flavorful foods

Last Night My Kids Ate Beets

May I have your attention, please! Dinners at our home are rarely newsworthy events, but for the past two days, they have been. Not because of what was served, but because of who ate it. Seriously, I rank this right up there with Queen Elizabeth II achieving the longest reign--last night I served roasted beets with a yogurt dipping sauce, and all three of my kids ate some. Not a lot, but some. Meaning, in the case of two of them, a chunk of beet the size of a pea.

You might be thinking, So what? I love beets. Or, like many people I know, you might have read that last paragraph and shuddered inwardly because you hate beets.

What I've learned this week, is that we can actively work to expand our taste likings and the likings of even the pickiest of eaters.

I'd enjoyed Bee Wilson's Consider the Fork, a history of cooking implements, so I picked this one up--a discussion of how we learn to like the tastes we do, and what can be done for those picky eaters, old and young. (Note: after hearing some of the case stories in this book, I will never call my children "picky eaters" again. I now realize they're comparative omnivores!)

What Wilson discovered is that, while there is a genetic and an in utero element to what tastes we like easily, much more of our tastes develop from how and what and when we are fed in the early years afterward. We have such thing as a tasting window, when we're open to new flavors. (Sadly, this window doesn't correspond with the current guidelines and timeline on how to feed babies.) But even after the window of our greatest tasting openness has slammed shut, there are techniques to increase our liking of other foods and flavors.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has to feed anyone or who is looking to expand his own limited palate. Wilson also discusses some of the food-liking limitations of autistic kids and treatments that help!

Even if you're not someone crippled because you can only stand to eat a handful of things, there's much to be gained from expanding our flavor horizons. Limited foods often equal limited nutrition. And the rise of processed food consumption has led to people developing "uncannily homogeneous tastes, markedly more so than in the past." What are these homogeneous likings? Well, for sugar, fat, salt, and refined carbs.

Now that "half of adults in the U.S. have diabetes or pre-diabetes," it's looking like a great time to reform our palates. As Wilson points out, it's no use threatening or advising folks. Much more useful is actually getting people to enjoy a healthier, more varied diet because they discover they like it and start to prefer it. Hence my exercises in beets (and green beans the night before). Multiple exposures can get people over the I-don't-like-beets hump into the familiarity camp, and then into the tolerance camp, and then--possibly--into the liking camp! That's the plan, anyhow.

It can happen. Over the years I've grown to like beets, cilantro, cooked spinach, fish, kale, mushrooms, and onions--all things I disliked as a kid. Who knows what more lies out there?

Speaking of new flavors, did you notice our new Thursday vendor?
and The Box's flavor explosion: Kahlua Pork Bao

Get to the Market this week and try at least one new thing. Prepare just a little bit. Try it a couple different ways. Get everyone in your home to taste a pea-sized bite before they chow down on old standbys. Let me know what you find!

Noteworthy Notes, April 2015 Edition

Future Deviled Eggs

It's April 15th - Tax Day! That would be the bad news. The good news is, we have less than one month till Opening Day of the 2015 Bellevue Farmers Market season! The Thursday Market kicks off on May 14th with food, fun, and festivities. If you'd like to get involved as a vendor or volunteer, here's the link you need.

The Market won't be a moment too soon. Supermarket apples are mushy, the pears are Argentinian, and the strawberries of the giant, flavorless variety. Even the winter standby of oranges is getting hit-or-miss. For smoothies I've been falling back on frozen fruits, since they at least were ripe when processed.

Speaking of flavor, did you see this very interesting article on how naturally flavorful foods are actually higher in nutrients? It's based on a book I'm looking forward to reading:

As some of us have noticed, widely-available produce found out of season and grown on an industrial farm does not have anywhere near the flavor of the fruits and vegetables our local farmers or own backyards produce. Try one of the "sugar bomb" strawberries at the Market in June, and you'll turn your nose up at Watsonville's baseball-sized grocery-store offerings ever after. Well, it just so happens,

For more than 50 years, the food that we grow has been getting blander. As our crops and livestock become more productive, affordable and disease-resistant, they keep losing flavor. As any grandparent can tell you, tomatoes, strawberries, chicken—all taste like cardboard these days.
As flavor diminishes, so does nutrition. According to a 2004 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, modern tomatoes have half as much calcium and vitamin A as they did in the 1950s. We compound the nutritional insult by drowning bland food in the only things that can make it taste good—ranch dressing, whipped cream, ketchup or barbecue sauce.

Because we still love and crave flavor, we add it back in to food--usually favor cooked up in a chemistry lab.

Not only is the Market a convenient source of flavorful, nutritious food, but I've also noticed some of our vendors do a great job of riding food trends. We've had kale chips and gluten-free baked goods and fresh juices. Greek yogurt and hand pies and kim chee. Can't wait to see what this season's offerings include!

Food trends follow an arc, as this article notes, moving from Discovery to Popularity to Mainstream (Ho-Humness) to Been-There-Done-That. I'm glad to read that eggs, butter, and whole milk are back in, since we consume plenty of those. Sadly, also trending are pre-made sauces which you dump in a pan and heat. Today's version of Hamburger Helper.

Kicking it old school, for you lovers of fake home-cooking

Ah, well. You win some, you lose some.

Whatever you're eating--flavorless or flavorful, trendy or classic--I leave you with these handy reminders of "5 Healthy-Eating Strategies That Will Outlast Any Trend" from a recent Huffington Post. 

Do a self-test. I scored 1 out of 5.

  • No, I don't use small plates. 
  • No, I don't eat twice as many vegetables as protein/grains. 
  • Yes, I eat colorfully. 
  • No, I don't try to "quash" unhealthy snacking. 
  • And, no, I don't eat mindfully.
Looks like the Market can't come soon enough...