How to get your family to try new foods

Apr 2, 2018 | Food and Culture

It is easy to get trapped in a cycle of making the same food over and over. It happens honestly and usually without notice. You find a dish you like. You make it a few times, the family likes it. One day you’re making that same dish and you realize that you’ve made it exactly the same every Tuesday for the past six months. You take a second to think about it, you realize that you have a dish for every day of the week. How do you get out of this cycle? How do you get your family to try and to enjoy new foods?

What if they don’t like it?

It can be nerve-racking trying a new dish. Food is expensive. Your family is picky. What if they don’t like it? What if you put in the time to make a nice dinner, to make something new, and everyone hates it?

If you hand me a parsnip and adamantly tell me its a carrot, I’m going to get some pretty weird feelings…

I don’t have kids, but I do have a pretty good understanding of the relationships people have with food. People have very strong feelings attached to food. These feelings are probably based on some evolutionary safeguard put in place to prevent us from poisoning ourselves. Because of this, we attach strong feelings to the perception we have of what we think something should look and taste like. If you hand me a parsnip and adamantly tell me its a carrot, I’m going to get some pretty weird feelings pretty quickly. The more adamant you are, the stronger my negative feelings are going to get.

…want people to try new foods, don’t give it a name…

In my experience, if you want people to try new foods, don’t give it a name. If you make an authentic taco, but your family has only ever had old el paso, don’t call what your making tacos. Don’t even call it Mexican. Just say it’s something new you saw and wanted to try.

When you say taco, your family expects something very specific.

The secret to getting people to try and to enjoy new foods is to circumvent their expectations. When you say taco, your family expects something very specific. They will be disappointed when you present them with something that doesn’t fit those expectations. It doesn’t matter how delicious it is. If instead, you just put the food on the table and say it’s something new, they won’t be so reluctant to try it.

Once they’ve enjoyed this new dish, you can then tell them that it was a taco. You can explain that this is an authentic taco like the ones they actually eat in Mexico. Tell them about the difference between this and the old el paso version. This has created a positive connection in their minds. You have managed their expectations and thus have been able to introduce something new to the dinner table.

I know that this works because we have used it restaurants for years.

I know that this works because we have used it restaurants for years. A perfect example would be a Manhatten Chowder. When someone says chowder, your mind jumps to a cream based soup. Manhatten Chowder is tomato based. It is easier to describe Manhatten Chowder as a Tomato and Seafood Soup than it is to use the term chowder. People will love the Tomato and Seafood soup. They will hate the Manhatten Chowder. It’s the same dish, it’s just that the expectations are different.

This is the best advice I can give you on getting your family to try new foods. It will work. And, the more often you introduce something new, the more willing, and excited your family will be to try new foods. Hopefully, this will also create an excitement for you to learn new things, and to cook more than you do now.

 

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