My adventurous 5 years old told me why he is not pleased with foods he never tried before on his plate: "I just don't know the taste and sometimes they don't look good", he said. In front of him, parsnip and stir-fried asparagus were the challenge.So I found a way to convince him to explore and taste the unknown territory of his plate.
I remembered that in old stories of pirates - currently his favorite characters- they had to eat whatever while on high seas, specially when during a treasure hunt.
To add spice to the story I mentioned that some pirates probably had to eat ANY kind of food if captured by enemies, including not so attractive animals and plants.
So, he tried it, and actually liked the asparagus but was not pleased by the texture of parsnips. "You remember that I don't like cooked carrots? "- he asked.
"Those are just like them", he explained.
Since I found a good story to tell as a good incentive, I found many other ways to inspire them to have courage to try the never-tasted-before foods:
_ Name the Food - They love when the new recipe has a different name, mainly associated with a color or theme. Something like our Ahoy Pink Fish with Tiny Pearls, Rainbow Burritos or the wonderful goodies Darienne prepared for Halloween.
_ Explorers Tales - So I tell stories of archeologists like the ones of their Playmobil set, that have to eat the native's foods, not always something palatable for our taste buds. They go crazy when I tell Indiana Jone's story about snakes and monkey brains.
_ Go Brave or Go Hungry - I also tell my older kid that if he wants to belong to a Peace mission, be a Medical Doctor or to be in the Army he has to be able to try anything. We have some examples in the family: reporters, soldiers and hospital interns had to eat whatever was available while on duty. Otherwise, I told him, the option is ...to go hungry.
_ Picture Books - Many books related to food were a success when introducing new foods or to facilitate feeding time. Some I read are Bee Bim Bop, Green Eggs and Ham, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, one of the versions of the folk tale Stone Soup just to name a few.
_ Supermarket and Fresh Market Expeditions - Sea urchins, live cat fish, lobsters and other sea creatures are the biggest attraction when we visit specialty markets and supermarket fish sections. The boys are totally in awe when they found out that those are edible and also a delicacy for some people. Also, Farmer's Market can be a good place for them to have fun and get acquainted with the seasonal contents of their plate.