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Comida for Kids: How I Got My Daughter to Eat Chilean Food

When I was growing up, my grandfather, who we called Bobop, only wanted to eat the bland, sterotypical Irish food he grew up with: boiled potatoes, ham, plain white rolls with butter. My mom cooked these things for him with love, but she also made a point of introducing me and my siblings to food from other cultures. She helped an immigrant neighbor learn English in exchange for Greek cooking lessons. Once a month or so we'd cook a meal from a different part of the world and spend the whole week learning about that culture's foodways.

When I struck out on my own, I didn't do too much cooking at all. It wasn't until I met my husband that I caught his infectious passion for cooking. Andrés is from Chile and I met him when he'd been in the United States for just a couple years. He made me empanadas de pino, baked with a slice of boiled egg on one side and a black olive on the other side. On cold Boston nights we made pollo al cognac, a spicy chicken dish served with a mug full of the peppery cooking liquid, rich with cognac, for dipping crispy french fries.

When our daughter came along, we vowed she'd be a “good” eater. For a while it worked (ahem: we got lucky). Isabel (Isa for short) gobbled up just about anything we put in front of her, including Chilean hits like charquicán (a stew with beef, potatoes, pumpkin, green beans, peas and corn), humitas, and chacareros. On one trip to see her grandparents in Chile, she ate all of her abuela's pulpo with her fingers in hungry slurps. Andrés and I exchanged a smug glance: we'd raised a good eater.

Then Isa turned four. Seemingly overnight, the foods she previously enjoyed reliably were regarded with vile disdain.

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