Learning to be Brave
08 November 2013
While studying abroad in college, I visited a friend in Denmark and was helping her to prepare for a "Traditional Christmas Lunch," (which she explained was traditionally not held at lunchtime, nor on Christmas, but that's another matter…) My friend was on the phone with one of her party guests and was talking rather passionately in Danish.
When she got off the phone she said, "He's bringing blood pudding. It's part of the traditional meal, but my family always skipped it. He said you have to try it or you won't experience a true 'Christmas Lunch.'" Wanting to be a proper guest, I smiled, but on the inside, the excitement I had been feeling started to to be replaced with dread.
I didn't know what blood pudding was, but it didn't sound good. I held out hope that it would turn out like the, "Spotted Dick," we had been served in England, which, thankfully, was a completely innocent cake "spotted," with small pieces of dried fruit.
When her friend arrived, I examined the package of blood pudding and tried to read the ingredients written in Danish. One thing was clear. It definitely contained blood. Lots of it.
After putting it off as long as possible, my friend and I picked up a shot of really strong licorice flavored liquor in one hand and a bite of blood pudding in the other. We counted down and then tried it at the same time, quickly chased by the shot. And, it wasn't that bad (especially after being fried and covered with syrup… and followed by a shot of Danish liquor.) After tasting it, the fear that I had been experiencing was quickly replaced with pride and bragging rights.
I don't have any desire to eat blood pudding again. But here's the thing. If I had to do the night all over again, if I could control the menu for the party; I would still want blood pudding to be included on the menu, and I would still try it. I tried it and nothing bad happened. The experience helped me to be more brave.
I thought about this experience when I shared this week's guest post by Jessica of Feed Me Dearly. In order to break her family out of the rut of picky eating, Jessica started a 52 week challenge to expose her family to one new food per week. Many of these foods were very exotic. In fact, most of them were things I have never even tried.
At first, one may be led to question whether this really makes sense. Does it really matter if her kids eat and like lychee, rambutan, or mangosteen? This week, my family tried prickly pear, and determined that we would never be buying it again. So, why bother? Why not focus on broccoli, or carrots, or just getting kids to sit down and eat what they're served for dinner?
The answer is that it helps them learn to be brave. If my daughter ate one bite of dinner and proclaimed that it tasted like, "pumpkin guts," I can say, without hesitation, that no one else would have tried it. But even after her not so raving review of prickly pear, everyone else enthusiastically tried it, and in most cases, not once, but twice (just to be sure.)
Trying something exotic is an event, it's a challenge, it's a social experience. The prickly pear sat on the counter all day and the kids anticipated eating it. They fought over who got to be the "guinea pig." They left the experience with bragging rights, and they got to experience being brave.
Like anything else, being brave takes practice. Bravery is like a muscle, we need to build it up. When kids have had a chance to practice being brave with exotic foods, it transfers over to the more mundane. And sometimes, it's easier to be brave with something over the top. It's like someone who is afraid of heights challenging themselves to skydive. Broccoli, spinach, fish, or whatever foods that they may see more regularly, suddenly seem a whole lot less scary.
Do your children react with fear to new foods? Do you think they would respond to a challenge like Jessica's? Have you ever eaten something that you were initially afraid to try? I'd love to hear your stories.
(*Note: If your children have food allergies, please be cautious when trying exotic foods, particularly fruits.)