Naughty or nice?

We had our Girl Guide Christmas sing-along this past week, and of course among the favourites on the song list was ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’. 

The young girls in the crowd were especially conscious of the warnings - you know . . .

    "He's making a list, And checking it twice, gonna find out who's naughty and nice,”

    "He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!”

It dawned on me that since we are in the season of incentive, so to speak, then perhaps it might be a good time to think of all kinds of behaviours that could be improved. Like picky eating, for example!

You might be thinking that my suggestion would be something simple, like ‘eat your broccoli and you get a shortbread cookie’, but no. I see that as reinforcing the wrong attitude. It views eating vegetables as a punishment, endured for the reward of having a cookie. But then the next time vegetables appear, the expectation is the same. Kids grow up thinking that vegetables are to be endured, not enjoyed. 

What if instead we helped kids to understand that all food is an adventure? 

Studies show that children today are generally exposed to a smaller variety of foods than in generations before. Although adults can get used to a new taste after trying something only once or twice, kids need many more tries before they wrap their tastebuds happily around it (anywhere from eight times up to 52, for an extremely picky eater). Why not make some of the holiday season ‘treats’ be some new tastes, perhaps ethnic foods or even new sauces? Sweet and savoury flavours, and various textures can all be explored. 

One big tip when trying to broaden the scope of someone's palate: Bitterness is the hardest taste to swallow. Our aversion to bitterness is partly hereditary, so in your family you will likely see certain trends. If you want to get your kids to eat bitter foods (like broccoli), then dressing the food with something decidedly not bitter will help.

The aversion to bitterness is said to be a survival instinct, one that helps protect us against poison. Some research posits that picky eaters are extending this same philosophy, starting with how food looks. So, the more we can expose ourselves to a wide range of foods, the better chance we have to not be afraid of it. 

When I was a kid we would always have new delicacies at Christmas, whether they were from a new recipe, or a new item found at the grocery store. My parents introduced the new foods as delicacies, special treats coveted by those who knew them. That made them exciting. Some we didn't like (I'm still not a big fan of lychee nuts), but at least we tried them. Martin has a friend whose family eats one meal over the holiday season with their hands - and the kids each get a turn picking what meal it is to be. One year, it was spaghetti and meatballs!

Here's to indulging your palate this holiday season, and of sharing that excitement with friends young and old. 

After all, haven't you always wanted to try a real figgy pudding or Yule log?

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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