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Pass the octopus: Foodies’ kids get adventurous

Don't dumb down food for your kids, say culinary authors with recent books offering tips for foodie parents looking to share the meals they love with their children. From octopus to artisanal cheeses, no menu item is too sophisticated to share with them.
/ Source: The Associated Press

During a Miami vacation, Nancy Tringali Piho's 2-year-old son reached over and grabbed a piece of octopus from the table's ceviche platter.

"He just couldn't get enough of it," she said. "All the people in the restaurant were turning around. They couldn't believe it."

Piho turned the episode into the title of her new book, “My Two-Year-Old Eats Octopus: Raising Children Who Love to Eat Everything.” She's one of several culinary authors with recent books offering personal stories and tips for foodie parents looking to share the meals they love with their children — no matter what's on the menu.

"When we go to restaurants, if they have a kids’ menu, that's the last thing we look at," said Hugh Garvey, features editor at Bon Appetit magazine and author with Matthew Yeomans of “Gastrokid Cookbook: Feeding a Foodie Family in a Fast-Food World.”

Garvey said his 8-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son eat artisanal cheeses, anchovy and olive pizza and even bear meat.

"We say don't cook down to your kids," Garvey said. "Don't condescend to them through food. Let them try anything and everything and leave it up to them. You can bias them and we try not to do that to them."

Emily Franklin, author of “Too Many Cooks: Kitchen Adventures with 1 Mom, 4 Kids, and 102 Recipes,” said she doesn't make separate meals for her children and wants them to expand their palates. Her goal was to introduce her children to 100 different types of food over a year.

“We felt like the world is becoming a giant nugget — chicken nuggets and pizza nuggets,"”Franklin said. "Kids are scared of trying new things. They rely on routine, but just being able to understand new stuff is not scary. Their willingness to try new things across the board is remarkable now."

A bonding experience
The movement comes out of a generation of foodie parents who want to share their culinary loves with their children, the authors said.

"As we have become sophisticated with our own palates, our children have followed along with us," said Tanya Wenman Steel, editor of and co-author of the book “Real Food for Healthy Kids.”

"We didn't give up going to good restaurants and we didn't leave our kids behind," Garvey said. "We held on to our food ideals and we're still cooking great foods within the constraints of a family."

Other parents see it as a form of bonding.

Matthew Amster-Burton, who wrote “Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater,” fed his 5-year-old daughter mushed and cut up pad thai and spicy enchiladas when she was 8 months old.

"Food is kind of our thing," Amster-Burton said. "She's happy to look through a cookbook with me. She'll speculate about things she wants to eat."

Before she was a mother, Franklin was a chef on luxury yachts. Food allows her to tell her children about that part of her life, she said.

"If you really love food, you want to able to share it with people who you love," Franklin said. "It would be a shame to just share peanut butter and jelly."