Lessons From a Preschooler: Contempt Prior to Investigation and Ethiopian Food

With a Cambodian-American mother, aunt, and grandparents, my daughter has grown up eating and enjoying foods that most American children have never seen or tried. She is too young to be aware of the fact that what is normal for her is not necessarily normal for her peers and, for now, she is quite content in her youthful ignorance. She eats dried fish with rice, a variety of Southeast Asian soups and stews, and different stir-fries from fried rice to spicy squid. For the most part, whatever her family is eating, she eats.

Because my wife and I enjoy eating foods from different cultures, our daughter has grown up eating Korean, Indian, Ethiopian, Italian, and all other types of international cuisine. She has her preferences, but she is open to trying new things if she sees that her mother and I are eating it. Of course, like any other child, given the choice she would stick with what was familiar. However, her mother and I like to travel and we like to eat, so our daughter has learned to at least try something once or twice before determining she does not like it. After she tries something, because she is willing to try it, if she says she does not like it, we are inclined to believe her.

Contempt prior to investigation, I have come to understand, is one of the great barriers to enjoyable experiences and wresting meaningful satisfaction from this life. Being resistant to that which is new, strange, or unfamiliar is a guaranteed path to close-mindedness and isolation. It is only after we are open to new ideas and experiences that we can truly know ourselves and what we do or do not like or want for ourselves or our loved ones. We tend to ask our children what they want to be, but a better question is, “What would you like to experience?” On this day, it was coloring books, Christmas lights, and Ethiopian food.

Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu

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