You, Me and Teddy

Parenting adventures and activities in and around Neuchâtel, Switzerland.


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Introducing New Foods

I like offal: liver, kidney, sweetbreads. I am big on seafood as well including whelks and winkles. Scottish black pudding beats English black pudding hands down and Haggis is delicious.

I was brought up on “interesting” cuts of meat none of which I considered odd until I reached secondary school at 11 and people started eeeeeeeeeewing everything. Then I turned veggie for a while but that’s another story.

Unfortunately hubby is a little less adventurous than me. I mean he’ll try everything, which I applaud, but we have had a few, albeit rare, dashes to the bin for things he considers too revolting. There aren’t many things I haven’t been able to stomach in life; I can list them all on a couple fingers:

  • Jellyfish – It was just like eating rubber and I couldn’t figure out how to take a bite or even swallow it.
  • Tripe – I reckon I’ll try it again at some point but cooked in a clear broth was just too much texture for me on a first try.

I haven’t had to try many insects yet. I’ve eaten ants (in chocolate) but I don’t know how I would react to deep fried locust for example. I’d like to think I’d give them a go. I know a lot of it is mental and perception can definitely influence how we taste things but its hard to override your brain.

Fried crickets

Fried crickets

Now, I’m not saying you should like everything. I don’t really like onion, for example, and frogs legs can hop on. But its all about being open to new flavours. Did you know that children may need to be offered a new food as many as 10-15 times before they will eat it?

Probably, like a lots of things, there are tastes best acquired at a young age. One study showed that repeated taste exposure can increase liking for certain food products in young children.

This is why I am on a mission to introduce my kids to as many flavours as I can before they learn from their peers that somethings “shouldn’t” be eaten.

This week we had tongue. Ox tongue cooked in broth with carrots, celery, onions and boiled potatoes is one of my favorite childhood dishes. It is super easy to cook: Firstly you clean the tongue thoroughly and then you pop it in a large pot. Chop up 3 to 4 carrots in to batons, 3 sticks of celery into batons, one onion into chunks. Add all the veg to the pot with the celery leaves, 6 peppercorns and a bay leaf and then just cover all with some stock. Then you cook the tongue until the skin can be peeled off easily. This can take a few hours so I tend to pop it on at low temperature when I go out for the afternoon. While I am peeling the tongue I add my potatoes to cook in the stock. Then I slice the tongue and re add it to the broth to warm it before serving.

Tongue has an acquired texture but it has a great taste plus it is really easy for the kids to eat. I was determined that the kids would like it, and not snub it like their Dad, so I pulled out the big guns: the paint palate plates that I’ve shown you before. The trick is to make it as colourful as possible to make it more appealing!

tongue

Success! The plates were spotless and no complaints. M even had second servings of tongue.

What foods do you eat that others might consider odd? How adventurous are you with new flavours?

 


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The Pursuit of Beauty

Who doesn’t like to look good? It makes you feel great but why? Are we born like it or is it something society creates?

I do not see the desire to look attractive as something feminine as I know many men who also try to keep themselves in shape or groomed its just different terms for women: diet and made-up. Yes as females we tend to have a lot more socially acceptable options to groom ourselves: nails, hair removal, makeup… but men can also now have beauty treatments, go to hair salons rather than the barber,  or have plastic surgery. Men just don’t make such a big deal of it as trying to look good is often seen as unmanly.

There is the anti beauty side of things too: those who don’t want to look like models or pinups but then they also try to create a certain look that makes them feel good about how they dress; attractive to likeminded individuals. Wanting to look good isn’t about being sexually attractive but rather making anyone more disposed to liking you, be it friend, partner, client or even your boss.

My little girl has always wanted to wear my makeup – not to look good but rather because it looks like a fun toy. It is only recently that I think she has associated it with looking pretty. I wonder if I am to blame for this. I do tell her she looks pretty, everyone does! She is a little blonde, blue-eyed, ringleted creature in a mainly dark-haired, brown-eyed population and so she stands out. If someone doesn’t comment on how she is dressed when she is wearing a new outfit she will stick her chest out at them until they notice and say how lovely it looks (to which she nods knowingly). Confidence isn’t really her issue on that point; E “knows” she looks good.

Her new favourite activity is to get her nails done. I rarely have my nails done but I decided to make a bit of an effort last year to get a bit more preened and went to visit a new salon in town that does the semi-permenant varnishes. I am so useless with my nails – hence I rarely have them done – the only thing that lasts over a few days is the “2 weeks” ones (and they only last about a week for me). During one of my trips I saw that in this new salon they do “princess” manicures. They have a special varnish for young children which is non-toxic and comes off in hot water. My hubby also likes to get his hands seen to from time to time as it stops him biting his nails if there is nothing left to bite. I suggested they E and him go together and see how they get along. E, at 2 years of age, was an angel for all of 40 minutes sitting perfectly still and taking the whole thing very seriously. Since that moment, as a special treat, we take her to get her nails done. 

Last week we went to see my friend in Montreux, who had her beautiful baby boy finally by the way, and as a special “new mummy” pampering session we all headed off to the nail bar. It was lovely being the three girls having our nails seen to and E loves to be a big girl.

nails

Here she is in her dinosaur sweater, having just bought a spiderman outfit to dress up in for carnival, and having her nails seen to.

It does bother me a little: I always wanted to make sure she didn’t end up too princessy. I do have a feminist side in that I want both sexes to be equal and have equal opportunities. Am I stunting her in giving her these girly moments? I don’t think so. I think if M wanted to have his nails done I would let him too. They have the same toys and both have their dolly days or car days. E’s dress up choices go from princess to doctor, dinosaur to mummy, wonderwoman to spiderman. I expect M’s will too. At the end of the day they just want to try everything that their parents do and its not necessarily associated with male or female roles yet (and I hope to keep it that way).

Back to the issue of looking good. When do I need to watch out for making my children worry about needing to look good? E certainly likes prettier things but M does already too (sometimes our perception of pretty does differs dramatically though). E has always had her own ideas on fashion too or how she wants her hair styled and has always done since I first started putting clips in her hair (she would wear one colour but not another). Konrad Lorenz studied bonding between humans and attractiveness as early as 1943. It also appears that children play with prettier toys for longer (Langlois, Roggman, & Reiser-Danner, 1990) and even very young children perceive better-looking teachers as more intelligent (Goebel & Cashen, 1979; Zebrowitz et al., 2002).  I’m tending towards innate here as it must be an evolutionary trait to want to look more attractive to others as we are generally survive best in groups.

It is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week this week. Like many I have suffered with eating problems in the past but I see myself as cured as I can be: I don’t think I look bad the whole time (I have moments like most people), I can follow a diet carefully without getting obsessed, and I don’t feel a compulsion towards certain food behaviours.  I know it is in there somewhere but so long as I pay attention everything is fine. My fear is that I will pass on my problem to my children as it often carries through families. I guess this is why I am sensitive about the looking good issue (as for me it is linked to eating disorders). Are my children disposed to taking the feeling of wanting to look good to the next obsessing level?

I guess we will have to take it as it comes, as parents we can never be perfect but we can try our best. I will try to remain relaxed about food and my appearance focusing on heathy eating without pressure. This is why we did BLW (baby led weaning) as it takes puts the control of eating in the hands of the child. I will try to make sure the children develop their own sense of how they want to look and try to make sure they know they look good the way they are. I will stop using gender specific terms of beauty. And finally I will try to stop staring at myself in the mirror in front of the children.

Do you have similar experiences? Do you worry that we live in a beauty-centric world? Do you agree with my conclusion that wanting to look attractive is innate? Please let me know.


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Praise and is it negative?

101 way to praiseI have just read an article entitled “When being called ‘incredibly good’ is bad for children”. The study suggests that what they term “overpraise” can actually be very negative for a child’s self-esteem. What they call “overpraise” is not as inflated as you might thing generally comprising of any comment that includes an adverb such as “really good” rather than simply “good”.

After reading “ToddlerCalm” the other day (see my book review here: http://wp.me/p4eir3-5S) I find it incredibly interesting as Sarah Ockwell-Smith, the author, takes a very similar standpoint.

As parents we want to make our children feel as loved and secure as possible but maybe it is actually counterproductive sometimes.

Some food for thought for me today.