Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Joy of Eating

I feel really fortunate that I come from a family where food is important. We're from New Orleans, so that probably has something to do with it. If you know the city, you know that food is entertainment, and pleasure, and part of your very identity.

The food culture I grew up in was also one where children were not excluded, not from any aspect of a meal. We would go crabbing and crawfishing as a family, or together with another family, and learn just where all that delicious seafood came from. Both of my parents made sure that I knew how to cook for myself by the time I went off to college, and sent along the family recipes for Red Beans and Rice, Oyster Dressing, and Shrimp-Stuffed Peppers (only the first of which a poor college student could afford to make). Dinner parties weren't exclusively adult affairs, so we children absorbed the notion of the long, lingering meal where you sat and ate and talked and drank (and were released to run around like crazy until your parents drove you home sleeping in the back seat).

I feel that it is part of my job as a parent to pass that legacy on to my own children. So it was a real struggle during the years when the kids went from eating a variety of foods to only a handful. Their doctor told us it was normal, that kids have about twice as many taste buds as we adults do, and to be patient and just keep exposing them to new tastes. And--hallelujah--he was right!

After a handful of years where I prepared two dinners every night (except for the obligatory "tasting bite" they had to eat to win dessert) our kids now eat pretty much everything we do. Crawfish etoufee is their favorite meal; our oldest loves making kale chips; and the day they answered "Sushi!" when we asked which restaurant they wanted to go to, felt like a victory. I feel really lucky my kids are willing to try different foods and that we can share this pleasure together. I hope it will help get us through the sullen teen years (fast approaching). And I am grateful that something as basic as food can provide moments of connection, and creativity, and a measure of grace.

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