I suspect that I am quite lucky.
Kat, although she has started doing the toddler food-controlling games, still loves real honest to God food.
Here, you can see her using a regular sized spoon to feed herself homemade Cajun red beans and rice. Hardly a bland dish, my vegetarian version is filled with onions, garlic, and both sweet and hot peppers, Thyme, rosemary and celery seeds add fragrance, and Kat adores it.
She still loves curries, mattar paneer is a favorite, but she also likes various chicken curries. The other day at Casa, she was scooping up refried beans and guacamole with a regular teaspoon and feeding herself quite handily. She even scooped up pieces of quesadilla from Zak’s plate–he’d tear off bits of his pork, rice and refrieds quesadilla and she’d use her spoon to scoop them up, instead of picking them up in her fingers. She is very into using a spoon these days.
Blueberries are a favorite, as are potatoes in any form. Cheese is beloved–although she has the toddler peculiarity of thinking that all cheese must be orange to be cheese. I have to convince her to try white cheeses, even though she used to eat them gladly a few months ago.
Eggs scrambled with cheese and herbs is a great quick lunch or breakfast for her, and she always eats it. Whole wheat toast with butter and sometimes strawberry jam are also favorites–the one time she was given white bread at my parents’ home, she spit it out. Instead, she chose to eat the pumpernickel bread that her grandfather was eating–bland foods just do not impress her at all.
She likes beef, mushrooms, carrots, green beans, Thai basil–we know this because Zak plucked a leaf from our deck garden for her to taste and her eyes lit up and she insisted on another leaf immediately. She even liked my Thai Basil Chicken, even though it was very hot with the first Thai chilies from the garden.
And she still loves fresh tomatoes, and has been keeping an eye out for ripe ones on our huge tomato plants up on the deck. Spaghetti with tomato and basil sauce and lots of freshly grated cheese is another perennial favorite, especially if there are some cut up olives or some chili flakes in it.
We still feed her so-called “kid foods–” meaning that she snacks on cereals and crackers, and now and again, she has macaroni and cheese or ramen noodles from a package for lunch, but then, so do the rest of us. She eats ice cream when we do (chocolate is her favorite) and when we have tortilla chips with salsa, she is right there with us.
And sometimes, she has cereal for lunch, just because that is all she is interested in eating.
But all in all, she eats what eat quite happily and cheerfully. She is a little more wary of new foods and flavors these days, but is still much more adventurous than a lot of kids are. We don’t cook separate meals for her when we are eating–we just make sure that there will be something in our meal that she will like and eat.
And there almost always is. (Especially when we are having Singapore Rice Noodles, which combine her favorite foods–noodles and curry–a meal made in heaven for Kat!)
So, I guess I am lucky.
I cannot help but wonder what sort of tastes she will grow up with, eating these sorts of foods. What will her childhood memories of dinner be like, since she has eaten a combination of Appalachian farm food, Indian and Thai curries, Chinese and Thai stir-fries and Mexican foods, as well as traditional and improvised pasta dishes? And she is still getting exposed to pizza, a few french fries and the occasional hot dog, just like most kids.
What food memories will she carry with her as an adult? What scents, flavors and textures take her back to her childhood and give her a sense of comfort and “home?”
I think about that often, and I think that more parents should, too. What we feed our kids early in their lives is what they will want to eat for the rest of their lives. I was lucky in that I was fed mostly homemade foods, most of them fresh and locally grown, with convenience items at a minimum, and fast foods as a special treat. And to this day, a plate of sliced tomatoes, well-salted and peppered, next to a platter of grilled or freshly boiled corn on the cob and a big bowl of ice-cold coleslaw makes me miss my Grandma. The smell of roast lamb and cauliflower with cheese sauce brings to mind my Gram, and a certain combination of tomatoes and herbs make me think of my Aunt Nancy’s spaghetti sauce. And the smell of beef and lentils cooking into a thick soup makes me think of Mom and Dad.
Will the scent of Indian spices and Thai basil, of sesame oil and Shao Hsing wine, of toasting chilies and warm tortillas fresh from the griddle do the same for Kat? Will curry call her home in her mind long after I am gone? Will the flavor of Singapore Rice Noodles in a restaurant remind her of her mother’s kitchen?
It is just something I think about.
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