During our Parisian home exchange a couple years ago, I knew Paris had worked its food magic on my 9-year-old son when he asked, “Mom, can I sauté?” Over the course of our month-long stay, we settled into the delicious routine of going to neighborhood markets and preparing meals together in our fabulous and oh-so French apartment.
After every-other-day visits to the local markets (and everyday visits to the local boulangerie), we’d return to our apartment, and Brendan would wash and chop vegetables for dinner. But the food-centric culture of France really began to click for him during a class at the Cordon Bleu Culinary School. Though he appeared somewhat bored throughout the demonstration, he snapped to attention when the chef handed out samples of a fancy duck dish and an ice cream nougat dessert. The kid loves to eat.
We realized that exploring different outdoor markets was just as entertaining as visits to museums and other attractions. I’m a firm believer that kids need to learn, early on, just what real flavor is all about. And by exposing them to real foods, not just packaged products, they will at least have some appreciation for the difference. They certainly won’t like everything they sample, but at least the new foods and flavors will have left a mark in their food memories.
Story Donna Shields, a food writer in Key West. Fla., for Relish, Jan. 2010