seafood, and kids can be an incredibly challenging combination. But, I've
learned to respect that what kids object to most about fish is a fishy
smell! And kids do have a valid point -- fresh, pristine fish should not
smell at all! Clever parents, who are determined to broaden the family's
diet to fish and seafood, will search out a clean and respected retailer,
one whose establishment is cool in temperature and void of strong odors.
Get to know the purveyor and explain to them how you want to make fish
and seafood more palatable to your entire family.
Kids need to know there are nutrients in fish and seafood that do not
exist (or rarely) in other foods: omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin E. Additionally,
fish and shellfish are good sources of zinc, magnesium, calcium, iodine
and more nutrients that are important to the body's optimum functioning.
A desire to include these in the family diet is to improve health and
well being, not to have more 'power' over them, as some kids may think.
Below are some family activities aimed to introduce the appreciation for
fresh fish and seafood, along with some proven family-friendly recipes
from my book, Cooking
Time Is Family Time.
Schedule a time when you can bring the kids into the store when it's not
super busy, and ask the sales help to let your kids make a close-up inspection
of several very different species of delicious whole fish - say, snapper,
sole, flounder or trout. Let them see that quality fish do not smell,
and let them touch and even pick up the fish for further inspection. (If
your retailer can order one small fish with scales still on, all the better
so the kids can see how the scales feel and you can explain how they protect
fish.) Point out that while all fish have the same number of fins and
gills they appear different because they have adapted to their environment:
are tropical, red and blend into a coral reef, their heads are usually
long and pointed
and flounders are flat, bottom feeders whose eyes travel from one side'
when they are young to the 'top' as they age, leaving a white underbelly
that hugs the ocean floor
fish have huge fangs that stick out of their mouths because they eat
hard mollusks and need strong teeth to break down the shells
has more fat under its skin that a warm-water fish to keep it warm in
icy northern Atlantic waters
While at the fish store, ask the kids to choose a fish, (you're committing
to buy here, so guide them to a smallish one), and ask the fishmonger to
show the kids step by step -- slowly -- how they fillet it! See if they
can perform this within inches of the kids, so they can really see what
is going on and examine the fish in the process. Have the kids select a
couple more very different fish and ask the fish monger to fillet them --
unless you now want to try the operation at home! Now you are ready for
a family taste test at home to compare the differences in flavor, texture
each fish the same way -- by steaming them in a bamboo or other steamer
at the same time. Serve them with something tasty like the Caribbean Salsa
recipe below or other simple veggies and pasta your kids like. Give each
family member a small amount of each of the varieties you steamed, and
don't tell them which is which (no biases please!).
Ask them to talk about the fish, rating them in order of preference in
3 categories: aroma, taste, and texture. Nine out of ten times, something
miraculous happens. The pristine, fresh fish, seasoned with just a touch
of salt and pepper, is nearly odorless and taste so deliciously pure,
they tend to like them all and want more! I have introduced fish to skeptical
children (in addition to my own) in many settings over the years, and
when very fresh and steamed, they are always surprised by how much they
Once they agree that they have found at least one or two types of fish
they like, you can reveal the order in which they tasted the different
varieties, giving names to their preferences. This really works; steamed
fish is so delicate most kids want more! Later, as they get bored with
such a light taste, you can start to grill or sautÚ or otherwise prepare
fish for your family!
Check out other
recipes that bring the whole family together:
Cooking Time is Family Time: Cooking Together,
Eating Together, and Spending Time Together
by Lynn Fredericks, William Morrow & Co., August, 1999
COOKING TIME IS FAMILY TIME, Lynn Fredericks shows people how they
can improve the time they spend with kids by inviting them into
the kitchen to help prepare meals.
Included are 125 recipes emphasizing a variety of fresh, healthful
ingredients and strategies to get kids to gobble them down. Each
recipe offers directions that specify which steps are right for
younger kids and which are more challenging for their older siblings.