Cooking Childishly

July 15, 2010

"Alice in Wonderland:"  A tea party featuring "Croque Monsieur" sandwiches.

I don't have children. Don't even have them on the horizon. But thinking of myself as an adventurous eater with a penchant for making meals involving exotic ingredients, I can't help but wonder how some of my favorite daring dishes would appeal to my future children. Will they turn their tiny noses up at caramelized brussels sprouts? Balk at brie? Or poo poo the thought of panzanella? I hope not.

But that's not to say that I always eat things that sound as though they've been plucked from the pages of Bon Appétit. I eat macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, and even chicken nuggets. I just don't believe in the separation of adult food and kid food. Because really, who decides what children will or will not find appetizing?

The connection between children and picky palates may be, at least in part, an inaccurate assumption. One that leads some parents to prepare two meals- a task that must prove taxing. But what if instead of changing the foods that we present to kids, we change the presentation itself? Even better? Getting kids involved in that presentation.

I've got a fanciful mind. At twenty five I'm still playing with my food. Reverting to childhood as often as possible. Mixing peas with mashed potatoes, doodling with ketchup on my plate. A few months ago, my whimsical way with food led me to create dinners inspired by my favorite children's books. For a whole week I concocted and styled meals based on "Alice in Wonderland," "The Hobbit," and even "The Giving Tree." It was part madness, part marvelous. My boyfriend and I dining with the likes of Winnie the Pooh and the Mad Hatter.

And though I was only feeding my own childish mind, I can't help but think that these silly suppers would have delighted a tyke. The fun of dreaming up a dinner to go with Roald Dahl's "The Witches," making it, and then staging it just so. Perhaps then, split pea soup would be more palatable.

I could be wrong. Kids might still find portobello mushrooms icky. But it's worth a try, even if only for your own wacky entertainment.

"The Hobbit:" Portobello mushrooms stuffed with ground bison and topped with caramelized onions, and goat cheese. Served with a sweet potato.

"The Giving Tree:" A tree formed from brown and wild rice with wilted kale leaves, and chicken stuffed with tart apple, brie cheese, and bacon.

"The Witches:" Split pea soup in a small cauldron, surrounded by all things witchy- potions and worms (of the gummy variety).

"Winnie the Pooh:" Honey baked ham with scalloped potatoes.

What do you think? Would children eat more adventurously if meals were presented differently?

-Andrea Mitchell, Foodista staff and blogger at



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Glass Bottles's picture

Very cool ideas. Thanks for sharing them with us!

Helen's picture

Very, very cute photos! Love it.

Jennifer's picture

Right up my alley! Very cute, we always make presentation a big deal too!

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