I may not be the most adventurous eater around, but I have come a long way from my childhood when I thought that iceberg lettuce was exotic and that potato pancakes were the height of ethnic cuisine. In Bratislava, I have blindly ordered from a menu written in Slovakian only to be presented with a dish that might have been goose liver or honestly could have come from any other related species. I’ve smiled politely while dining at a Korean professor’s home and happily munched on whatever delicacy he presented. While I may not seek out the most outlandish dishes that various cuisines have to offer, I’m not dining on pot roast and potatoes every night either.
My four year old son, however, has recently shown me up. On a recent trip to Baltimore the whole family sat down for a late lunch outside on a sunny afternoon. While the adults dined tapas-style, the children grazed on their grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit. Suddenly my son looked up from his plate, pointed across the table, and exclaimed, “What are those shells doing over in that??”
Calmly, his grandmother responded that that was paella and those shells were actually mussels that you could eat. Disbelieving, my son reached for a mussel and looked inside the ridged dark shell. My heart stopped and my eyes bulged out when my mother-in-law explained how to eat mussels, and my son deliberately put one in his mouth, began to chew, and ate it.
Clearly, I have been underestimating my son. While I know that given enough exposure to different foods children will eat almost anything, I have never seen my son so deliberately choose to try something new and to stretch himself. You couldn’t pay me enough to pop a mussel into my mouth, and here is my young son tossing one back like it was no big deal and then telling everyone that it was truly delicious. I am in awe of his spirit.
Back at home and preparing his uninspired breakfasts and his lackluster dinners, I am reminded of this lunch in Baltimore when my son proved to me that at the tender age of four he is capable of so much more than I suspect. His palate is not yet locked; his destiny is far from written. Given a little encouragement and opportunity, he will continue to surprise and amaze us with what new snacks he might munch on and with what wild, new adventures he might choose to embark on. Not only is it time to start sharing my curry dishes or my husband’s favorite okra and tomatoes with him, but it’s time to start challenging myself and moving out of my comfort zone just like my son is.