Food Semantics: The Art of Getting Your Kid to Eat That

Food Semantics-The art of getting your kid to eat that


My mother was a veritable food re-naming artist, and she was rather creative with presentation too.

You think you are going to be a wholly honest parent that never sneaks a healthy ingredient, any you think that by offering only healthy foods, there will never be discover that kids really do exhibit free will.  Yes, my kids will still say brussels sprouts are their favorite vegetable, and Peanut (age 9) explained how to cook Kohlrabi to a complete stranger at the farmer’s market (I totally thought she was going to kidnap him after the transaction).

There is still some need for, shall we say, creative parenting around the table.  Here are some of our family secrets with food re-naming:

With my mom, each pancake was a surprise—she used food coloring (who knew it was bad for you back in the days before car seats and bicycle helmets?) to make green “dollar bills” and cartoon character faces.  Of course, I liked the money best.  Today, consider adding beet juice for heart shapes or powdered asparagus or spinach for a pinch of green.



It's all gravyI hated gravy then and I still do now.  But then again, my mother usually served “white sauce” or even “brown sauce” and ironically, I still enjoy both.  I also like a little roux now and again.

Just not gravy.


“Bouncy balls?  I LOVE bouncy balls!” I squealed as I discovered that my best friend’s mommy knew how to make my favorite squishy vegetable.  “Just whatever you do,” my mother warned her, “do not call them peas.” 

Tigger TailsMy children enjoy “pirate stew” and “cowboy pie” on occasion, and who wants to eat Rotini pasta when you can eat Tigger Tails?

And just as I was a friendly sort of giant in the land of broccoli trees and brussel sprout cabbages, so my children also experience the world in miniature as they nibble baby corn or carrots.

As it turns out, I come from a long line of Food Adventurists.

My grandparents were extremely poor, having eloped at 16 years of age.  Both of my grandparents had to work full time just so that the family could meet the rent payment, and on many late nights it would be up to Grandpa to care for the children.  As poor families know all too well, beans and cornbread are sometimes eaten three, even four times within a single week.  My grandfather would write my mother’s name in her cornbread with food coloring so that she would at least eat her name, if nothing else.


And as for the beans—my grandfather drew a picture of a campfire and set it upright in the living room floor.  The children sat around the fire to eat the beans, telling cowboy stories and spinning yarns.  My mother, as young as five during those times, remembers that cornbread as though it was a love letter written by her father, and those campfire beans as though they were prepared on a family vacation.

What will be your next food adventure?

Be sure to share your family’s food names below! 

Food Semantics-The art of getting your kid to eat that


Photo Credits: 

Canned peas
Tigger Tails
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