plans from someone who can't just throw a meal together

Try New Things. It’s one of the core values at my kids school. When they started in kindergarten they applied it mostly to food and we were grateful. But this year they are in third grade and their taste buds are truly expanding. It makes cooking a lot more rewarding. Tonight was our very first salad as a meal! Up until now they’ve pretty much ignored lettuce as a viable food. But recently they’ve been trying different kinds of lettuce from our plate and they agreed to try a salad for dinner. It involved steak of course; I’m no fool. The recipe was for Asian Steak Salad from Real Simple. They listed it as a weeknight meal with a 30 minute prep time; very ambitious. We had two people in the kitchen and it took much longer than that. Of course, I complicated things by deciding I was so hungry that salad was not going to be enough and at the last minute I decided to make Sesame Noodles. The sesame noodles come from a great recipe that I found in, of all places, Family Fun, Disney’s surprisingly good DIY crafts and cooking magazine. The meal was a huge hit. “It’s my new favorite dinner,” was Finn’s review. And even the sesame noodles fell under tonight’s try new things theme. Clementine came to the table thinking she didn’t like them and left a fan.

I read somewhere (when it was already too late to matter) that babies can be exposed to a new food ten times before they decide they like it. I never gave them that much of a chance because it was exhausting to prepare food that nobody ate. Even if it was just cutting up cheese cubes. If I’d known that it can take so long to acquire a taste for something, and that taste could be acquired so young, I’d have done it differently. Once I read that though, I did apply it to the way I cooked for the family. When the kids said, “I don’t like that,” I replied, “You just haven’t acquired a taste for it yet.” I left the door open. When I started meal planning, I had to adjust the dinners to fit everyone’s taste. Often the cooked vegetable would be just for John and I and the kids would get carrots or cucumber on the side. Sometimes the sauce, or parts of the sauce stayed out of the kids pasta. But the longer I’m at it, the more developed their palate has become and now I rarely have to make different versions. I think the corollary to ‘try new things,’ should be ‘over and over.’ Once is not always enough.

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