The global world is fast becoming a global kitchen. More than ever before, people are able to partake in an incredible variety of foods from every country. Within the last ten years exotic restaurants and specialty food stores have popped up with menu offerings from countries we’d be lucky to visit in our entire lifetimes. Suddenly people are very familiar with Japanese sashimi and Vietnamese pho soup. It’s a good idea to have children experience different ethnic food early to broaden their food experience, and have a greater knowledge of the peoples of the globe. But when it comes to Mexican, Thai, etc- how can we make these spicy foods that even children can eat ?
A safe time to start
The American Dietetic Association has agreed that around the 24-month mark is a good place to start with mild spices. But the case has been made that moms have probably been introducing spicy food to their babies, wittingly or not, through their breast milk, because trace flavours, including spice, can pass through to the breast milk,
Aside from the obvious common sense factor, it is not recommended to give babies under 1 year spicy foods, as they are very prone to allergies and sensitivities. It’s extremely important to keep in mind that children have less physical tolerance to hot spice than even adults.
How to start
Everyone knows young children want to eat whatever everyone else is eating. Flavours and spices that are bland: such as cinnamon or, say, basil, oregano, tarragon, sage, and even non-hot chili powder, can be slowly introduced, prior to the two-year bench mark. Doing this will bring flavour into your child’s world. This does not include, however, hot horse radish, hot peppers such as cayenne, or hot banana peppers, etc.
But even though there is no rush to introduce spicy foods, if you’re having a little spice, and you want to introduce a little to your child, the best route will be to start with small amounts that are very mild. It will be easy enough to tell if they like the newly introduced tastes. And if they do, you will be encouraged to try more.
Spicing it up
As mentioned before, young children are attracted to eat what the rest of the family is eating. Foods like curries, tacos, etc. have distinct, spicy flavours without being too hot and this is the route you should go.
Then later, if you are having spaghetti with a sprinkle of hot chili pepper flakes, or tacos with a touch of hot pepper, let them taste a little of yours. If they like it, add only a tiny amount to their spaghetti and see how things go. Proceed, with caution as you really won’t have the entire picture until later, as the extra spice could trigger an upset stomach or diarrhea.
Sensitivity to these newer foods may occur and you may have to stop and serve blander foods until you can try again, later on.
Another taste besides spicy Mexican food and hot peppers is the completely different but delicious taste of assorted curries. Unless you add excessive ginger or cayenne, it is unique, but not too hot. You could experiment with letting your child have a taste of the blander version of curry and see how they like it. Slowly and in gradual increments you can add some of the heat. But with the wonderful array of flavours involved in a good curry, your child has really arrived, without too much spice at all.
Also, it is important to note that the heat in chili peppers is counteracted with dairy. Have cold milk, yogurt, cheese, or ice cream, etc. available when you are introducing any spiciness to your child. It will be a quick remedy if you need it.
If you exercise common sense and err on the side of caution, making spicy foods kids can eat can be fun. If they can understand, tell them from which country the food originates. Even go all out with ethnic music and a few props. In the end, you will be raising a very worldly and impressive food enthusiast who will bring the zest of eating great spicy foods to the future.