Tony Nay­lor on eat­ing with chil­dren

Olive - - Contents - Tony Nay­lor

All foodie par­ents face a dilemma. Do we in­duct our of spring into the faith (should there be a bless­ing cer­e­mony with ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil?), or do we let them fnd their own path? Per­son­ally, I take a highly re­laxed ap­proach to Nay­lor 2.0’s food con­scious­ness. More by ac­ci­dent than de­sign, my lad will hap­pily de­mol­ish a tub of no­cel­lara olives be­fore I can say: ‘Oi! Hands of! Do you re­alise how ex­pen­sive they are?’ He has foodie par­ents and, at the age of three, he’s eaten more widely and more ad­ven­tur­ously than I had when I was 28. I grew up on Kwik Save No Frills ched­dar and frozen four-for-£1 piz­zas. He goes to San Se­bastián pin­txos bars on hol­i­day… and then re­fuses to eat any­thing. Which is fne – he can have a sand­wich later. I’ll eat his. Other par­ents may ac­tively tu­tor their chil­dren in the ap­pre­ci­a­tion of fne food. Other par­ents may loudly broad­cast how their litle dar­ling will eat any­thing. Not me. Frankly, mod­ern life is stress­ful enough, with­out try­ing to per­suade a tod­dler to eat monk­fsh cheeks. En­sur­ing that your child eats nu­tri­tiously (a bor­ing war of atri­tion in it­self), that they value food and can sit still in a res­tau­rant – these are im­por­tant. But try­ing to turn your child into a gourmet is, frankly, mak­ing a rod for you own back. A rod of un­eaten black pud­ding, up­ended kale sal­ads and an­gry stand­ofs. With that in mind, here are my al­ter­na­tive point­ers on food and re­spon­si­ble par­ent­ing. Chil­dren are id­iots Con­trary, ar­bi­trary, im­pul­sive id­iots. That is why we do not let them vote or use ma­chine tools. And that is why if you ever fnd your­self in a tear-stained tantrum over your child’s sud­den dis­like of, say, stewed pears, you need to dry your tears, pick the baked beans out of your hair and take a breath. They ate them yesterday. They will to­mor­row. That is how kids are. The only con­stant about chil­dren and food is that if you deep-fry any­thing, they will eat it. Ev­ery­thing else is any­one’s guess. If kids are hun­gry, they will eat Anx­ious par­ents ofen ofer re­cal­ci­trant tod­dlers 101 op­tions, to try to get them to eat. Don’t. Pro­vide one op­tion and, be­lieve me, if that child does not eat that meal they cer­tainly will the next. Vary your child’s diet… which for el­e­vated food­ies might mean, let­ing them eat junk. It’s nat­u­ral – if only for your own amuse­ment – to want your child to try your 99% co­coa solids cho­co­late, crispy tripe or squid ink risoto, but it would be cruel to deny them, as a treat, those highly pro­cessed foods that have been sci­en­tifcally en­gi­neered to make their tiny minds ex­plode. Think of it as re­spon­si­ble so­cial con­di­tion­ing. I would be hor­rifed if I raised a food snob who, at a mate’s party, turned his nose up at the plas­tic cheese and salty snacks be­cause he wanted Stink­ing Bishop and beet­root crisps. Get strict – or get the iPad out You want to take your chil­dren to a res­tau­rant? Fan­tas­tic. As long as I do not see or hear them. I don’t want them run­ning around or or­der­ing drinks at the bar, nor do I want to lis­ten to a long tor­tu­ous de­bate at the next ta­ble about whether your litle cherub is go­ing to have chips or salad. Get this: I re­cently saw a child scooter­ing – yes, scooter­ing – around the ta­bles in a packed din­ing room. De­sign­ing the chil­dren’s menu Chef, we ap­pre­ci­ate your com­mit­ment to real food, but re­mem­ber that there’s a fne line be­tween cre­at­ing fresh, favour­some kids’ meals and mak­ing eat­ing out a chore for the par­ents. Litle kids are not in­ter­ested in poached salmon. Burgers, fsh fngers and sausages are not pa­tro­n­is­ing. Kids love that stuf. Just make it the best it can be. Ed­u­cate your kids about the true ori­gin of food Beef comes from catle, not the su­per­mar­ket. Ex­plain why you shop eth­i­cally. Just spare them the bloody, vis­ceral de­tail. I once saw a small girl run scream­ing from a river­bank, afer an an­gler landed a cute litle fshy and promptly whacked it over the head to kill it. Oops. …and its value At the su­per­mar­ket, put some­thing in the food bank col­lec­tion. The most im­por­tant thing you can teach your chil­dren (think how this feeds into is­sues of waste, diet etc) is that food is a pre­cious com­mod­ity – one that peo­ple strug­gle to aford. Food doesn’t grow on trees (well, not all of it). Make your kids run around Child­hood obe­sity is an in­dus­try. We fret our kids are eat­ing rub­bish and get­ing fat, then al­low the same com­pa­nies who sold us that rub­bish to sell us a new healthy ver­sion. Break that cy­cle by in­sist­ing your kids walk to the shop be­fore buy­ing them an ice-cream. Buy loads of fruit It’s a myth that chil­dren do not like fruit. It’s brightly coloured, sweet and fun to un­wrap. The only prob­lem is that which fruit they like and whether they want it peeled, de­seeded etc, changes on a daily ba­sis. Chil­dren are an­noy­ing like that. Should I in­tro­duce my chil­dren to mod­est al­co­hol con­sump­tion in the home? It does not mater. All teenagers binge drink. The ones who en­joy the oc­ca­sional small glass of wine with din­ner binge drink and the ones who have never touched a drop binge drink too. Blame life, Bri­tish cul­ture, hor­mones, but not your­self. You can do noth­ing about it. Other than pour your­self a large G&T and stand by with the sick bucket. The joys of par­ent­hood, eh?

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