I am pleased to say that more often than not my kid surprises me as to what she will eat. I think (and hope) that a lot of it has to do with a decision I made early on in her life: let her decide what she likes and what she doesn't. I have never placed something in front of her with a wrinkled nose or words of warning that, "You may not like this, but give it a try anyway." I've always, even as a little baby, simply made dinner and given her some of what I was having. I have also made an effort to be excited about what we are eating. Food is fun! It's colorful. It smells good. It tastes good. It's messy. Isn't that why we adults like it? So why shouldn't kids?
This evening I took Lorelei to dinner at Lecosho. They've got a great happy hour menu and the place is pretty kid friendly (the owner has a toddler himself). The pricing was such that I was able to order a good mix of items knowing that we would both have something we would like without spending a ton of money. We had rillettes (aqvavit cured porc belly), spaetzle (potato noodles with brown butter), grilled house-made sausage with lentils and soft boiled egg, manchego cheese with lavender honey and almonds, pancetta-braised beet greens, and baguette.
Let me tell you, the most popular items on that table were the egg (my girl will eat eggs no matter how they come to her), the sausage (always kid friendly), and the greens. At first she didn't want to try the greens, but while she wasn't paying attention I slipped some into her mouth. She chewed it for a second then looked around the table for what it was. I showed her that she had just eaten that which she had just turned her nose up to and she said, "Oh! Yummy. More?"
Truth be told, I know that I am very lucky that Lorelei likes food and that she is a good eater, but I truly believe that if you give your kids choices and present those choices as something yummy and exciting, they will follow your lead. Of course, sometimes, they may not like it, but that will be their decision and you'll both learn something new.
If you're going to introduce something new and you're not sure how it'll go over, be sneaky!! Keep your game face on but plot against them. Here's an example. I had a friend and her two kids over for dinner a few weeks ago. The kids wanted dessert, but I had nothing to offer except fruit. Full disclosure; these kids are children of an adventurous chef, so they're predisposed to having a bit of a broad palate. However, they are still kids and will refuse water if they think it's looking at 'em funny.
Anyhow, back to dessert. I decided to serve them strawberries with creme fraiche. I sliced the berries and put them on one side of a bowl, placed a dollop of creme fraiche on the other side, sprinkled some brown sugar over all of it, then (here's my stroke of evil culinary genius) I stabbed a piece of berry with a cocktail fork (which kids love) and put the sucker smack in the middle of the cream. Now they had little choice but to try the potential offender if they wanted to get to the rest of the dish. I served all three of those kids two helpings of that dessert and plates were licked! Ha Ha!! Success!!
I guess the moral of this story is; sneak food into your kids diet and they'll like it... or not.