Felix was bored with all his usual food yesterday. He kept going to the fridge and looking in and asking me what he could eat that was different. None of my suggestions were of any interest to him. It was just before lunch, and he was hungry. I said, ‘let’s go on an eating adventure’. We went to the supermarket and Felix started choosing the food he wanted to try. The first thing he picked was Quavers, a sort of cheesy meltable crunchy crisp type thing that I was mad for as a kid. Then he chose some custard desserts, called ‘creme caramel’. Not my cup of tea at all, and though I knew he would not like them either, I had to go with it – you never know! Then he chose some squeezy yoghurt, the kind that comes in a tube. I think the only reason he wanted it was the pictures of Shrek on the box. He has a habit of getting all excited about something in the shop but when we get home, he won’t even try it. These impulse buys often end up in the bin as none of us want to eat them. So I said to Felix that I would buy all these things, but he had to really PROMISE to try a tiny little bit of everything. It didn’t matter if he didn’t like it, he could spit it out, but he had to taste it. He agreed to that so off we went to the check out and back to the car. The first thing he wanted to eat was the Quavers, he ate half a bag and said his stomach could not fit any more. I remember that feeling as a kid, how delicious when you first open a bag, but slightly nauseating after a few. Then we opened the yoghurt. He was laughing as he brought it to his mouth and just as he was about to put his lips round it, he stopped and said ‘I’m afraid’. I started laughing too and said it was ok to be afraid, and it was ok to spit it out if he didn’t like it, but he had promised to try. So he let me put some on his lips, he licked, juddered and pushed the tube into my mouth. So I ate it. But he tried!
This was all in the back of the car outside the supermarket. So we drove home and had some pasta and cheese for lunch. Then he wanted to open the custard. He got a spoon, and was giggling. But when I peeled back the lid and he looked inside he said ‘yeuch’ and got down off his chair. Later on in the afternoon he said he wanted to do more ‘taste adventure’ and started looking round the cupboards again. He settled on a can of tuna. I said he would love this as it is salty, not too chewy and had a lovely flavour. I opened the can and dug out a tiny flake, cut it in half and presented it on a little white china plate, dolly size, pretending to be a french waiter (he loves the movie Ratatouille about a rat in paris who becomes a world class chef…). I served myself exactly the same and we had a tiny fork each. He tried it without hesitation and loved it. He licked the plate and asked for more. I gave him another tiny portion and he started grinding black pepper on it. I said ‘That’s really spicey, you might not need too much’. But he carried on grinding, and when I said ‘That’s going to taste really hot, you might not like it’ the spell was broken. He formed his mouth into a perfect circle and threw his head back and went ‘Waaaaah, Mummy you have ruined the taste adventure’.
I could have kicked myself. I need to let him find these things out for himself. But my instinct is to shield him from ANY negative taste experiences which I fear will put him off ALL FOOD. Crazy mother! I actually don’t need to do it at all. I really will have to let him make these discoveries himself. But thinking about it again today, he had probably finished with the tuna taste experience as soon as he started putting pepper on it anyway…….
I put the rest of the can in a bowl in the fridge on a low shelf he could see. Later in the afternoon he asked for it again and had about a quarter of the remains, again on the tiny plate. He enjoyed it, and didn’t reach for the pepper and I kept my mouth shut.
This is such a huge leap forward for him in terms of his confidence around food. And a great new discovery for him, as cheese has been his main protein source up to this. He has eaten tiny amounts of chicken, prawn and salami before, but not with the (mostly) unrestrained enthusiasm he showed for tuna. I think also because I was (mostly..) relaxed and we had made it into a game, there was no pressure for him. It may be a one off, or he may take canned tuna in sunflower oil into his safe food circle, time will tell…