Boys Night: The Strawberry-Banana Salad Edition

July 09, 2010

By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director

As good an eater as my son
is, he has never really been into salad. He eats spinach tacos, grilled salmoncheesy spinach, celery with peanut butter,
brussel sprouts, beets… The list goes on, but he hasn't
embraced salads. Maybe it's too much to expect for a four-year-old?

But
then again, maybe not. Maybe I just have to approach it differently.

The
other night I had another boys night — my wife had to work late. So
what did Henry and I do? We made a salad! After playing outside, I said
to Henry, “Will you help me make some salad dressing? I need your help.” As always, he said yes.

So I asked him some leading questions:
“What would you like in your salad dressing? You like strawberries…”
To which he said yes, let's put three strawberries in a cup. And
then he suggested bananas. OK. Why not? There is always a first time for
strawberry-banana salad dressing. And of course he said, “I think it
should have sugar AND honey!” OK. Let's make it fun for the kid. I told
him we also needed some basics, which he added — bit of salt and pepper,
olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and I tossed in a few almonds to make it
creamy.  Nuts add a great creamy texture when blended into salad
dressings.

Here's the approximate recipe for
Henry's Strawberry-Banana Salad Dressing:

3 strawberries

1/2 banana

1/2 teaspoon
each of honey and sugar

4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

4
tablespoons olive oil

5-10 toasted almonds

Salt and pepper
to taste

Blend it all together with an immersion
blender.

I asked Henry how many leaves of romaine
lettuce, “Five? Six?” We agreed on six. And should I cut the lettuce
into big pieces or tiny pieces? “Teeny-tiny” was the answer. And of
course he wanted to control how much dressing went on the salad — lots
of it. No complaints here.

Salad with strawberry-banana
dressing, with a side of avocado covered in dressing, too.

The
surprise of the evening — even for me — was what happened next. I mixed
the dressing with the chopped lettuce, and then Henry devoured the
salad! It was good. Really tasty. Tangy and a bit sweet. Let me say one
more time: he devoured the salad.

I think giving him the
creativity to explore with food, giving him the options for
presentation, letting him explore in the kitchen; it all led up to
accepting (embracing!) and eating a fresh salad. It was a really cool moment. It may
not work every time, but I learned again that encouraging your kid to explore with food can
work.