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Hey Parents, Quit Trying to Force Your Kids to be Foodies

“Pashipo?”

“No, honey.”

“Pashipo, mommy, pashipo?”

“No, baby, say it with me – shuh sheee TOE, like the big toe on your foot that your grampy always grabs. It’s a shishito pepper and you love it. Here, have one.”

In that lady’s book, “Here, have one,” translated to trying to shove a roasted pepper between the mashed-together lips of her child that she’s dying to force into foodie-dom.

“I don’t like it, it’s yuck.”

“You love it, you just don’t remember,” laughs Mom, nervously, as she basically calls her kid a liar in front of every other customer and wait staff in earshot. And then we learned that this is the specific level of discomfort that finally gets this mom to dial back down to a conversational tone — a volume level set to just reach her dining companions, as opposed to everyone else in the goddamn restaurant.

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At another place, my friend and I were forced to overhear another overly loud conversation at a dad-and-daughter lunch date where Dad encouraged his daughter to “please eat the yellowtail sashimi that I ordered because you said it was your favorite last time we went to sushi.” When she told him it looked “too slimy,” he turned red and gave a nearly 360-degree turn to everyone within range and said, “Kids, they’re so fickle.” Wow, pops, sorry your kid doesn’t want to down a plate of raw fish. What an embarrassment!

You might be a diehard, self-proclaimed foodie, or just a person who is enthralled by the culinary arts. Maybe you just like to eat. Whatever the case, that’s totally great. Get your food on. That love you feel for tasty eats and how they’re grown or prepared doesn’t mean you must try and force your chicken-nugget-loving mini-you into a show pony that loudly spouts their knowledge of food trends, celebrity chefs, and the sous vide process. If they want to, for reasons other than putting a smile on your face as you try and impress everyone from friends to strangers, that’s one thing. You engaging them in this awkward conversation in public with your megaphone mouth says something totally different.

I have friends, a couple, who have a child who does love sushi, and pork belly, and some off-the-beaten-path food items in the kid food category. Know how I know? The kid told me; quietly, and without his parents goading him into making a formal proclamation – or as my grandfather would say – a huge production – about it. They let him try some of the foods they eat and make decisions on what he would like to have again, and none of it is contingent on how many people at some hip restaurant’s Sunday brunch are gonna give his folks a pat on the back because he orders a side of guanciale, or asks for a fried egg to top his burger.

I’m not saying that if you’re lucky enough to have so many choices, you should opt for PB&J, or hot dogs, or traditional kid favorites every single time. But let the young folks develop their palates without you telling them exactly what they love. And if you do have to sit in a public place where the whole world can see your child munching on a slice of avocado toast covered in quinoa and kimchi, go for it – just forgo the public-service announcement. Pretty please.

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