A Tasty Childhood: Starting them young!

What a week of family fun!

It started off with making a trip down to Sydney to take our little granddaughter to her first ever visit to the Sydney Royal Easter Show!

As a young teenager, I remember visiting the Easter Show with my friends and loving everything about it!

Growing up in the city, I wasn’t familiar with farm animals, where our produce came from and how did it get to the family table. Other than taking many trips to Taronga Park Zoo and being introduced to many varieties of animals, the Royal Easter Show was a great education to me about country life.

Funny how in just one generation life can change. 

Life on the Land

My mother grew up on the land. This land was in the southern part of Greece, an area called Messinia. Her village, Velika is just a few kilometres away from the beautiful Mediterranean sea and scattered with green pastures where my mother once shepherd her flock.

My father also grew up on the land. He was from the central part of Greece in an area called Evrytania. His village, Milia is surrounded with steep hills and pine trees – lovingly referred to as the Swiss Alps of Greece. Being a rugged area, they enjoyed wild herbs and walnut trees. The side of the mountains were covered in leafy vegetables in the warmer months as it was like a white sheet in the winter.

Life in the City

Migrating to Australia, they successfully grew fresh fruit and vegetables in their garden but the extent of farm animals was chickens and the occasional cat. No sheep, no goats and definitely no cows!

So my visits to the Sydney Royal Easter Show were filled with awe as I came face to face..or face to backside with some of these large and beautiful creatures.

My most favourite part of the show I must admit is the Art and Craft Pavilion and the Woolworths Pavilion. The displays of produce from the many districts in New South Wales was impressive. But the one that really impressed me was put together using legumes and by teenagers from one of the country schools! 

Helping our kids make good healthy food choices

I am convinced that when we expose our kids to nature – food and animals, we are more likely to see more of them making good healthy food choices – whether they choose to be meat lovers or vegetarians, they are more likely to eat a balanced diet.

I love watching my little granddaughter embracing all flavours. She loves to eat pastitsio (Greek pasta bake), loves eating Chicken Paella, loves a good curry and loves Keftedes (Greek meatballs). In fact, there is not much she turns her nose up at.

Her mother was the same. I used to give her lots of variety and large amounts. I remember one day my Aussie sister in law coming over to visit when Jessica was a toddler. I had a big bowl of food for her ready to eat and my sister in law commented, “Your not going to give her all that food, are you?” This girl always ate all her food!

Today, all my daughters are fabulous cooks and appreciate a variety of culturally diverse dishes.

So what’s the secret to getting your kiddies to eating a variety of food?

In my opinion and in my experience, the best way to approach it is to expose them to many flavours from a very young age AND involve them in the cooking process from a very young age.

What's the strategy to teaching your kids to be capable and resourceful?

Every year, at Greek Pascha (Easter) we gather together in my kitchen and bake an array of Greek sweets and Greek dishes for our big Greek feast. I always involved our girls, firstly by them watching me, then by partnering with me and now as adults they can mix a fabulous batch of kourambiedes or galaktobureko all by themselves.

My strategy was to teach them to be capable and resourceful in the basic skills of life so that by the time they reached their early teens, they were preparing meals for the family without too much assistance from me.

This year, we had the pleasure of our granddaughter joining us at the ripe old age of 15 months and ‘helped’ us in preparing the sweets for our feast. It was pure joy watching her getting flour all over her, tasting the dough and trying to stir the mixture. 

I remember even when she was around 8 months old and just sitting in her high chair. I would talk her through the procedure as I cooked her pancakes for breakfast or chopped the chicken for the paella. I knew she wouldn’t have a clue what I was talking about but I wanted to start somewhere with exposing her to the cooking process.

Doing your kids health a favour!

Not all children love to eat like our grandie. Our middle daughter was a little fussy with her food when she was a preteen but I used to insist she eat her greens knowing I was doing her health a favour. 

Where can you find some of these recipes?

We have quite a few favourite recipes we like to use at Easter time and I have included them in my recently published cookbook – In Sofia’s Kitchen: Mediterranean Flavours Down Under. Check out my website – www.insofiaskitchen.com.au/store where you can purchase your very own copy online for a fabulous price of $39.99.

Hope you all had a fabulous Easter with your families and if you are anything like me – you’ll be upping your exercise regime to shift those extra kilos you somehow found along the way!