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April Jeppson: Expand your pallet, teach open-mindedness

Every Little Thing by April Jeppson

“It smells like ramen!”

April Jeppson

“Why does it smell like meat?”

“Can we eat it yet?”

“Ok, go for it”

My family simultaneously took a bite of a potato-based snack called Big Hoops. Large, crunchy, BBQ beef-flavored rings that are popular in the UK. We had recently received our latest shipment from our monthly snack box and this month our mouths were traveling to the United Kingdom.

We have developed a ritual when it comes to trying out the new treats. We go in a circle around the table, allowing each person to pick which snack we’ll try next. Then we divy out the goods. Sometimes it’s a matter of each person grabbing a chip, other times it involves me cutting a piece of toffee into five pieces. Then before we are allowed to eat it, everyone must smell it and share their thoughts.  Everyone must try everything. Even if they don’t like it, even if it smells weird, even if they have to spit it out later. They must try everything.

My husband and I have both lived in other countries. We’ve sat at strangers’ tables and had to politely consume whatever local fare was prepared for us. Through this experience we’ve learned that just because something is different, doesn’t mean it’s bad. I’ve personally developed the rule that I will try something at least three times before I give up on it. I find it takes the pallet a moment to adjust to new flavor combinations, and I’d hate to miss out on something amazing, simply because my tongue is trained to enjoy white bread and not rye.

As for my children, I get oddly excited when I hear them critique and break down the flavors and textures of each food. There was a spicy chip that smelled like we’d need to have water on hand, so we did. As we all made eye contact and crunched down nervously, we were surprised by the lack of heat. As my son put it, “I feel like the spice was an old man who started out running and then ran out of breath and didn’t quite make it to the finish line.” His observation not only impressed me, but made us all giggle.

I think it’s important that we teach our children to be open-minded. Not just about food, but about everything. I want my kids to listen, learn, make observations and be kind to people and situations that are different from what they grew up with. We live in such an opinion-dense society where everyone thinks their opinion matters more than someone else’s. When in reality, the definition of opinion is a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.

I’ve tried pho half a dozen times and still don’t care for it, but I don’t think I’m done trying. When so many of my friends love this soup, perhaps I just haven’t found the correct ratios of add-ins. I’m wise enough to know that maybe the soup is good, even if my tongue doesn’t appreciate it. So although I’m not a fan, I don’t go around bashing it or telling people not to order it. In fact, I hear the Asian Market makes a really good pho and you should totally give it a whirl. My friends really love the stuff.

Albert Lean April Jeppson is a wife, mom, coach and encourager of dreams. Her column appears every Saturday.