Make the ordinary extraordinary.

You come home from work and have had a hard day. You hurry up and make dinner, likely a combination of things that the kids will like and things you want them to eat, sit down, and you get: “I don’t like broccoli.” You go through a series of negotiations and get them to eat a couple bites. 

A few years ago, my daughter was busy doing homework and my wife was doing work work, and I decided that I’d start dinner. But I did it differently on that night that changed the way we think about preparing and eating food. 

I wanted to make it fun, but not kiddish. That meant that I wasn’t going to make food faces. Now I love food faces as much as the next guy, but it forces adults to come down to a kid’s level. What about meeting somewhere in the middle? There are a few things that stand out when you go to a fancy restaurant that are different from how you might normally eat at home. Firstly, fancy restaurants have courses, and secondly, they care about presentation. What if I brought those principles to our meals at home? What I found was more successful than I could have ever imagined. We call it “Fancy Dinners.”

True to a fancy dinner, the first thing I did was to course it out. We started with baby carrots, but instead of plopping them on a plate, I stood them up like people and created a scene of baby carrot characters standing around a ranch dressing campfire. Then I moved onto the vegetable course. I got out all the spoons we had in the house and put a mouthful on each one and lined them all up in a row. Then, onto the main course, where I made ravioli with pesto. But I put the pesto on the plate first, then the ravioli on top, with a small amount of parmesan and basil garnish.

Since then, we’ve also experimented with different types of foods, such as guacamole, fruit, other vegetables, oatmeal, and sauces that I never thought I’d get my kid to eat. We’ve also tried out different presentations, using everything in the house that we can think of to create a dramatic presentation, including wooden cutting boards, different types of glasses, bowls that seem way too big for what we’re putting in them, and even vases. 

What I learned was this:

Courses

If you give a kid one thing at a time, they don’t get to choose to eat something else in favor of what they like. They just eat what’s in front of them.

Presentation

Making a fancy dinner has become something that we make together as a family. My daughter loves thinking of different ways to present foods and even trying to think of different things we can eat that would be fun to make artwork out of. 

Obviously, we can’t do this every day, but making and eating food has become something that we can do together that we both enjoy.