A Weird Thing Happened This Weekend
Here’s the story. I made Beef Bourguignon and my kids ate it all up. They had seconds. They said it was delicious.
We even had it for leftovers at lunch today.
And they begged me to make it again. I know this may not seem too weird, but it is.
Hmmm, thought self, I have made beef bourguignon quite a few times before. But the kids never really adored it, not like THIS TIME.
Self? What did I do differently? It was the same recipe.
Wait a minute, this time I just put the food down and served it. They didn’t ask what was on their plate, so I didn’t offer to tell them, it was kind of like a secret. (Shh…you are eating Beef Bourguignon, did you know?).
Does The Name Beef Bourguignon Sound Scary?
To young kids probably. To teenagers maybe too.
Most kids are simple food eaters and they like to put the food they eat into categories:
- the rest
For young children, they don’t necessarily say “Can I have more chicken?” They say “Can I have more meat please?” Or like my youngest used to do, she would call all meat “chicken.”
So I realized from this experience (kind of in shock on why my kids would suddenly love my Beef Bourguignon), that if I put the food down at the table and say all proud-like,
Look kids! Oh yeah! (Aren’t I a nice mommy?) I made you Beef Bourguignon! (Saying this with my horrible French nasal accent)
Maybe just this funny food label makes them weary to eat it. “OMG, what is mom serving us now?”
My mistake and an experiment in action
So I will admit to you (here in black and white), that I really want my kids to have foodie cultural knowledge. I try hard to make new ethnic dishes that they might like. I invite them to help cook with me. We take them to funky ethnic or restaurants that make fresher and unique food. I go to a lycée hotelier (a high school to learn cooking) and buy ready-made take out old-fashioned French dishes (that I wouldn’t make at home such as boudin and andouillette and Canard a l’Orange (Duck with Orange Sauce).
But maybe I am doing too much?
Perhaps I should just put the food down and let them dive in.
And stop announcing, “This is Daube Provençale, or Moules Marinières or Polenta with Ragu.”
and just say,
A table ! (Dinner’s ready!).
I am going to try it. And see what happens.
Other Ways To Get Your Children To Try New Foods
Here are some other tips that I use when presenting other new dishes (some I used when serving homemade and differently-looking cold spinach soup!):
1. Put the food down either on the table or on your child’s plate and walk away for a minute. Usually they will take a taste, especially if you are not looking.
2. Support and respect your different children’s eating habits at the table without comparing between themselves. Some kids are naturally good eaters, some are picky eaters. Some like pizza and pasta and some like mushrooms and oysters.
3. Play the guessing game (rather than telling them what spices and ingredients are in the new food, have them guess)! This encourages them to taste the food and find it a game to figure out what they are eating.
4. Keep a straight face when they are trying new foods/dishes. (If your kids see you laugh at their funny tasting face, they will think you are feeding them some funky foods. Just take it all in stride!).
5. Have a ‘must taste but do not have to swallow’ policy. (I don’t know why, but since my kids know they can spit out the new food they find revolting, it helps them to taste. Most of the time they swallow and even more than often like the food (especially my stubborn youngest)!
6. Involve your kids in cooking (this one works very well).
7. Support individual tastes without your kitchen becoming a restaurant (my mom taught me this one). Make one dish and serve it, even if you know that one of your kids might not like what you are having for dinner. The next night change the menu. If you start making two or three different meals on the same night to satisfy different tastes, it will be tiring and hard to stop (and your kids won’t stop asking for their favorites).
Now that I got your appetite brewing, how about my recipe for Beef Bourguignon?
Here is my easy-to-make beef burgundy stew that originates from Bourgogne. Bourgogne is a region in France, translated to Burgundy in English. There are excellent wines in the Burgundy region, and this stew uses a red wine and long cooking time to transform cheaper cuts of beef to something tender and delicious to eat.
Let me know how it comes out. Open a decent bottle to make this stew, use one cup in the cooking, drink one cup while cooking and drink one cup while eating. Not that’s a zen meal, LOL.
My Easy To Make Beef Bourguignon (Beef Stew) (adapted from New Basics Cookbook)
2 pounds of lean beef stew meat such as chuck, cut into 1 1/2 inch square cubes
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon flour
8 ounces of bacon, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 ounces of tomato paste
1 cup of good quality red wine (recipe calls for Bourgogne (Burgundy) wine, but you can use a good quality basic red)
1 cup of beef broth
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 large sprig of fresh rosemary
1. In a large cooking pot on stove, sauté bacon on medium heat until cooked and soft but not crisp. Add the butter and let it melt but not burn.
2. Put the beef meat into the bacon butter mixture on stove and stir continuously until the beef is browned on all sides, about 5 minutes.
3. Sprinkle flour and chopped onion onto the meat and continue to stir for a few minutes more covering all the pieces of meat.
4. Add the red wine, beef broth, tomato paste, pieces of rosemary (taken off the sprig), pinch of salt and a few swirls of freshly ground pepper.
5. Let the Beef Bourguignon come to a small boil and then lower the temperature until the meat just simmers.
6. Cover pot and cook beef for about 2 hours, checking to be sure the meat is just simmering and mixing it from time to time. Turn off heat and adjust for seasonings.
7. Serve with buttered noodles or steam potatoes accompanied by a crisp green salad (before or after).
Final Thoughts On Feeding Children Gourmet and New Foods
My experience with Beef Bourguignon took me by surprise and made me realize that sometimes children do not want to hear a weird name attached to a category of simple food; in this case meat cubes cooked in a sauce.
This doesn’t mean I (or you) should give up the quest to get kids exploring new ethnic foods and recipes. Au contraire! Balancing the right way to serve and present new foods along with a ‘here it is, just eat it’ attitude will help your kids and mine to appreciate food for what it is: good taste, good nutrition, and good moments eating together.
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Bon Appetit! Warmly, Mary