Saturday, October 18, 2008

Who Doesn't Like Kiwi?

It just shows how neurotic and weird kids are when they turn down a kiwi. I've tried kiwi on mine before and it didn't work. They didn't want to try it, and when I forced them to try a taste, they did, and then shook their heads frantically. Too... what? Sweet and delicious? Too much of a cross between two of your favorite fruits, strawberries and bananas? Too beautifully green and patterned with soft gorgeous black seeds?

Whatever. I let it go; I mean, it's from New Zealand, right? Not exactly local. I was thoroughly annoyed, but it just wasn't high on my list of priorities, getting my kids to eat kiwi.

But the other day I noticed the kiwi bin. I remembered that you can send kiwi in a lunchbox with the top cut off and a little spoon, so kids can scoop out the fruit. How cute. And, as I've mentioned, I'm looking for more snack ideas.

So I bought a couple kiwi (kiwis?) and came home with a new determination. They will try it and they will like it. This was my battle cry.

But I needed a strategy.

I remembered learning at a schoolfood conference about the three-prong approach. I wish I remembered the researchers who presented this evidence, because it is important. To get kids to try new foods in the cafeteria, they learned, it is not enough to serve fantastic food.

This was their three-part strategy to get kids to accept new foods in the cafeteria:

1. Serve beautiful fresh delicious food. Duh. That's the easy part.
2. Incorporate the new foods into the curriculum. The kids should basically study the new food beforehand.
3. Have the kids help either prepare or grow the food, before the first time they try it.

If this works in the schools, why not at home? And of course, it makes so much sense! If I'm traveling in Thailand, and suddenly I'm presented with a food I've never seen before, that looks weird and smells differently from anything I've ever tasted before, I'm far more likely to dig in if I know about the fruit, have read about it, have seen other people like me eating it, and have seen it either picked or in the market or prepared, or whatever. It just ups my confidence level about this strange thing I'm going to put into my mouth.

So I started talking up the kiwi. "Hey, kid, so I got this fruit, it's called a kiwi. It's sort of a cross between a strawberry and a banana, and it's a beautiful green, like a jewel, inside. They're from New Zealand!"

They were totally interested (My son: "How come everybody wants to move to New Zealand?"), so I showed them a picture of kiwi on the internet, and a map of New Zealand (Me: "That's just if the Republicans win.". I read them about two sentences from Wikipedia before they zoned me out and were on to something else.

But that was okay. I'd planted the seeds; now I'd leave them to germinate... Come snacktime they'd be crying for kiwi.

It's so ridiculous. What's next, prepping them for a new flavor of popsicle? But I was really excited to remember this strategy that they are using in the schools. It makes perfect sense to bring it into the home. Who doesn't like knowing a little before they embark on a new flavor sensation?

So how did it go? Quite well, it turns out. My son devoured his portion -- including the skin! -- and begged for more and has asked several times since then. It would seem like a wasted exercise in the obvious -- if not for my daughter's response. Five years old, adventurous, sturdy, and a huge eater, but in the throes of her picky years. She didn't want to try it, and only when gently pressed was willing to taste a small slice. She did eat the slice, but refused more and was unenthusiastic about the whole process.

I don't have a control group of foods to compare -- wait, what I am saying? I have hundreds of examples of foods I've presented to my kids without prepping, which they flatly refused.

Still, kiwi is a gimme. Next up: miso stew, which I'm trying to reintroduce into my life. It used to be a weekly staple, until I had non-tofu-eating, non-sweet-potato-eating, non-shitake-eating, non-seaweed-eating kids. They do like miso broth. It's a start. I'll keep you all posted. Let me know if you have luck using this method!


Mirem said...

When kids grow something they most definitely do want to try it most of the time. My 5-year-old eats raw green beans and picks mint leaves to eat... and last spring at her school garden kids were eating radish leaves! And liking them! Everything that I can't grow but want my kids to eat - I'll use your system. Sounds great.And at minimum will be a learning experience for the family.

Larissa Phillips said...

Yes! My daughter will eat green beans off the vine, and cry when we can't find any more -- but off the plate? No way.
Radish leaves are impressive, though.