A tale of a dozen oysters

When I was 14, my parents sent me to France to live with a family over the Summer, in the hope that I would learn some French and come back mature, well-rounded and independent (and I think they wanted a break from my teenage mega-strops). I did come back speaking French, so it half worked.

image by Jeremy Keith - source: creative commons

image by Jeremy Keith – source: creative commons

The family I was inflicted upon were called the Chevaliers and they took me with them to their chalet by the sea in St. Jean de Monts on the West coast of France. We always ate outside which was a huge novelty for me, but even more of a culture shock was what we ate. Day 1: lunch began with a plate of a dozen oysters with a wedge of lemon. Madame Chevalier told me in fast, unforgiving French to squeeze my lemon onto an oyster to check if it… and this is where I  thought I couldn’t possibly have understood her correctly.  But  when I saw the glistening oyster twitch as she dripped some lemon juice over it, I realised that I should have trusted my language skills because, clearly ‘reculer’ did indeed mean ‘recoil’. I was horrified but had been brought up to be polite so I somehow ate the oysters even though the alien taste and texture (and all that recoiling) made me gag. Day 2: We sat down for lunch and I figured that whatever it was, it couldn’t be as bad as the oysters and that as I’d got through that, I could get through pretty much anything. Out came lunch and it was… a dozen oysters. Wow. Day 3: lunch was again, a dozen oysters. By now, I was able to let them slip down quickly at it wasn’t so much of an ordeal. Day 4: a dozen oysters. You get the picture. Two weeks in I had a realisation – I was starting to like them! By the time I left France, I LOVED oysters and still do to this day. So why am I telling you this? I’m not suggesting you restrict your child to a diet of oysters and lemon juice but I think that this story demonstrates the importance of repeated exposure to disliked foods. Palates really do change and develop with experience. A study I often quote found that while it can take up to 15 exposures to a new food before a child starts to like it, on average the mother’s studied gave up after 2.5 exposures. So never give up! Serve your child new and disliked foods again and again…and again. One day they might surprise you.


3 thoughts on “A tale of a dozen oysters

  1. Hi. Loving your blog as this is a passionate interest of mine. I mention the 15 times thing over at my blog too.

    I have two stepchildren and we’ve found the try it rule to be quite useful and has actually worked for us, but I can really appreciate your perspective, as it can get overly focused on them…however as they eat beige foods often at their full time home, we are (possibly over) eager to allow them to see and taste more variety.
    We found that in the summer, green smoothies went down very well and then it lifted any pressure inside us to GET them to eat veg as we knew they’d started the day with it. Making subsequent meals more relaxed. It also got them used to green colour and flavours and it really opened them up to eating more veg naturally. I know your writing is more about how than what, but I just thought I’d share that. 😏
    Great writing. Looking forwards to read more.

    • Hi Rebecca, thanks for your kind comments – I’ll check out your blog, sounds interesting. It’s really common for children these days to live between two homes and food is a very common bone of contention in this scenario! This is actually something I will be blogging about in the near future. It’s also very frustrating when the child’s main (or other) carers have very different ideas from you. Getting children used to a wide variety of colours flavours and textures is key. Even if they are not exposed to this on a daily basis, the eating experiences they are getting when they are with you WILL be making a difference!

      • That’s very reassuring, thank you. I’ve just received your book through the post, and I can’t wait to get started. Just by reading your blog, we’ve decided to calm down our attentiveness to their eating, (but not their diet). By now, they have tried and enjoyed a whole range of foods, so all of us have earned time to just eat and enjoy. Hopefully in time, their memories of good food and a positive atmosphere at the dinner table will be what remains. : )

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