Day 1: It’s Working! (French Kids Eat Everything Experiment)

Before you Begin…
If you missed my first post about what this French Kids Eat Everything Experiment” (based on the book French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billion) is all about and why I’m doing it, I recommend you read that post before continuing (and eventually read Le Billion’s book!) so all this will make a lot more sense.
Breakfast…
It was our first day with our new French eating philosophy. I got twenty-month-old Celia out of bed and told her I’d made us a special breakfast. Her little blue eyes widened as she excitedly nodded her understanding. We’d barely set foot in the kitchen when she made a beeline to the fridge to see the new “Toddler Taste Training” papers hanging there. Without a word she left the room, and returned carrying her step-stool so she could study these mysterious papers on eye level. This gave me a chance to discuss our new plan to learn about food and practice tasting it together. I have no idea if she understood me, but an underlying French philosophy is that kids, even infants, can understand everything; and giving them credit for that allows them to exceed our expectations. So… I told little Celia about our plan.
I warmed up our breakfast while she continued to ponder the papers on the fridge that she couldn’t even read. We sat down to the breakfast I’d made the night before. It was high-protein oatmeal, consisting of plain Quaker oatmeal, peanut butter, almond slivers, chia seeds, dried cherries, and ground flax seed; topped with fresh raspberries and blueberries. I let her use a regular “grown up” ceramic bowl and sit in a real chair at the table instead of her high chair. I lit a candle for our centerpiece and turned on the Angus and Julia Stone Pandora station. I let her pick her napkin color (I usually don’t even give her one) and all on her own, she proceeded to open it up and lay it under her bowl as a placemat. She’s only used a placemat once before in her life, and that was when we hosted guests. She was definitely understanding that this was a special meal! I told her that was a good idea (partially because she’d already gotten some oatmeal on the table), so I did the same with my napkin. We had a very peaceful meal as we discussed the textures, smells, and flavors of the food we were both heartily eating.
After Breakfast…
We kept the music on during our post-breakfast play time, which made our space feel unusually calm and serene. It may have been a timing coincidence unrelated to being treated like a big girl at breakfast, but she was much more confident in her abilities than normal during playtime. Maybe it was just my view of her that had changed and made her seem so strong and ready for a challenge!
Eventually, I got around to doing my hair and makeup for the day. This once relaxing activity has evolved into the opposite now that I have a little girl who wants to be involved in all I do. The same little girl who’s about to lick the hand she just wiped all over the toilet seat.
But today, it was different. The educational tone of our breakfast set up our day to be a team effort towards learning, rather than a power struggle showdown. Even our getting ready time, as I washed my face then handed her the soap for “her turn” before I put my contacts in and handed her the empty case for “her turn”, was more of a learning experience than usual. If nothing else, it was at least a more enjoyable experience than usual!
After we both got ready for the day, we spent some time working through our Toddler Taste Training Plan. Week #1 is all about carrots. So I gave Celia a whole raw carrot to “experience” while we worked on the taste training carrot coloring sheet. We laughed when she failed to bite through it the first time, she smiled as she felt and smelled it, and we listened to her crunching sounds while she munched on it. We compared it to the picture we’d colored and then made a play dough model of it. She was all about carrots after this play time and couldn’t wait to taste them in a meal!
It’s a French rule to NEVER snack (see the rules in my original post). But I’m only French by last name and I’m new to pretending I’m French… so I got really hungry between breakfast and lunch! Celia and I both did!
I decided to give us newbies a break, and that if we were going to snack, it was going to be a good one! So we gathered some olive Triscuit crackers, cream cheese, canned salmon, capers, lemon juice, dijon mustard, and mixed appetizer olives (kalamata, manzanilla, etc.) and had fun building various combinations of cracker towers. Celia tasted all of it until finding something or other she didn’t like, then she stuck to the olives, both her old favorites and a few newer varieties. We made a plate for Scottie who was working in the “carhouse”. We spruced it up with some extra points for presentation and made the delivery a big deal so Celia knew this was not just any snack for daddy… but a fake French one!
My grandma had beautiful plates we’re using while staying in her cabin. But now that I’m working on my presentation, I finally get why so many people go with all white plates!
After our illegal snack, the real cooking for the week began. I plan to do most of my cooking in the first couple of days, so I can be done for the week after that. Our first attempt at a big cooking day, was a huge success! Celia “helped” the entire hour and a half I spent in the kitchen and she tasted almost every ingredient, even ones she’s snubbed in the past! It helps that cooking time feels like a special time to try new foods. She learned the word “taste” today and each time I replied yes to her request to do it, she was thrilled, no matter what the food was. Today she tasted: goat cheese, beets, salmon, Brie, capers, asparagus, greek yogurt, and three kinds of olives!
She also seems more willing to try new foods when she can taste one new thing at a time, rather than having it all mixed together in a completed recipe on her plate. Then once all the individual ingredients she tasted during cooking are mixed on her plate later, she’s much more open to trying the finished meal.
Lunch…
We decided to get the actual placemats out for lunch and I showed Celia how to set a table (the American with a toddler way, not the French way that makes me think of Leo learning about forks in Titanic). Once lunch was ready, we went outside to pick some flowers for our centerpiece.
Scottie started the Toddler Taste Training’s Tastebuds Activity with Celia while I put the final touches on everything. Scottie chose the music this time (probably Jack Garratt on Amazon music, but I can’t remember), and we all sat down to our beet salad with toasted walnuts, goat cheese, and micro arugula for our first course. Celia ate more beets than she ever has and her usual suspicions about goat cheese was diminished after she’d eagerly tasted it during cooking!
We moved onto our shepherd’s pie and she was all about that too. I think she normally would’ve been wary of the mashed potatoes, but since she’d stuck her finger in them multiple times to taste while cooking, she was actually excited to see them appear on her plate! Over lunch we talked about the variety of carrots we’d tasted already today like raw, cooked, and frozen. Yes, frozen. I did cut some corners the French would never dream of. Besides the frozen veggies, I also had the tenacity to use canned beets and fake mashed potatoes to ease me into my new lifestyle.
We had peach yogurt for the dairy course. We loved Dannon’s Oikos Triple Zero Greek Yogurt that has tons of protein and is sweetened with fruit juice and Stevia leaf extract instead of artificial sweeteners or extra sugar. Well when I say “we” loved it, I mean Scottie and I. Celia wasn’t a fan until I brought out the apple slices for dessert and she realized yogurt holds the power of toddler dipping fun.
Something you might not know about me is that I have a real problem with the texture of apple skin. It’s a strange thing, but I get major goosebumps over my whole body when I even THINK of apple skin. So eating one was not easy, but I did it! Even with my husband laughing hysterically at my intense reaction and expressions the whole time I shuddered and chewed. I was kinder to him as he suffered through his strong dislike of beets. We decided we can’t make a house rule that we must taste everything, if we aren’t willing to do it ourselves!
Yes, I am a photographer… but of people, not of food!
After Lunch…
Cooking dinner definitely did not go as smoothly as cooking lunch. It went a lot more how I’d thought cooking a large meal with a toddler would go! I had to re-squeeze my fresh lemon juice when I found play-doh marinating in my first bowl. Then I burned my garlic while dealing with a play-doh-less child, forgot to defrost my salmon, and didn’t plan enough time to finish cooking with all these interruptions. But even with all that, I still enjoyed this cooking experience more than most of the others in my life where I was doing the bare minimum to get by.
Dinner…
Just before dinner was ready, Celia went into the drawer and grabbed three of the placemats we’d used at lunch. Lunch had literally been the second time we’ve used placemats since we’ve been staying here at my grandparents cabin, so I couldn’t believe she knew what they were or where they were! She said “Mama, daddy, Cece” as she put each one down in the right spot. She did this all on her own! I think she’s enjoying all these special family meal times already!
Celia loved the carrot starter, which she’d been training for all day in our “taste training” work! She tasted the asparagus and salmon, until she tipped over in her grown-up chair with a bite of salmon in her mouth, and decided she was all done with that fish nonsense.
I found out that the crackers I served with our manchego cheese and fig marmalade, had pulled a fast one on me in the grocery store. They contained fennel… my food nemesis. And I was forced to eat them since Celia was being forced to taste the salmon that she believed made her fall over in her chair. The manchego was the one food Celia refused to even taste today. Though by the dairy course in our long meal, she was having fun getting out of her chair for impromptu dance parties to that oh-so-rockin’ Ray La Montangue we had playing on Pandora. She was back in her high chair before the meal was over.
When the strawberries and chocolate mousse (aka dark chocolate I melted into extra creamy cool whip) came out, she was very impressed and “oohed” over it in the pretty little dessert dishes my grandparents have.
Until she picked it up and saw brown goop (mousse) on the bottom of the strawberry and said “uh oh” repeatedly as she attempted to throw it before daddy caught it in time. After watching us enjoy it, she eventually dipped her finger in for the tiniest, tip of a fingernail amount possible to taste. She realized it was amazing and licked up all that was in her bowl, plus any extra I could scrape from the mixing bowl. I thought maybe now she’d trust things she’d been afraid of, like manchego! Nope.
Thoughts on the day…
Day 1 of the “French Kids Eat Everything Experiment” was a great experience and I had a wonderful day. It enhanced the quality of my time with my daughter, grew her understanding of food and cooking, and pushed her to try foods she’d previously been unwilling to taste. I also was really surprised at how much I enjoyed the cooking process and how good my food was! I guess it pays to use fresh ingredients and spend longer than ten minutes of prep before throwing it all into a crockpot! Plus I loved how satiated, but not stuffed I felt! My body felt energized! Which is crazy because with all the courses of very filling food, I felt like I ate a ton, but somehow I felt less weighed down than after my typical meals.
I will say however, that I was exhausted by dinner! I decided that French Women Don’t Get Fat because they burn so many calories doing all that cooking! But I’m committed to a full week of following the menu I made. If I survive that, I’ll decide what I’m doing next week!