My big daily goal is to create a supper (from scratch - no processed foods allowed - criteria set by my husband) that all five members of my family will eat and enjoy together. Needless to say, a crowd pleasing meal doesn't happen very often. "I don't like squash" comes out of my 4 year old daughter's mouth. My 2 year old son cries, "I'm not hungry" when he sees his plate (even though I know for a fact that he's had no afternoon snack and is very hungry indeed). My 9 month old has just learned to let food he doesn't like roll back out of his mouth and onto the floor. Grrr. At least I could depend on him being a cooperative eater. How can I get my kids to eat their suppers?
Plan #1: Ask Mom. My mom says I give them too large of portions, that the kids are overwhelmed by the amount of food I set in front of them. Fine. I cut down on the portion size. Sorry, Mom, no changes have been detected. Nice idea, though.
Plan #2: Educate. Being an Educator (in my past life, I taught various levels of English and Writing), I decided to teach my children about the foods I put on the table. My theory: If I get them more involved in what we eat, they will embrace mealtime. They will ask me what's for supper in an interested and happy sort of way. Could this be possible, or am I setting myself up for more heartache and mealtime frustrations? I might as well try. As it's shrimp season here in Maine, I decided to start with shrimp. It's a short season, just a few months, when you can buy these tender shrimp from the dock or from shrimp trucks parked at the sides of roads. It's a very tasty yet economical food to buy right now - only $1.65/pound for whole shrimp (and the locals tell me I'm getting ripped off at that price. But support a local industry, right?).
Anyway, the kids and I went to the shrimp truck, and bought $20 worth of shrimp from the fisherman. He told the kids how he caught the shrimp with a net from his boat. We took the shrimp home, and I poured them into the sink. I then had my kids hold one in their hands. My 4 year old was a bit hesitant, but as her younger brother was doing it, she timidly held out her hand, too. At first they touched the shrimp with trepidation, but eventually checked them out with enthusiasm.
At this point, I considered my shrimp class over. What I have always considered "the truly gross part" was to begin, and I didn't plan on involving the kids. I can just barely stand this part. When you buy the shrimp, they come with their heads on. So the next step is to snap off the heads. Bravely I started the process. Intrigued, the kids pulled their stools over to watch me. Next thing I knew, my son had a shrimp in his hands, and was removing the head! Never to be outdone, my daughter followed suit. Together, the three of us cleaned the 12 pounds of shrimp.
Final outcome: we had shrimp rolls for supper. Guess what? Everyone ate their shrimp with no fuss. No whining at this meal. Mission: accomplished. Did they eat the shrimp because of this hands-on experience? Because they now better understand where the crustaceans come from? Maybe. I know I have a deeper respect for the little critters now. But I think I'm going to follow up the Shrimp Lesson with a coloring activity next week, just to keep the enthusiasm alive!
Maybe next week we should go visit a beef processing warehouse...learn where our hamburger comes from!