Even with all the time I spend at markets and farmer’s markets, I constantly find foods I’ve never seen before. Long-gone are the days of only finding historically local ingredients, every new wave of immigrants bring new local crops of foods that I find inspiring. I ask the vendors the traditional way of cooking or eating this new found food, I start there and then spin it into something beyond, with ingredients that I couple with the flavor and texture.

Like purple potatoes for example: I turned them into zombies for my grandson who doesn’t like potatoes, not even French Fries, but he does love potato chips, which I consider to be just a carrier of salt and oil so I don’t count ‘chips’ as food. The zombie at least got that first one in his mouth, he asked me what it was, first I asked if he liked it, he said it was delicious, when I told him it was a potato, he said: “But I don’t like potatoes”.

“I think you used to not like potatoes, now you like purple ones AND potato chips. So now you like some potatoes.” We started there, working on sweet potatoes now.

I have rules as it pertains to new foods, rules that I pass onto children that eat in my house, because if we weren’t meant to change our eating habits we would still be living on Mother’s Milk.

New Food Rule# 1: TASTE IT THREE TIMES: The first mouthful will be strange  and you will have to start a new ‘file’ in your memory bank. The second nibble you might find yourself trying to connect it to something familiar, something else you’ve eaten or smelled before (whoa is the memory of dirty socks) and the third sensation will be the one that discovers what is unfamiliar about it and what you might even like about it.

I have found that my picky grandson, that I affectionately call ‘Donut’ is willing to give me three tastes before he decides if he likes something now, and this is after unrelenting negotiation and his experiencing the change in his appreciation of new flavors. He is quite used to me putting three pieces of something on his plate and he has no problem giving me his full opinion. It used to start with “do I haaaaaahhhhve tooooo?”  But we have made it a game and a challenge: what does it remind you of? What do you like about it?  What are you not a fan of? It has really helped him consider and learn to discuss his particulars and has thrown a little water on what used to be his mealtime moaning.

I am happy to report that he just turned 7 and the change in his food choices is impressive. It has taken me 3 years to publish Let’s Play With Food-Celebrate the Seasons, the cookbook series inspired by my challenge to get him to eat healthy foods instead of the convenient junk food that he was addicted to. After a few months the change in his eating was so amazing that I started to keep track, this first cookbook is the recipes the beginning of the series.

He now impresses me when he tells me what spices and flavors he can identify when he eats something for the first time. This is the beginning of a great cook: fussy eater, developed palate, and he’s developing great technique now, even pouring and flipping pancakes himself, although he’s ‘not a fan of’ banana pancakes that the rest of the family loves. We start with his and add the smashed bananas after his are accounted for.

A Donut Lover happily eating healthy.

A Donut Lover happily eating healthy.

New Food Rule # 2: YOU’VE GOT NOTHING TO LOSE AND A WHOLE NEW FAVORITE FOOD TO GAIN:  Yes, you can spit out the mouthful, in a paper napkin or paper towel without a whole lot of fan-fare because others are enjoying a meal too! And someone saying ‘That is disgusting’ isn’t nice to hear while you’re eating. Oh, and neither is the sound of someone spitting. The ‘U’ve got nothing to lose and a whole new favorite food to gain’ rule is like wearing a life jacket in a boat: it’s good to know it’s there in case of emergency. But the more time you spend swimming, the better you get at boating and swimming the less likely you are to reach for it. So the spitting out stage has faded considerably.

Leafy greens, deep yellow squash, vine fruits, potatoes are rich in potassium.

Leafy greens, deep yellow squash, vine fruits, potatoes are rich in potassium.

Rule # 3: NEVER, EVER SAY “I don’t eat that”  No one but your mother cares what you do or don’t eat, and if you’re older than 17, she really doesn’t care any more either. Nothing says ‘it’s all on you’ better than keeping this social statement to yourself to keep you from being anti-social. BUT REMEMBER YOU EAT FOR YOUR WHOLE BODY, NOT JUST YOUR MOUTH! And a new approach can bring on a new flavor or texture to food that you might not have appreciated before, one that really appeals to you. My mother had a cousin that didn’t eat watermelon until he was 45, when it was in a fruit salad and he asked: “what delicious thing are the red squares?”.  Well, he then had to live with 45 years of regret! All those watermelons he denied himself.

There are foods that I am allergic to, that will change my life for days or weeks, while my entire body goes into it’s spin of throat closing, coughing, waking up gasping for air, hives, constant bathroom runs, puffy face, puffy belly: my puffy and stuffy results. I never go anywhere either hungry or empty-handed if I don’t know there will be food that I can eat.

And even worse than “I don’t eat that” is: “She/he won’t eat that.”  I really hate it when my friends tell the wait-staff what I can and can’t eat in front of me. But thanks to my desire to avoid it: I’ve already called ahead so that it isn’t going to be an issue. I know what I can or can’t order before I get there. If you know that something will make a person sick, due to allergies or sensitivities and they don’t know that Hollandaise Sauce is made from butter and they have a dairy allergy and they order the Eggs Benedict, you might bring it up to them privately, not so that it becomes a topic of conversation.

If you’re talking about children when you say: ‘OH, he won’t eat that.” You are side stepping the natural progression of the development of taste buds. As infants sweet is the flavor that is desirous because we are dependent on sweet mother’s milk, the introduction of solid food shifts that preference to more earthy flavors and creates a lactose intolerance in all of us.  Thus begins the evolution of taste buds and the bodies nutritional needs as it grows and strengthens and then slows down. There is a natural progression of desiring and tolerating foods that fulfill your body’s needs that requires a flexibility in mind set as it pertains to food that picky eaters might miss.

American Food

Is fast food the only U.S. contribution to the culture of food?

Foods that Kill more than an appetite Rule # 4: DON’T DO IT  Kids eat healthy at my house because that is what there is to eat and if they’re hungry and don’t think that their parents will be persuaded to drive through a junk in a box window, they eat fun food that is healthy. Don’t let your children make food decisions inspired by major ad campaigns.  A 4 year old isn’t aware of what his body needs any more than he knows the rules of the road, why is that responsibility being put on them? Would you let them drive the car?

Addiction to the sugar, salt and artificial chemicals in fast food are there so that the experience of cravings and headaches is exactly the reason that a child demands it. The ‘hook’ has been built-in by the food company to gain a long-lasting customer and there are no benefits on the consumer’s side of this deal (except cheap food, early death).

Don’t deny an opportunity of a range of flavors: some subtle, some bitter, sour, sharp, some spicy, etc. for the business of loyal customers feeling sick if denied their chem combo. Please, they are killing U. I remember reading an interview with the President of Burger King being asked if he feels any responsibility to his customers when it was proven that the calories and fat content of his product kills people prematurely: “Well, I don’t eat more than one in a month, our customers have freedom of will.” Will you please understand that it is not safe to eat out of a box. Especially one-handed food handed to you through a drive-through window.

My rule of eating out with my teenaged grandson is that the meal can’t be handed to me in a box through a window. He can request any category that involves food being served on a plate with metal utensils, yes I had to get specific to avoid food soft enough for plastic forks-another sign of food that isn’t fresh.


Rule # 5: BE PREPARED:  Have on-hand what your lifestyle needs for your well-being, where you need it. Healthy snacks, fresh produce, go-to meals for when you don’t have time for a cooking session, be prepared for healthy short cuts.

If you or a member of your family has allergies, and food is life threatening, I serve food that is in line with what everyone can eat and when going to a party I bring enough for everyone to try what I can eat. Big mistake last night: went to a birthday party where a big fancy sugar and cream cake was the star of the event and I brought a little gluten, dairy and sugar free Abracadabra Cake that I make in a mug, made one for the birthday girl all wrapped up. But when they found out, all 12 people wanted a piece of it! Well, everyone got a spoonful and kept talking about how amazing it was. “Even better than the big cake.”

Well, people do feel a whole lot better when they know they’re eating food that is good for them, nothing is more about loving yourself. Honestly is there anything more evil than eating food that you know is bad for you? And here’s a word I just don’t use enough: stupid. Where does the concept that healthy food tastes bad come from? Seriously, does it come from bad cooks that make their kids eat foods that they hate under the guise that ‘It’s good for you’? That’s why I use good2eat4U instead of good4U2eat, ‘good for you’ subconsciously sounds like medicine.

For kids plates of gluten, dairy, sugar free food that look like a cartoon (like in the Cookbook: Let’s Play With Food) There are over a hundred recipes on  website that are appealing to the eyes and consist of extremely delicious and extremely healthy dishes, using short cuts to make them convenient for a busy cook.

This has all worked for me and it can work for U2 (not the band, although it is Bono).

Do you have RULES that work in your world of meals?

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