Throughout all cultures, love of good food is one of those threads that ties us all together. I grew up in the South, surrounded by amazing Southern cooks. Sunday dinners at my grandparents’ house were a ritual, filled with family and laughter and no shortage of biscuits, fried chicken and fresh veggies from the garden. We lived for those dinners! It was a way to fill our stomachs and our souls.
In addition to being a Southern girl, I also have a strong Mexican heritage. My biological grandfather was from Mexico, and although he died when my mother was very young, we remained in close contact with our other relatives.
When my Tia Lupita and Tio Julio would come visit, they would bring an entire suitcase full of food they made for the family. Tamales, salsa, churros- all delicious and comforting and soulful. My husband was an Army brat and his family moved all over the place when he was a child.
His favorite childhood memories are from the years they lived in Germany. The pretzels, the bratwurst, the chocolates…he speaks of them with a dreamy look in his eyes. Since his parents traveled so much, they cooked food from all around the world. Everything from Thai food to Southwestern American cuisines were staples for the family.
Incorporating My Heritage into Kids’ Meals
Since we both love to cook at home and dine out in equal measure, our children have been exposed to varied cuisines since birth. They have been helping us make homemade pizza, baking lemon ricotta cookies and rolling out pretzel dough since they were able to stand on a stool in the kitchen.
We have also taken them out to good restaurants since they were infants with the idea of teaching them not only how to behave in those restaurants, but how to each different types of food.
We love to explore Richmond’s food scene and our children stopped ordering from the kid’s menu long ago. My 9 year old daughter is the most adventurous of the two. Among her favorites are sushi and steamed mussels. She has eaten and loved sardines, kalamata olives, escargot and fried rockfish collar. She loves to try new foods and has taken a couple of International Cooking classes to learn about dishes from around the world.
My son is the more cautious of the two. While he doesn’t like stereotypical kid food like mac & cheese, french fries or peanut butter, he is very selective with trying new foods. He has a great pallet and loves things like calamari, salami and manchego cheese- but it would be nice if he would branch out a little bit more in the veggie department.
Regardless, we keep taking them to new restaurants and exposing them to new foods. He has recently added fried oysters as well as cheesecake to his approved food items, so the exposure must be working. While we have hit many stumbling blocks along the way, and sometimes our children just refuse to try something that seems weird to them, overall our hopes of expanding their food horizons has been successful.
We are about to travel to Spain with them for the first time and they are both excited to experience a new culture and new food on this journey. I know my son will be in heaven with all of the amazing meats and cheeses and my daughter will love all of the fresh seafood.
We all want to eat what the locals eat and learn what they have to teach us. Our family knows that food tells a story: where it is from, who grew it, what it means to a culture. I can’t imagine a better way to learn.