“My Mama is a yucky cook” This was my younger son’s first full sentence in school. He was asked to write one line to describe his mother. This was four years ago and I am not sure his opinion of my cooking has changed that much over the years! Getting to kids to eat Indian food can be a hard battle.
My son really disliked the smell of masalas (especially haldi- turmeric) and was never willing to try Indian food. I did give him dals while weaning. Once he got a bit older, he would refuse to eat anything that smelt of any spice. I did not want meal times to become a battleground and did not try and force him to eat the same food as the rest of the family. I have an older son who is 13-years-old and my experience with him was totally different. He loves “desi khanna” and his favourite snack right now after coming home from school is a bowl of dal and roti.
The situation with my younger son Fariz became a more serious issue when I took him back to my in-laws house in Dhaka and it was hard to deal with the comments of my “English Boy” who ate no spice! As is usually the case, it was less of an issue when I went to my parent’s house in India! No one commented on him eating plain paratha at every meal or chappati with Amul butter.
I am sure I am not alone in this situation and wanted to share some “tricks” that have worked with Fariz. I have spent some time trying to think of interesting ways in which to introduce Indian spices and flavours into his diet. I want to share with other mom’s in my position what has worked for me.
The first thing I realised is that Fariz was more willing to try something if it did not have a sauce or “salaan” as we call it in U.P.! The other discovery was that I could cook something in the same pot and remove a couple of pieces of meat or chicken and grill it. The meat had a BBQ look and he seemed happy to try grilled meat. The third success I have had is adding vinegar to dishes like Khare Masale ka Gosht, just separating a small portion and adding a dash of vinegar. I am not sure why it worked; maybe the vinegar smell temporarily covers the smell of the whole garam masalas in the dish.
Maybe it’s my Bengali blood; I had a bee in my bonnet about adding turmeric in Fariz’s food. Turmeric has such amazing healing and anti-bacterial properties. I would watch my older son eat all the spices and feel guilty that in some way I was letting Fariz down by not giving him the same food as my other child. I failed with all versions of dal. Adding turmeric to potatoes was a disaster and attempting to feed him kichri (which is a mix of rice and lentils with turmeric) was a non starter the moment he declared “I am not going to eat anything that is yellow!”
My turmeric success finally came with adding it to fish with lemon and salt and shallow frying the fish. I have been able to make this “acceptable” fish dish with fillets of Salmon, Trout and Tillapia. I fry the fish in olive oil. I never use Olive Oil for Indian cooking, only in this instance as it does help to mask the smell of turmeric!
Today I feel at peace with Fariz’s diet. It’s not been easy and the important thing is not to give up. When my son was a bit older, I tried reasoning with him and explaining to him why spices were “special” and an important part of Indian food. He did understand all of that- he just was not going to try it. I hope with time, he will start eating the same food as the rest of the family. Good luck to all the other mother’s going through the early stages of dealing with a fussy eater. It does get better as they get older!