*** This may be a sensitive story for those with weaker stomachs***
Have you ever witnessed a pig being slaughtered? I’m not talking in movies, nor do I mean a slaughterhouse.
The first, and so far only, time I have “witnessed” a pig slaughter was when I was seven. We were two weeks into our 3 week family visit in the Philippines. It was a comfortably warm December and we were prepping for our Christmas feast. The pig on the farm, the one I had grown accustomed to seeing on my aunt’s property, was being prepared for the big roast.
As soon as the preparation of killing the pig started, I walked away. My aunt lived in was a bamboo hut, in the middle of a clearing, in the middle of a jungle. There was no way to escape the sound. That squeal. It was a sound I could never forget. It was the sound of death. I don’t know how long he squealed for, it felt like eternity, but I did know one thing. I knew I was never going to eat that pig.
So when his head showed up as the centerpiece on the Christmas Eve dinner table, surrounded by dishes that included other parts of him, I happily skipped my meal.
One week and two days later, it was my birthday. We were leaving the next day. My Filipino family threw a second feast. Instead of a pig, though, they killed a chicken.
I watched in mixed horror/fascination. With the head still hanging by a small piece of neck skin, that chicken ran all over the farm. I don’t even know if he made a sound. Whereas the pig made every other noise in the jungle disappear, this chicken made every other sight and sense disappear. An eternity later, he stopped.
I watched as my grandmother plucked its feathers and drained its blood.
And that night, the chicken was the star event on the dinner table. And that night, I happily ate it up.
Many, many years later I spoke with my dad about these two events. He told me he thought I would never eat the chicken. I told him I was starving.
So – what does this have to do with yucky food and travel? Well, seven-year old me was not an adventurous eater. I was definitely a burger and fries kind of girl. The only dishes I attempted to eat while in the Philippines were ones I was already slightly familiar with because my mom made them. I ate adobo, rice, pan de sol, and lumpia. The diversity in Filipino dishes goes well beyond those more famous dishes. It was not yucky, I just didn’t know it.
But, after 3 weeks of getting by with the minimum. I would eat anything.
These days, one of my favorite reasons to travel is to try the food. I’m still pretty picky. But, I remember my childhood experiences, I try to approach the subject differently with my kids. If I can eat that chicken – my kids can at least taste a food I’m also willing to eat.
How to get your kids past the” yucky” foods.
Whether traveling or not, there are foods kids don’t like and will automatically classify as “yucky food”. Most of the time, they haven’t even tried the food, they just don’t like that it looks different from what they are used to, or maybe it’s because they wanted tacos not fajitas, or maybe they’re just being negative.
Like all other things travel and/or kid related, preparation goes a long way. It starts at home. With some small adjustments willingness to at least try new foods while abroad should be ever-so-slightly easier – if the kids have had their naps, and had time to get the wiggles out, and aren’t mad at you for not buying them the souvenir paperweight they’ve always wanted.
Here are a few tips that will hopefully help dealing with a pickier eater by slowly introducing new flavors and dishes to them.
- Get them into the habit of trying new foods. If they’re always eating the same thing at home, it may be difficult for them to want to even open their mouth to a new food experience. But, by making it part of your normal routine, it’ll be something they expect. The best way for this to work is two-fold: always introduce and reintroduce new foods to them, but don’t pressure them into eating more if they don’t like it after they’ve tried it.
- Make their favorite meals using some of the flavors of the new place they are visiting. Perhaps they really love chicken tenders, maybe add some curry to the ketchup if they’re visiting the UK or India. Or put some mediterranean spices in the coating if their trip will take them to Greece.
- Go a little deeper with fusion meals. Combine the components of various culinary traditions to a meal that is more heavily influenced by another culture than just switching out the seasonings. A good example is a thai chicken pizza.
- Try new recipes of the places they’re going. This kind of coincides with the first point – let them try new foods. But, this is specific to where they’re going so that they can get a sense of what the foreign dishes might look like. My favorite source for good recipes and international food is “Food by Country“. I’ve tried recipes on that site from Hungary, Brazil, and Germany and they’ve all been delicious. I’m not sure how authentic they all are, but it’s definitely a change from what’s in our normal rotation.
- Let them help you cook. This is more of a general tip for picky eaters. Sometimes being part of the process helps the kid want to eat the meal.
- Figure out the local foods, and what might most appeal to your kid. My son loves sausage and noodles. If I can find him a sausage or noodle dish while we’re on vacation, he’ll generally be happy.
- As a last resort, go with old standbys. Pack a jar of peanut butter, and make some sandwiches. Get fruit and cheese at the grocery store. Go to chain restaurants that have made their way overseas where the kid is guaranteed to like something. Do so without shame or disappointment. As an adult I spent two weeks in China. Every meal was noodles, sautéed veggies, meats, rice, and a grand gesture. It was exhausting. On the 10th day, we ate at McDonald’s. It was so relaxing to have a different style meal – to eat without ceremony. It was a nice break that helped us all appreciate the last few days of Chinese meals we ate. Sometimes you just have to do what works with your family.
Guide and Travel has dedicated their A-Z Challenge to Romania. Lots of great information on what I believe to be a beautiful country. I haven’t been, but it sits near the top of my list.