lying to the kids, getting them to try things

I have a three-year-old and a four-year-old. Needless to say, mealtimes are often an exercise in finding the line between coercion and co-operation. Sure, Kiddo, we can have pesto pasta but you choose: beans or peas. No. Beans or peas. Yes, you can pick out the sun-dried tomatoes, if you really must, but if you try it, you’ll love it. It’s like a tomato sauce candy.


Think about it. I’m not lying.

Not this time anyway. I once told Louis that a sliver of orange capsicum was a carrot stick. He ate it. Then I told him the truth and now he eats capsicums (translation: bell peppers).

But it’s not just the kids who are learning to like new things. I’ve joined the fruit and vegetable co-op near us. Each week, for $12, we get an enormous bag of fruit, and another of veggies, and often add-ons – at least $24 worth of stuff. But we don’t get any choice about what’s in the bags. It’s something of a gamble. So far, no entire bag of artichokes, thankfully, because only a tiny bit of those things are edible, and when I say edible I don’t really mean it. (I love artichoke hearts but after one attempt at cooking them, I now buy them in jars, pre-prepared.)

So… in the last couple of weeks I’ve cooked and eaten things I wouldn’t have picked off a shelf, no matter how good the price: kale, parsnips and red cabbage. Kale, though it’s all the rage on the foodie and diet circuit, I’d never even tried before. I didn’t do a great job of cooking it so if we get it again I’ll try something different. Not a fault of the kale. If it’s on special, I’d buy it now.

The parsnips though – first try and they were amazing. I made carrot and parsnip chips and baked them babies so crispy good. We all loved them so much I bought more parsnips, over and above the co-op lot of fruit and veg, the next week.

Cabbage on the other hand… it has been my food-nemesis for years. We didn’t eat it – red or green – at all, growing up, because Mum’s not a fan. I’ve eaten it elsewhere, but never enjoyed it. I was once horribly sick after a dodgy hot-dog with sauerkraut on it, and call it confirmation bias or what-you-will, but I’ve often felt something like a gag-reflex in response to the stuff.

But an enormous red cabbage was in last week’s haul, so off I went to the internet for recipes that might make it more palatable. Worst case scenario, Luuk would get a lunch-box-full of leftovers for a few days. (Luuk will eat pretty much anything.)

I looked at a bunch of braised cabbage recipes and figured out what absolutely needed to happen to make the stuff edible, and then borrowed ingredient ideas from several different recipes – brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, red wine (and some for the cook), and some spicy sausages…

braised red cabbage

It was so good.


But seriously, delishimoso.

There were left-overs (because a cabbage is actually an enormous quantity of food for 2 adults and 2 halflings – who weren’t impressed by purple food – I did have hopes, but they were disappointed) so I loaded up a couple of pizza bases with the braised cabbage mix a couple of days later, added bacon and cheese and put them under the grill.

I had other leftovers too, so I made a variety of leftover-pizzas, but the cabbage ones were the best. Unlikely, I know, but there you go. So damn delish.

I also never ate Fejoias, growing up, but we have a tree at our new place and about a month ago I tried one for the first time. I’ve always said I don’t like them but I think the closest I’d come to eating them was the smell – not unpleasant but unique and probably made more pungent because they’d been in some kid’s lunchbox for several hours.

Turns out, I adore the things. I’ve been eating dozens a day. And yay, because free food!

free vitamin C!

Of course, it doesn’t always go this way. I’ve been tasting and trying different olives for years and I still don’t like them. Not even in tapenade.

But worth a try. Tastes change. Attitudes toward new tastes change. That’s as much the point. When we were travelling and living overseas, experiencing strange, new things was part of the adventure, and coming home I definitely wanted to keep that attitude toward – not just toward food, but all of life.

So here’s to taking a bite, and another, and falling a little bit in love with Fejoias!

ps. For my foreign friends, fejoias are a something like a cross between passionfruit and kiwis. They have a tough matte-green skin, are shaped like a rugby ball, and inside are white and brown – browner when they’re riper. The center is seeds and their goopy surrounds, like passionfruit, but the inner rind is soft and sweet with a texture similar to a floury apple. There are loads of different varieties – more sweet or sour, larger or smaller – and they are very seasonal. People give them away by the bag-full this time of year but they’re impossible to find in summer.

One thought to “Co-op Coercion”

  • Hélène


    I just love the spin you put on veg for your kids. And of course calling a capsicum sliver a carrot isn’t a lie, pfff.

    As you have wonderfully illustrated with cabbage, never give up after just one failure, including with artichokes. Just boil them as they are for a while then – when cooled a little! – have a lot of family fun plucking each leaf and dipping it into vinaigrette. There’s a tricky moment when you get to the bristly bits (“la barbe”, literally: the beard, for your non-francophone friends) before the ultimate reward of the heart.

    Also, have you found a gender divide in your household when it comes to parsnips? In my experience, women love them and men hate them…

    And finally, I’ve just been shown round friends’ allotment gardens this weekend. They’re delightful but clearly only for the truly dedicated, ready to put an awful amount of work into them, i.e. possibly not people with young kids, jobs/writing and all that kind of thing. Co-op bags sound like a perfect half-way house.

    PS: You did try olives from the Nice area, right? (tiny purply/black ones)

    PPS: So I have to time our next visit to NZ in fifteen years or so to coincide with fejoias season?

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