The local Girl Scout troop contacted me to give a lecture to their seven year olds about nutrition. I was given thirty minutes to talk from 3:45-4:15pm. Do you know what a typical 7 year old wants to do during that time after a long day of school? EAT! These girls would be coming to me good and hungry and I was going to take advantage of that hunger with some unique fruits and vegetables and see if they would go for it. To start the talk I asked each person to tell me their name and their favorite fruit and vegetable. I told them my favorite fruit was a big, juicy strawberry and my favorite vegetable was a bunch of roasted Brussel sprouts. (RECIPE: get over your prejudice about them, buy them, cut stem, remove outer leaves, wash and dry, cut in half, coat lightly with olive oil, sprinkle salt, roast at 350 F, turn occasionally until dark, eat them.) As you can imagine, many of the girls could name their favorite fruit, but favorite vegetables took some thought. I had a bunch of carrot enthusiasts and a few fans of broccoli. As we went around the circle, one of the girls looked at me and said, “I don’t like any vegetables and my favorite fruit is strawberries.” She was going to be a hard sell. Before I began the sampling process, I told the girls I had rules. First, everyone had to take one bite of each food I brought. Second, if they took their bite and did not like the food, I did not want drama. There would be no comments like “Yuck!” or “Bleh!” or “That is disgusting!”. If they loved the food, they could sing its praises. They agreed.
I prepared three vegetables and three fruits and brought in the actual food so we could look at the item as a whole food before they would eat the sample I made. Here is what I prepared:
How I prepared each food:
1.) I lightly coated the kale with olive oil and baked it to a crisp chip
2.) I roasted the squash and tossed the strand with tomato sauce
3.) I julienned the jicama
4.) I peeled and chopped the kiwifruit
5.) I bought each girl one red banana to peel and eat it
6.) I offered whole dates as our pseudo-dessert
To start, I pulled out a beautiful kale leaf and when asked, no one knew what it was. I explained to them that this was kale, a cruciferous vegetable chock full of nutrients, and I had taken this leaf and baked it into a chip for them. Earlier that day my sweet mom had tasted these baked kale chips and lovingly said, “This is an acquired taste Mel”. I put one kale chip on each girl’s plate and announced, “Think of these as green potato chips”. For lack of a better phrase, THEY WENT NUTS! And you know who had the best response? The Girl Scout who did not like vegetables. I am not a die hard fan of the cookbook Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld because I think hiding broccoli in brownies really is deceptive, but associating my kale with a food most kids love was more than helpful. The girls asked for seconds and thirds and I had to put the bowl out in the middle of the circle so they could have more. Success!
Next, I pulled out the spaghetti squash in tomato sauce and some of their faces turned. A few of the bravest took a bite and declared it A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Positive peer pressure served me well on that sample; those girls ate my entire bowl of squash and the bowl was big. This enthusiasm about the vegetables and fruits continued for the full thirty minutes. This was such a thrill for me. I imagine this is how Alice Waters must feel in her Edible Schoolyard (www.edibleschoolyard.org) when her kids sample the foods they had a hand in growing and preparing. The sheer delight on their faces is a joy to watch.
I do not remember the Girl Scout’s name who initially declared she was not a vegetable lover, but I have to hope that this type of exposure yesterday provides her and the other girls a launching pad to open them up to a whole new world of food.