The “No, Thank You” Serving

Posted on in On Our Radar by Vinita Nelson


plate with spaghetti

When our kids were young, we had a wonderful caregiver and friend named Pat. She had many amazing child-rearing techniques, one of which she used to get our kids to eat unfamiliar foods. It was the “No, thank you” serving. Here’s how it worked: They had to eat a spoonful of the offered food, but they did not have to eat any more unless they liked it. They could say “No, thank you” to the second serving.

We kept our old jalopies so we could save up to travel. We stayed in hostels and ate cheap local food, and when we traveled to places like Egypt, Morocco, Taiwan, France, England, and Spain, our kids automatically enforced the “No, thank you” serving. One year we stopped over in Taiwan on our way to visit family in India. In Taiwan they tried congee, a rice gruel topped with meats and pickled vegetables. In Morocco they tried pigeon pie. They discovered that they really liked congee, but said “No, thank you” to a second serving of pigeon pie.

In France, they discovered that Thai-style frogs’ legs were delicious and tasted a lot like chicken. One of their favorite dishes in Spain was cold soup made with berries and garlic. When we traveled to Japan, they tried natto, a slimy and odoriferous food made from fermented soy beans. Our son liked it, our daughter didn’t. In England, bangers and mash was not a hit with either of them, but they tried it and became acquainted with the infamous British cuisine.

Our kids often came home with tales of friends who would eat only beige food—plain bread, rice, noodles. When we ate out, we observed that some parents would not ask their kids to try new foods and instead would go through long and elaborate instructions to the waitstaff telling them how their children liked the “beige food” prepared and delivered, from plain noodles and rice to bread that had to be white without a hint of seeds or herbs.

I wondered what would have happened if their kids had lived with Pat’s “No, thank you” serving. Maybe then they would have experienced the wonderful world of food in all of its colors, textures, shapes, and flavors. Food is an expression of a culture and a people. Eating new foods when traveling can be one of the great joys of life.

Vinita is a full-time engineer in the Bay Area and a part-time artist, writer, and wanderer

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