Food writer Bee Wilson has a message of hope for parents struggling to get their children to eat their veggies: “As parents we have a far greater power than we think we have to form children’s tastes,” Wilson tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross.
In her new book, First Bite, Wilson examines how genetics, culture, memory and early feeding patterns contribute to our food preferences. She says that a child’s palate can be formed even before birth.
“One of the main things we know about taste is that liking is a consequence of familiarity, so the things that our mothers eat, even before we’re born, affect the way we’ll respond to those flavors when we later encounter them because they seem familiar,” Wilson says.
A mother of three, Wilson notes that babies are most open to trying new flavors between the ages of 4 and 7 months. But, Wilson adds, even if parents miss introducing a food during the so-called “flavor window,” all hope is not lost.
“It’s not that the flavor window then flips shut … and we can never learn to love bitter green vegetables. Humans can learn to love new flavors at any age,” Wilson says. “One of the amazing things about our relationship with food is how malleable it is, how plastic it is. But we don’t usually as adults give ourselves an opportunity to change.”