Not long ago, a good friend sent the link to an article talking about the new and buzzy book French Kids Eat Everything. It made me uncomfortable and that discomfort and similar previous nagging feelings gave birth to the Family Meal, a new section of the blog. I did not read the book, but the title irritated me. Say this to yourself – French kids eat everything – and you will hopefully get uncomfortable too. Seriously, think about it.
There is nothing magic about French kids. They are born the same way all kids are born: 10 fingers, 10 toes, two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and a blank slate for growing, learning, and developing everything including taste in food. French kids and American kids and Romanian kids and Venezuelan kids – probably Martian kids too if there were any- all of them eat everything. They are wired to eat everything, sooner or later. Must you look up to the special French kids who eat everything? Take their example? Follow their lead? Wonder in shock and awe, whispering, How do they do it? You got it: no. If you have a kid, your kid eats everything. So stop. Stop thinking your kid can’t cause…he was born picky, she doesn’t have a taste for something, or she is too stubborn to actually give it a shot. Your kid, just like that French kid everyone now talks about, can eat anything.
This is what I made for mine last week, inspired by a Bon Appetit recipe. The feedback: she ate it. The story on how is for another day.
Spring Chicken Salad, adapted from Bon Appetit
Ingredients: 4 sprigs tarragon; 2 large shallots, 1 halved, 1 minced; 2 garlic cloves, 1 smashed, 1 minced; 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts; Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper; 3/4 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt; 3 tablespoons olive oil; 1/2 pound thinly sliced stringed sugar snap peas; 1 cup shelled fresh English peas; 1/2 cup thinly sliced stringed snow peas; 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley; 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives; 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon (or more) fresh lemon juice.
To poach the chicken, place tarragon sprigs, halved shallot, smashed garlic, and chicken in a medium saucepan. Add water to cover by 1 inch and season with salt and pepper. Bring water to a boil; remove pan from heat, cover, and let stand until chicken is just cooked through, 20-25 minutes, depending on size of chicken breasts. Transfer chicken to a plate and let cool. Shred the chicken.
For the dressing, whisk yogurt, oil, minced shallot, and minced garlic in a small bowl. Season dressing with salt and pepper.
Combine all peas in a medium bowl. Add chicken, dressing, chives, lemon zest, and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice, if needed.
Now feed it to the kids. And act like it’s normal. Or act like they are French- no, no, don’t do that. Just do it and trust them to eat it.