Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bento Box in the Heartland

Over the past couple of days I've been reading "Bento Box in the Heartland - My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America" by Linda Furiya.

Due to my interest this past year in the whole Bento Box "thing", I did a search at the library for Bento Box books and came up with Linda's book. Not quite what I was looking for - I was hoping more for a pictorial type of book - with color pictures and "how to" procedures for coming up with cool bento lunches.

Nonetheless, this book has been interesting. As you can guess by the title, it's the food memoir of a Japanese American girl growing up in the USA. She talks about how uncomfortable she felt in school being "different" from all the kids around her. Scared to bring friends to her house b/c they might see how "strange" her family was...they talked differently, ate differently and looked different.

The book also contains Japanese food recipes.

Here is Linda's dad's theory on eating new foods.

"All we had to do was taste the dish three times, but not at one sitting. By the fourth time, he claimed, our palates would have grown accustomed to the new taste and texture and we'd be ready for a full serving. I can't say that his theory worked every time, but more often than not it nudged my taste buds toward unusual foods...".

She said it worked better than her friends' parents strategies... "expecting their kids to finish a heaping plate of liver and onions, as though they inherently enjoyed the stinky dish."

I wish it did only take three or four times to get accustomed to a new food - by that theory my ds would be deeply in love with potatoes by this point :)

One of the things that I like about Bento Boxes is that there is not a lot of space dedicated to just ONE type of food. There is a mini smorgasborg for you or your child to feast upon. Some foods taste better in small helpings - you know how you feel when you eat too much of that overly sweet fudge - blech!

But anywhoo - I liked Linda's comment about nudging the taste buds toward unusual foods. That is what our family is trying to do. Growing up I don't remember tasting any kind of "ethnic" foods at home (well outside of our ethnicity that is), and the same for my dh. It was pretty much "meat and potatoes".

I'm not expecting that by my children tasting a little of this or a little of that - that they are going to turn into gourmands. So far, out of all the new foods we've been experimenting with - there has not been a huge desire for repeat tastings. But if we can "nudge" their little taste buds now - I'm all for that.

I don't want the kids to be picky eaters as children, but even worse - picky eaters as adults. I've witnessed that and it ain't pleasant. I'm sorry but seeing a grown man picking red peppers off his pizza - that is NOT very manly.

This morning I got to thinking about my kids' dislike for potatoes. And I think I know a big part of the reason. I do not heap on copious amounts of butter, cheese or sour cream. The one time I remember my ds really liking potatoes was at a friend's party where there were DELICIOUS scalloped potatoes drenched in butter and melted cheese. They were great! And I do love butter and cheese. But at the same time - I don't want my kids to only eat the food because of the taste of butter and cheese.

My kids are thin little creatures (not overly thin - but healthy looking) - they eat a lot, but we do try to limit the amounts of fat and sugar. I'm not worried about them getting fat at this age - they have too much energy for that. But I know from personal experience - the habits wrought in youth are hard to break during the lower metabolism of age.