When you have a picky eater at home, whether they are 2 or 42, it makes getting a meal on the table each night a colossal headache. Often it means whomever does the cooking will end up preparing two meals or surrendering to the fact that their picky eater will eat nothing and then beg for junk and snacks later.
My two-year-old son loves to spit out food he deems “unworthy” (that’s code for anything green or remotely healthy). Since I struggle with this issue every, single day I am always on the lookout for solutions that might just work.
An Interview with Sasha Martin, Creator of GlobalTravelAdventure.com
During one of my searches for good family dinners, I happened across Sasha Martin’s website, GlobalTableAdventure.com.
Sasha, the blog’s creator is a longtime foodie and world traveler. She also happens to be married to a picky eater and the two of them have a young daughter, Ava. When Ava was an infant, Sasha worried that Ava would inherit her father’s finicky taste buds, and devised an ingenious plan to gradually expand her family’s dinner repertoire.
She calls it eating her way around the world.
One night a week, she prepares a dinner from a different country in the world. She is making her way around the globe, country by country, from A-Z and is currently a little over halfway through her journey. She documents each meal and the recipes she uses on her blog, so busy moms like us can follow in her footsteps without having to reinvent the wheel.
I loved the fact that Sasha’s adventure gave us a radically different way to think about our daily dinner battles. Rather than focusing on trying to please sensitive individual palates, why not turn dinner on its head and make it an adventure? So I reached out to her to see what she has learned about getting picky eaters to try new things.
Sarah: A lot of moms really struggle to get their kids to eat anything other than white food: pasta, mac & cheese, chicken, etc. Did you start your daughter on this cuisine when she just started eating solids or did you make a switch?
Sasha: Our global adventure began right when Ava just started eating solid foods. She will have sampled cuisines from 195 countries by the time she’s five! So, in a sense I never let her become a persnickety eater. That said, she’s a totally normal kid. There’s a video montage of her on the site showing her trying lots of different foods – many of which she didn’t like and promptly spit out.
Sarah: What do you do when your daughter doesn’t want to eat one of the dishes you’ve prepared?
Sasha: There are many places in the world where children have only one option for dinner and they are grateful for the dish of food in front of them. Even though we live in a country where it is possible to have multiple options for dinner, there’s no real reason to do so. When my daughter was a baby, I’d offer her the food I cooked and if she didn’t want it, she could still nurse. Now that she’s strictly on solid foods, I allow her to have a banana instead of what I have cooked. While she likes bananas, she usually will end up trying what I’ve prepared.
Sarah: How Did You Get Your Picky Husband to Try New Dishes?
Sasha: My husband has truly adapted really well. I have to admit, he wasn’t super-excited to do this, but he has been a great sport about it. In the early days, I had to invite friends over to eat the world cuisine with us so that he’d have some peer pressure to at least try what I made. As we got further into the adventure, he began to get more interested in how the food came together, asking things like, “what is it that I taste in there?” By the time we hit the halfway mark, I noticed that he wasn’t nearly as picky as he had once been. Even if he doesn’t love the dish, he’s realized it’s not going to kill him to try it.
Sarah: How would you advise moms with picky eaters to broaden their repertoire?
Sasha: I’ve found the main reason someone thinks they don’t like a dish is because of the texture of the ingredients. Play around with different way to prepare things so that offending textures become minimized. For example, my husband claims to hate mushrooms. But when I chop them up finely, he loves the flavor they add to dishes. Experiment with chopped versus whole ingredients. Play around with roasting versus boiling and you may find your picky eater doesn’t really hate the ingredient at all.
Another really important thing for children: involve them in the process. Put them in front of a mixing bowl and let them do something. Involving them in the preparation makes a massive difference. And if you have even one square foot of space to grow something, like a tomato plant, do it. My daughter hated tomatoes…until she saw one grow in our back yard. Now I have a hard time keeping her hands off of them.
Sarah: How has your adventure made getting dinner on the table easier?
Sasha: It’s really easy to get stuck in a rut, especially with vegetables. It turns out there are lots of interesting and delicious ways I never would have thought of to prepare them. For example, take green beans: in one country, they steam them, in another they put cloves in them, in another they chop them up and put them in a rice casserole, and in another they puree them to make a green bean soup. It’s neat to have lots of different ways to prepare the same thing!
My personal experiment with GlobalTableAdventure
After this interview – I started testing out the global table adventure idea at my house. So far, it’s been a raging success. I’ve learned how to make insanely delicious dishes like this
basmati rice & chicken dish from Afghanistan
Naan bread (which my 2YO couldn’t get enough of and is easy enough to make quickly during the weeknight)
And a super-simple, but delicious way to cook zucchini and squash (which normally my boys turn up their noses at, but in this case they gobbled up).
I may not follow each week perfectly according to plan, but it is lots of fun contemplating where we’re going to go next. I’m amazed at how in such a short time this simple thing has become part of our weekly ritual (Sundays mostly). Our five year old now has a map of the world in his room and each time we cook from a new country, we put a red dot sticker on the map. He and dad usually do research about the country while I cook – we all love “hearing” the language spoken via YouTube clips and podcasts and make a point to learn how to say, “please” and “thank you,” which we use during dinner to make it feel that much more authentic.
I look forward to getting to “see” and “experience” the world through Sunday dinners at our house.