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Never underestimate the palettes of children. Not all rely on chicken nuggets, boxed mac and cheese and Lunchables. Meet my young friends Jack and Ian, whose mom placed the winning bid on a "Tour of the Test Kitchen and Cooking Lesson" on their behalf. They're 10 years old and eat anything not nailed down. When asked what they'd like to learn, they said, "Something spicy, ethnic and complicated." How cool was that? With just two hours to do everything (including eat), I suggested Vietnamese food: spicy, ethnic and complicated—and quick.
"The recipes I chose were yummy fresh summer rolls with a spicy nuoc cham and a fantastic banh mi (Vietnamese hero sandwich) from Charles Phan, chef and owner of The Slanted Door in San Francisco. The summer rolls were especially fun for the guys because they could get their hands dirty and NOT have to wash them before eating. The spicy pork meatball banh mi on the other hand required hand washing before AND after cooking. Fish sauce, an otherwise adult flavor (or so I thought), was quite popular, as were the fiery hot Thai chiles for the nuoc cham.
As a mom of two kids and (just as importantly) a recipe developer, I think this encounter with my friends Jack and Ian has changed the way I'll think about children and their eating. I won't be so quick to dismiss their budding taste buds or take for granted their willingness to try something otherwise "Ew , gross."