Campbell: When it comes to feeding kids, a little PR never hurtsWritten by Amy Campbell | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m a big believer in a good sales pitch, and I’ve been making them in the kitchen since my daughter, Rosalie, sprouted teeth. Parenting requires salesmanship in all kinds of situations, of course, but for me food ranks as one of the most important.
As a pair of foodies, Rosalie’s dad and I were eager that she not be a picky eater, and we largely achieved that. Because she ate what we ate – our kitchen wasn’t a diner, after all – she was exposed to a variety of foods early and pretty much ate whatever was put in front of her. But when I feared a weird name or red-flag ingredient would make her resistant to trying something new, I hedged my bets by renaming it – rebranding, if you will.
Now I’d like to point out this has worked on a large scale for a variety of entities and products, most notably in the food category, prunes. According to CaliforniaDriedPlums.org, the name prunes was changed to “dried plumbs,” in response to market research that showed women aged 25 to 54 “responded more favorably” to “dried plumbs.” It was also noted that the industry has only rebranded the sweet little fruit in the U.S. Other countries are evidently okay with “prunes.”
One of my greatest rebranding successes came when Rosalie was four or five and I found a tuna casserole recipe I thought even I — a tuna hater — would like, and could actually make. The night it first appeared on the table I laid the groundwork for a successful launch: I introduced it as Creamy Noodles and Peas. It was a big hit.
In the intervening years, Rosalie would tell me regularly that she didn’t like tuna, and ask regularly for Creamy Noodles and Peas. Finally, about a year ago, she announced that she does like tuna, which was when I let the cat out of the bag. She just shrugged. No harm done, but we still don’t call it “tuna” anything.
On the other hand, my missed opportunities still haunt me. Rosalie’s dad was not sold on my method, and several times responded to her “What’s that?” with the actual name of something that would certainly be an issue. “It’s a red pepper,” I heard him say one night before dinner, not noticing my cringe until the words were out of his mouth. I don’t know how a young child learns that “pepper” equates to strong and spicy, but mine had. It was a bell pepper you understand – not in any way hot, and downright sweet depending on the preparation. She’s almost a teenager now and still doesn’t eat anything with “pepper” in the name if she can help it. I recently bought some white (pepper)corns so I can season our food properly.
My daughter knows this story, and thinks my belief that she’d be eating bell peppers if I’d only been able to rename them is patently untrue, but funny. “What have you got there, a ‘red funzie?’ ” she’ll ask as I chop. I don’t know what I would have dubbed them if I’d had the chance, but on the fly I think “This is a red bell” would have been just fine and, incidentally, true.
Squash, another eschewed food, would have been harder, but I never got a crack at it, either. So, one of my favorite summer side dishes, sautéed red…“funzies” and summer squash, is one I don’t bother making unless Rosalie is eating dinner elsewhere.
I not only believe in the rebranding of foods to get kids to try them, I enjoy it. So the next time you’re trying to get something past your finicky first grader, email me. I’d love to help.