When my 2-year-old daughter polished off a plateful of haggis fritters, I wasn’t sure whether to groan or cheer.
Instead, I stayed quiet and took a photo. I want my children to be adventurous eaters—and I’ve learned that often the best way to get your kids to open their mouths is to keep yours shut.
We are not, generally speaking, a haggis-eating family. Despite the fact that I’m part Scottish, the dish—traditionally a mix of minced sheep’s organs, onions, oatmeal, and spices cooked inside the animal’s stomach—has never crossed my lips.
BE COOL. It’s one of the most essential lessons of parenting, and one I have to relearn every day.
It’s not because haggis is unhealthy or tasteless (some people say it’s like eating spiced oatmeal). But like everyone else, I grew up thinking that too many foods were too gross to eat. When we were young, my brother and I teased our grandmother for sucking the marrow out of chicken bones and picking apart lobster heads, while we ate plain, dry chicken breasts.
Needless to say, she was the wiser eater—as I learned when pioneering chefs like Fergus Henderson made nose-to-tail eating cool again. Eating more of the cow, pig, chicken, or other animal, we reduce waste, support farmers and fortify our bodies; organs are concentrated sources of nutrients, such as vitamin A (liver), B12 (hearts), and DHA (brains).
I want my kids to eat more like my grandmother did.
It can be easier to do outside of the U.S., as we were reminded when my husband and I took our small kids on a six-month family trip last year. We were served blood sausage in Guadeloupe and ate trippa alla Fiorentina in Italy. In Scotland, haggis was ubiquitous.
When we ordered burgers at one hipster-y spot in Scotland, our server nodded. Then, hovering his pen over his order pad, “Would you like cheese, bacon, or haggis on that?”
It was my husband who broke the seal on haggis, ordering a fritters appetizer at dinner in Edinburgh. They arrived looking like hush puppies, and after taking a bite of one, he casually offered it up to my daughter.
There are two tricks to getting kids to try strange foods, whether you’re at home or away. First, introduce them one at a time, alongside familiar foods. A whole table of novelty can be intimidating.
Second, BE COOL. It’s one of the most essential lessons of parenting, and one I have to relearn every day. Don’t make a big deal about it. Don’t tell them they’ll love it, or that they might not like it. Just be kind of neutral and see what happens. Let them be the judge of what’s good and what’s not. I swear, it’s one reason our toddler eats mussels and our 5-year-old sometimes takes the uni from the sushi platter.
“Want to try this?” Drew said, holding a fritter up between his fingers. My girl turned and ate it in two bites.
“Yum!” she said. “More?”
Sara Clemence is a parent, freelance journalist, and author of the book Away & Aware: A Field Guide to Mindful Travel.
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