*** 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.
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The rule for our children was always, you have to take one bite and give it a real try. They only balked a couple of times and now, like me, love the food aspect of traveling as well!
My girls will try almost anything. When we were in a small Moroccan town and they showed us a bunny and chicken pen. The girls wanted to play with the animals and were shocked to be asked what they wanted for dinner, “rabbit or chicken”?
Yes on the ‘helping’ me cook- they love that. The last time I made meatloaf I threw flour, ketchup and spices in bowls and they thought they were really making our dinner. Ha! And omg the trauma of the pig and the chicken!!!!
I think your experience would have put me off eating pork forever as well. I’ve been lucky with girls…they love their food and will eat anything. You’ve given some great suggestions to help those not so lucky through the eating traumas!
I have never seen an animal being slaughtered…it’s weird since for my parent’s generation it was something really usual in semi-rural areas of the country… I don’t know if I could do it!
I was in China in 1984 and the food choices we had were so strange to my 8 year old self. I will never forget fish head soup, or being presented with a basket filled with a live snake, turtle and dove and being told to pick one for dinner.
Probably a lot of people would not eat meat if they had to kill it themselves! I’ve been vegetarian for over 30 years and think your experience with the pig would have put me off even sooner. I started for animal welfare reasons; now, it’s just what I am. I think I would find meat hard to digest, but if it was that or starvation…….
A great post on getting picky eaters to try new foods – and these tips would work for anyone not just travelers. I wasn’t a picky eater as a child but I also wasn’t exposed to a lot of “different” foods. When I met my boyfriend it was like I was finally seeing in colour – sushi, indian, thai, dim sum…. the list goes on and on. Although I haven’t loved everything I’ve tried I’ve never regretted trying a new food, especially when traveling 🙂
Traveling is really the best time to do it. That’s when you find dishes prepared exactly as they are meant to be (and food that your familiar with from home often tastes horrible anyway.)
Growing up in the Philippines I have witnessed the occasional chicken kill (throat slitting) but haven’t seen it run around. I haven’t witnessed pigs or cows being slaughtered but I have seen the film “Fast Food Nation” and that Really put me off meat for a long time. I can live on seafood alone – and having said that it’s strange how with some animals (like fish), I can catch it, see it gutted, and cut into pieces, and then happily cook and eat it. But on meat – I can’t. Hard to explain.
As for introducing “Yucky” food to kids, I don’t have any advice hahaha but what I do know is that I used to be a very picky eater, not eating this type of vegetable or that (like bitter melon and okras), and now as an adult , the past 13 years, they are one of my favourites. And I think this is because when I was a kid I would hear adults around me describe bitter melon as “bitter” or hear them say things like “oh she doesnt like it because its bitter” and with okra things like “oh its not that slimy” — and in my 7 year old mind, those descriptions have been etched. But when I grew up and became more adventurous I tried it with an open mind this time and realised that it’s not just “not bad” its actually quite good.
It’s funny you say that. I have a hard time eating fish because we had a fish tank growing up. I will, and I’ve come to appreciate seafood more living in Germany because I feel options here are limited. Also, you have a great point. Talking about food a certain way, especially with the expectation of the kid not liking it or using words that would put kids off, that’s also really important. I remember being in Paris and eating something when I was in high school. I don’t know what it was. I told my dad not to tell me because it was delicious and I knew if it wasn’t something I was familiar and comfortable with, I would not eat the rest. I’m not so much like that these days, but I have my moments.