Into the Mouths of Children: Brussel Sprouts
When I turned 9 years old, my parents got me a very funny birthday card about 9 wishes and the only one I didn't find that funny was about not having to eat any more brussel sprouts... I loved brussel sprouts! I didn't have them that often, but once in a while, especially around this time of year, I'd enjoy some well grilled and seasoned brussel sprouts (I'm pretty sure I called them "cabbage balls").
Unfortunately in America, the green stuff all lands in the same dinnertime angry-toned-mother stigma - "eat your broccoli". I've been giving Freida broccoli since she was able to eat solids, and now, to her, a side of steamed broccoli can compete with a side of fresh strawberries any day! It's so important to involve your kids in the food choices, kitchen prep, and cooking process of all different kinds of foods. I want a home with a yard just so I can plant a garden for my kids to see that food comes from someplace a lot more amazing than a grocery store (even though Trader Joe's is pretty damn amazing, and I guess Farmer's Market cuts it close).
Kids in the kitchen are usually doing basics like baking or assembling. And while it's great for them to watch batter form from different ingredients, and tactilely beneficial for them to experiment with dough, I think it's wonderfully educational for children to work with ingredients that may not be up there on the list of kid-loved foods: garlic, fresh basil, artichokes, beans, brussel sprouts, asparagus, capers, scallions etc. It's been proven that a versatile taste for food begins to develop at a very early age, and if we teach and train them properly, it will not only be beneficial to their health but to our sanity as well!
Of course, there are the common issues, say, texture problems (Freida seems to have a diversion to mashed food; potatoes, avocados etc.), allergies, choking hazards etc. but if you are able to get around those and move forward - children will be healthier, more diverse, and culinarily well educated. G-d's food (in its natural form) is delicious in its own right, however with a splash and a dash of the right seasoning and spices - all food becomes kid-friendly.
The other day when I was unpacking my groceries, Freida walked into the kitchen to help me, and was completely dumbstruck by a stalk of brussel sprouts. She wouldn't put it down. She examined it, showed it to her "baby", pulled the leaves off, even snuck a bit of the raw stuff into her mouth for a taste-test. She wound up crying when I eventually had to take it away... so I let her sit up on the counter with me and pull them off the stalk, remove the outer leaves, and wash them (who knew prepping brussel sprouts was such a kid activity??). I spread them out on a baking sheet (cut the larger ones in half), drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled salt and pepper, and put in the oven on broil for 17 minutes. The result was popcorn like, kid-freindly goodness! Try it - they'll like it, and if they don't... you will.