My son used to somehow subsist on a diet of grilled cheese sandwiches and chicken fingers. He was never what one might call an adventurous eater. He stuck to the basics. Despite our coaxing, he rarely ventured outside basic American meat-and-starch entrees and domestic fruits and vegetables, i.e. apples and tomatoes.
When we planned our first family backpacking trip a few years back, we knew that had to change. Well, my wife and I knew that had to change. Our son? Not so much. So it was up to us to affect that change before we landed on the Continent. Here’s how we did it.
1. Start eating new things before you leave.
Don’t wait until you’re abroad to introduce new foods to your kids. Start at home. Try new recipes and new ingredients. Peruse Chinese and Mexican markets (you probably have them nearby whether you know it our not) for different foods and spices.
2. Augment foreign foods with familiar foods.
Yes, you can have fries with that. We like to pair the familiar with the unfamiliar to ease our son into trying new foods — escargot and french fries are a big hit. Including a little comfort food beside exotic foods will give your child confidence to eat outside their box and a fall-back plan if they just can’t stomach the unfamiliar.
3. Seek out familiar-seeming foods.
My son used to think a potato was a potato was a potato. Then he discovered sweet potatoes. Then heirloom fingerling potatoes. And so on. Whether it’s noodles, pasta or beef, you can almost always find something your child can relate to on nearly every menu. It won’t be prepared the same way. It won’t taste exactly the same. Yet, identifying something familiar — even if it’s a minor ingredient — on a menu will give your child confidence to try a whole-new meal.It'd sure be a damn shame to bundle your kids off to Europe only to see them eat chicken fingers. Click To Tweet
4. Bribe the little bastards.
Candy. Ice cream. Playtime. Sometimes, you just gotta say “screw it” and bribe your kids to try something new. This can’t be the go-to tactic, but, hell, it works. And you can’t spend your entire trip coaxing them into eating new foods.
5. Trick them.
Did you know that the French favorite — pissaladière — includes (often) pureed anchovies? Neither did my son! I hereby grant you full permission to hide strange foods and trick your kids into eating them.
6. Reward them.
The key to rewarding them for eating adventurously is not to tell them beforehand that you’ll reward them for eating adventurously. It’s different than bribery for that very reason. If you can get your kids to try new food simply for the sake of trying new food, then be ready to reward them and tell them how they earned it.
It’d sure be a damn shame to bundle your kids off to Europe only to see them eat chicken fingers the entire trip. So don’t wait — start experimenting with new flavors, colors and smells in your kitchen right NOW!
Interested in backpacking Europe with your family? Get a head start with my guidebook, Paris with Kids. Coming fall 2016: Backpacking Europe with Kids.