Me and brussels sprouts…. we go way, way back. For nearly 5 decades, I was a self avowed hater of brussels sprouts. The story, it seems, is one of those family stories, the ones that become legend after time. In a large family, everyone remembers, everyone revels in telling the tale, and the story itself grows bigger & more embellished as the years go by.
The above photo is of my family, circa some time around the same time of the now famous brussels sprouts story. The arrow is pointing to me, the (at the time) self avowed brussels sprouts hater. Just like in this picture, in my memory, it was summer. My mother served brussels sprouts for dinner. I’m sure that my face looked exactly like it does in the photo. I hated brussels sprouts. I’m sure the ones that we had for dinner that night were frozen, I’m sure they were steamed… or better yet, boiled.
I was required to eat 2, and of course, they were the last thing on my plate, finally cold and unappealing. Still – I had to eat them. I put them both in my mouth, one sprout in each cheek…. and sat there. And sat there and sat there, for what seemed like an eternity to my younger self. I was not allowed to leave the table until I swallowed, and I absolutely could not swallow them. The sun went down, the evening wore on and bedtime arrived.
Finally, my mother took pity on me and said that whatever vitamins that were in those brussels sprouts MUST have assimilated into my body through my cheeks in some sort of miracle osmosis. I was allowed to spit the brussels sprouts out.
That was the last time I ate brussels sprouts for over 40 years.
Flash forward to a few years ago. I was dining with friends at a restaurant in DC. One of my companions ordered a plate of brussels sprouts. “Are you crazy?”, I wondered. Who does this? When the brussels sprouts arrived, this was the plate:
After having just spent the previous week cooking unfamiliar foods with elementary school students & asking them to try the foods that we had cooked, I was a little embarrassed that I didn’t want to try the brussels sprouts. We were, after all, in Washington to talk about our successes in encouraging children to consume vegetables and fruit. So, in the end, I tried them, and I instantly fell in love. Nearly 50 years of brussels sprout hatred disappeared with a single dish of roasted brussels sprouts.
Now, its important to realize here, that my husband is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and I have quite a bit of culinary training myself. Through the years, he would tell me if I would just let him roast them, or cook them the “right” way, I would love them – but no way. I wasn’t having it… I wasn’t ready.
Studies show that it can take 10 or more exposures to a food to learn to acquire a taste for it… or to decide whether or not you really like it… or not. Maybe that evening in DC, maybe that was my 10th time trying brussels sprouts. Who knows? The point here is that it can take trying foods over and over again, in different forms of preparation to learn to like them.
This week in our elementary schools, we served Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts as a Try It Tuesday. The results were great – over 50% of the students really enjoyed them. We will offer them again next year for another Try It Tuesday! We love exposing students to new flavors and new foods – helping them to expand their palate and helping them to learn to love healthy food.
What foods have you learned to love over time? What successes have you had with Try It days in your schools?