Naturally leavened bread is part of the occasionally feared “fermented foods family”, also known as pickled, cultured, and soured. Fermented grain, sourdough, or Natural Leavening has been around since antiquity like many of it’s kinsfolk. My family regularly enjoys raw sauerkraut, yogurt, cultured cream, tofu, fermented cod liver oil, and naturally leavened bread (of course!). Some other great cultured foods that we enjoy include kimchi, kefir milk and water, cultured buttermilk, and truly fermented or pickled cucumbers and vegetables. Some other ferments on our list to try or try again soon include miso, a fermented soy paste, and rejuvelac, a minimally fermented drink.
Just last night my daughter asked, “Mom, do we have anymore sauerkraut?” She was looking for additional toppings for her baked potato. We had eaten the last of our favorite homemade red cabbage sauerkraut for lunch with our Russian Borscht soup. The reddish-purple color makes for a great Valentine’s tradition. At the school Valentine’s party, the topic of health came up with some mothers. One health conscious mom mentioned that her kids just wouldn’t eat sauerkraut. I said that mine love it and truly they do. Truthfully, it hasn’t always been so. My oldest daughter detested kraut on first bite and second and third and maybe fourth–all on separate occasions. She was about 6 then. We kept introducing it every so often. The fuss lessened. A few years later, after many “introductions” she decided that the store bought Bubbies Sauerkraut was good with crackers with cheese.
Children forget their “preferences” and we certainly don’t remind them. This same daughter when younger used to ask,”Mom, do I like this food?” My answer? “Yes,” regardless of past experience. She now likes all kinds of fermented vegetables on just about anything. We keep introducing foods. We people to improve their opinion, expand their culinary experience, and grow up. Truthfully, I didn’t like sauerkraut at first either. Next I tolerated it. Now I really love it. Another mom mentioned her husband didn’t appreciate or eat her naturally leavened bread, and now he eats it and loves it. We don’t encourage food jags, hesitant eating, and picking preferences. Let people change. Here’s how:
- Be silent about past “picky” preferences that you want to eliminate. Never stereotype someone as “a picky eater”. Allow people to change. Expect them to change.
- Request that children simply try one bite of something new or foreign. Only put one bite of the “feared food” on his/her plate. Make sure there are favorite food options on the table, too. Only give them a tiny serving of their favorite food. Say, “Eat everything on your plate before having seconds of anything.” Allow children to eat until they are satisfied.
- Compliment the hesitant, but agreeable eater. Catch the picky eater expanding their food repertoire. Give attention to their good food choices.
- Make a rule that no one mention what foods they don’t like in your home–not even visitors. With a nice smile you can say, “Oh, we don’t talk about what we don’t like here.” Then smile again, so they can feel your genuine love for them and concern about health. Children are highly impressionable and often times won’t even try a new food if they hear that someone else doesn’t like it. Sometimes children even stop eating a previously enjoyed food when they hear that someone else doesn’t like it. Who wants to experience something they think is bad? Confession: my oldest daughter probably didn’t “like” sauerkraut at first because she heard I didn’t. I have repented.
- Tell picky eaters that “everyone grows up and your food preferences and tolerance will expand”. This advice serves adults as well as children well.
- Mingle often with good examples of healthy eating. Children definitely mimic or notice habits of their parents, older siblings, and friends whether they be bad or good. Sauerkraut has been a favorite for two of my babies who barely had teeth. Why? They didn’t know of any social stigma and they didn’t have any psychological aversions to sauerkraut. It was love at first bite for these almost one year old babies and they’ve loved it ever since!
- Only buy food that you want (your family) to eat. If you don’t want a food to enter your child’s mouth, then don’t bring it home. Don’t keep “off limits foods” in the cupboard or pantry or a hidden drawer.
- Keep introducing “new” foods. Studies show that oft times we need 11 introductions to any given food item before we like it. This advice is directed at children. However, I know adults will fare well expanding their nutritional horizons and trying even a bite of an unfamiliar (healthy) food any time they can.
Fermented food deserves to be yummy, too. Remember to culture great ingredients like ripe, organic, locally grown fruits and vegetables whenever possible. With the exception of Naturally Leavened Bread, most of the fermented foods I mentioned above are merely ingredients or condiments to be used in or along side other great foods. Here are some ways we enjoy our cultured and fermented foods:
- Kefir milk and rejuvalac go down sweetly in a smoothie.
- Kimchi brings significant spice to Korean dishes with fermented cabbage and carrots.
- Cultured sour cream is great on split pea soup.
- Yogurt makes a great dip or dressing for fruit salad. My kids drizzle yogurt, instead of syrup, on pancakes.
- Tofu sauteed adds to any stir fry or curry dish.
- Sauerkraut tastes great in a sandwich or a wrap, just like a pickle.
- Naturally leavened loaf bread, pitas, bread sticks, pancakes, waffles, cookies, and muffins are amazing! I’m biased. When breads are cultured minimally, they are not sour. I’ll be sending more recipes out in the future.
What did we miss? We love hearing from you. If you’re interested in making your own fermented foods, you can follow the links above or read on. We have been recommending the Perfect Pickler Kit for over 5 years to family, friends, and patients at our clinic. Our own kits still work great.