We want to encourage the next generation to become inventive, passionate cooks, and leave them with a greater love and understanding of food.
We think family mealtimes should be fun. There’s a wealth of exciting dishes out there, that the whole family can enjoy together. We don’t expect kids to like everything they’re given to eat. But we do believe if you tell them about the history and culture of food, it will inspire them to try something new.
Ingreedies was dreamed up by designers Zoë Bather and Joe Sharpe, and illustrator Chris Dickason. Born of the frustration feeding their own children, Joe and Zoë developed a combination of strategies that led to the idea of a character based food brand for kids, a Mealtime Manifesto, and a book.
Top 10 teatime tips
There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re accepting an ever-growing list of “I don’t eat…”, and consequently ever-diminishing options for family meals. Anxiety levels can begin to rise as teatime approaches – you’ve invested time and money making a dish, so the anticipation that it may be received with more grimace than glee is a frustration difficult to keep a lid on. Likewise, kids can have an infuriating ability to convince themselves before they’ve taken the first bite that they’re not going to like it. Eating together should be a pleasure, not a pain.
Here’s our checklist to combat dinnertime dramas:
1. Expose them to new cultures
Be it through books, TV, or trips out, encourage them to explore the history and culture that surrounds food from around the world. Chinese tea rituals … Mexican Piñatas … Spanish tomato throwing festivals – these weird and wonderful, exotic tales of food, will spark their interest in associated ingredients, flavours and recipes.
2. Have a plan
Get some cookery books out once a week and involve the kids in deciding what you’re going to eat. Whether you each choose a type of cuisine, or you let them pick recipes from a pre-edited selection, if they see you implementing some of their opinions and ideas they’ll be much more accepting of what’s put in front of them.
3. Go shopping together
If they’re old enough, you could challenge them to find some of the ingredients on your list. Simply handling some veg or counting out some fruit will get them familiar with raw ingredients – demystifying what’s in their dinner. They’ll also see how much effort goes into planning and preparing meals – and slowly, subconsciously, they’ll start to value the food they eat more.
4. Get growing
A yoghurt pot of cress, some herbs on your windowsill, cherry tomatoes in a hanging basket, or sugar snap peas up a wigwam – there are loads of crops that are easy to grow and good for small spaces. Watching a tomato seedling emerge from the soil, develop fruit, and slowly ripen, is tantalising!
5. Get them involved
The time spent making a meal often goes unseen by the children, but if they’ve invested even a small amount of their own time, and understand the ingredients that have been used, the chances of a clean plate increase dramatically. Get them to taste or smell an ingredient, have them play a small part in the preparation or cooking (a stir here, a teaspoon of something there), ask them to lay the table. However small the gesture, make sure they’re involved. They’ll be excited to sit down and try the end result with you.
6. One meal for all
Wherever humanly possible eat together, round the table, and eat the same thing. Avoid the terms ‘kids food’ and ‘grown-up food’. As soon as you separate what they’re eating from what you’re eating, you’re on the back foot – setting yourself up for making several dinners each night. You’re not a restaurant. On the subject of eating out, hunt out restaurants that don’t have a separate kids menu, but offer half portions and can be a bit flexible on toppings, sauces and condiments.
7. Present an element of choice
Look for recipes have some optional bits and/or can be communal in their presentation. Like Mexican wraps, where everyone can pick a selection of fillings, or homemade pizzas where you can choose your own toppings. Try putting bowls and platters of food on the table, along with side dishes and condiments, rather than plating-up everything in the kitchen. Giving kids a feeling of choice means they’ll be more relaxed and open to trying a few things, as they’re not burdened with the commitment of finishing a plateful of it. Often they’ll go back for seconds. Small steps.
8. Embrace feedback
Kids aren’t always going to like everything you cook. But talking about what they liked or disliked in a dish goes a long way to keeping stuff off the dreaded dinner table blacklist. Rather than “I didn’t like it”, keep it constructive by getting them to describe the tastes or textures they weren’t keen on – “too sharp / too strong / too bitty” can often be fixed by going easy on the lemon, leaving out a spice, or swapping couscous for rice. Ingredients and recipes get a second chance, and you get to not have spag bol three times a week.
9. Make food exciting
Be adventurous – set out to discover and try something new as a family once a week. Explore an unfamiliar cuisine, have a go at a new recipe, or just try using a new ingredient. If they see you trying something new, they’ll want to be part of the experience and fun, and will ultimately have a much more open and less anxious attitude towards food. Which equals more enjoyable mealtimes for everyone.
Feeding kids can be horribly hard, frustrating work, but if you can leave your children with a love of proper, home cooked food, and the beginnings of how to make it, it’ll have been worth it.
Zoë’s favourite food is curry (as hot as possible), and her first invention was a cheese and peanut butter sandwich. She’s also an award-winning designer who’s worked on many books including Brian Cox’s ‘Wonders’ series. She was previously a partner in Studio8 Design.
Joe’s at his happiest exploring new places (he’ll always stop to read an information plaque) and he loves seeking out unusual local grub. He’s also a founder of Applied Works – a creative and technology studio built on research, understanding and storytelling.
Chris ate his first oyster aged six by the canals of south-west France, washed down with a glass of fizzy pop. These days he can be found in Bristol, and is highly sought after for the irreverent sense of humour and rambunctious characters that populate his illustration.