Friday, May 3, 2013

Things My Kids Eat That Yours Probably Don't

One of the benefits of being a bicultural family is that Sky, Pink, and Stow have been exposed to a wide, some might even say extreme, variety of food. Since Ren is a better cook than I am, and since I basically learned to cook in Japan anyway, nearly all of our dinners and about half of our lunches are Japanese.

I realize may be going out on a limb here, but I am guessing that your kids don't eat some of these Moe Family favorites:


Once we start to introduce table foods, the first favorite foods for all of them was wakame (sea kelp). Ren is convinced it's the perfect food for a growing baby. He may be right. Wakame is  low in calories or fat and high in things like calcium, iron, iodine, magnesium, and folate, not to mention several different vitamins. The most common usage of wakame for us is in miso soup.

Dried wakame (before it's reconstituted)
The kids also like good ol' seaweed. It comes in individual packages so they can take it in their lunch and wrap it around their rice balls.
While all of our kids love wakame and seaweed, only Pink P is a "dai-fan" (super fan) of arame. She would eat it every meal if we let her. Between the arame addiction and the princess fetish, I sometimes wonder if she's my kid. But then she stomps her foot and digs her heels in to fight a completely pointless battle about something that's only significant to her, and I realize she's just like me.
Arame--Pink P's Obsession (photo credit:


The kids also all totally dig tofu, which is awesome because then we could avoid that whole pureed meat phase when they started eating solids and needed the protein. Meat should never, ever come in a jar. I don't care what anyone tells you. Tofu is high in protein and low in saturated fat. It has been shown to lower cholesterol. Fortunately, no one has turned up allergic to soy yet, though it may just be a matter of time. Oh, and when you buy tofu, organic is best, but if not organic, at least make sure it's non-GMO certified.

Miso soup with tofu and wakame.


When I first started getting interested in Japan, my mom joked that it'd never last since I absolutely hated fish. Since the Japanese diet is very much fish based, she figured I'd either starve or find another way to spend my time. I hated fish so much, I couldn't even be in the house when it was being cooked.

Fortunately, things have changed. We now eat fish regularly (sorry, Mom!), but not too often (and not when pregnant), just to be on the safe side.  Like tofu, you should be aware of where the fish came from before you eat it.

The kids love salmon, but they also seem to indiscriminately love of all things fishy, including this:

Shirasu -- baby sardines (not one of my faves, not by a long shot)
And most of this:

Though no one, I repeat no one, can convince them to eat mushrooms.


Two out of three of my kids also love natto, which according to my informal research, is statistically impossible. Families are usually evenly divided over the natto question. Every seventh-grade class I taught during my time in Japan was evenly divided as well. I know this because one of the first grammar points I taught each year was "I like ~~." ("Do you like natto?" "Yes, I do." "No, I don't.") Given the number of times I asked or was asked this question, it's obviously a contentious debate. And yet, and yet, in my family 3 (and possibly 4) out of 5 of us, love natto. I am firmly in the "no" camp, and Stow is still too young to vote--mostly because it's hard to find so we haven't had any in the house since he started eating table food.

Photo credit:
What is natto, you ask? It's a sticky mess of fermented soy beans that folks usually eat with breakfast, though goodness knows Ren would eat it three meals a day if he could. Fermented = stinky. But actually, it's not the smell that I don't like. It's not even the sticky. It's the fact that when you chew it up, it expands in your mouth. My like/dislike guidelines for food are pretty simple: First, the food must be dead and no longer moving. Second, it shouldn't be chewy (unless it's candy such as licorice, taffy, or chewing gum). Third, if it is a meat, it should not too closely resemble its living form (so no heads or eyeballs, please), and fourth, it should never, ever multiply or expand once I put it in my mouth.

You'd be surprised the number of times one or more of these guidelines has been tested. There was the time the squid tentacle flopped over the edge of the plate and started moving up and down as it made a last-ditch effort to escape. There was the time a guy plucked out the fish's eye and popped it into his mouth just before I could get to it (darn!--and by "darn" I mean "OMG! Did he really just do that?!!?!!!!"). There was the time my mollusk tried to crawl off the teppan** when it started heating up. There was the raw chicken. And, there was the broth full of tiny swimming fish that was harder to eat than it looked.


And, of course, my kids like sushi. The stuff pictured below is one of Ren's creation. If they had their way, Sky would eat kappa maki (cucumber rolls) every day and Pink P, sweet potato rolls. But if you twist their arms, they will eat some of this stuff, too. Stow? Well, Stow eats just about anything.

In the end, it turns out we're lucky that the kids are adventurous eaters. It lets me pack lunches like this:

And it also makes it a tad bit easier to deal with our newly embraced gluten-free, casein-free diet. Not sure what I would have done if they only liked chicken nuggets, pizza, and mac-n-cheese!

**Teppan -- metal griddle used for cooking


Anonymous said...

My kids LOVE sushi. I have decided to try and introduce them to seaweed salad, because I just love it. And to look at it, I never thought I would. It is so refreshing and yummy. But I am going to have to say probably not on the natto. It really doesn't look appealing. But I will try anything once! I think that is why my kids love so many varied foods, they figure, if she tries it, why not. :)

Mama D said...

But the question is: will anyone in your family eat mountain potato?? My parents lived in Tokyo for four years and managed to deal with natto, but mountain potato was the one thing that my mom would not touch!

Anonymous said...

Possibly the four best rules for food that I've ever heard. In general, food should not have a HEAD.

Mom on the Edge said...

Your mom is right in my opinion! "Just say no to yama imo" is my motto -- the mountain potato falls into "expands when chewed" category.

Mama D said...

Does that comment make anyone else think of the duck in the Chinese restaurant scene in A Christmas Story?? ;)

viviane said...

I would be willing to eat everything there except natto, which looks really... eww ! and I am immediately checking "yama imo", but only out of curiosity.

Mom on the Edge said...

Hahahaha. Actually, yama imo just seem to have the most expansion power of any food I've eaten!

Ken said...

......."it's smiling at us!" :)

Ken said...

Actually, your packed lunch looks quite safe.

I've haven't tried almost any of those things you listed. Given the opportunity though, I think I would give them a go. :)