When I picked up this book, Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman, I was mainly interested in how to help Luke become a better eater. I am happy that he is one step ahead from kids that only survive on a list of 5 to 6 foods, but he has never been in love with the entire dinner experience as much as Mark.
To watch Mark eat is a pleasure in itself. He takes each bite with gusto, holds the fork like a grown up and usually cleans up the plate. I can picture him in the future holding a wooden spoon as he stirs exotic ingredients inside a bubbling pot, surrounded by friends eager to taste his creations.
Bringing up Bebe compares cultural differences about raising kids in France versus in America, and how french kids seems to be more polite in social gatherings and able to sit down for four course meals. Hence my curiosity to read the book.
While I don't agree with parts of the french culture, the book is an easy read and a great window to a different culture. And when it comes to food, I have to agree that the french are probably in the right path. In France, meal time is seen as a very important part of life, and the food enjoyed as an experience, not just nutrients and calories packed in a plate.
So following some of the ideas in the book I decided to institute a few changes in our house. First, I am trying to have only four daily time frames when the kids are allowed to eat. Breakfast, lunch, snack time, and dinner. No more snacks just for the sake of chewing on something, or kids staring inside the fridge just because they are bored.
Second, I decided to encourage Luke to participate more in the cooking process so that he can enjoy food starting with its preparation. On our first try we cooked together, sat down at the table and had pumpkin quesadillas adapted from this recipe. Luke usually does not enjoy eating pumpkin, but as we started to eat, instead of the usual dialogue of "Eat your food" and "I don't like it", we talked about how the pumpkin is so hard when harvested and yet after we cooked it, turned out to be soft and delicious. How the onions and garlic we added transferred their taste to the pumpkin and we went as far as talking about the people that invented quesadillas, that spoke Spanish like Dora, the explorer.
By the time we had finished our talk, the kids were almost done with the food in their plate. And then instead of focusing on trying to make them finish the food, I calmly told them that dinner would be our last meal of the day, and that they were free to leave the table if they wanted, but there would be no more food available until next day at breakfast. Luke decided he was done (and he had in fact eaten a lot of food), and took his plate to the kitchen. Hope this is our turning point!
Maybe I should start learning how to cook crepes and bake baguettes, and my kids would never again ask for pizza!