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Local Food Experiences with Kids

by Barbara Rogers

Sep 7, 2018

© Stillman Rogers


You’re a dedicated foodie but your kids recoil at unfamiliar foreign foods? Don’t spend your vacation looking for pizza in Paris or mac ‘n’ cheese in Kyoto. Instead plunge right into a local food experience that will engage your kids’ imagination. It will also offer a chance to get inside the culture of the place you’re visiting.


Take a Cooking Lesson

Italy is a bit easier than many foreign destinations, at least with most kids, because you’ll always find one or both of the perennial favorites: pizza and spaghetti. But why not take advantage of that familiarity by learning to make pizza or pasta from a local chef? It’s especially easy to arrange in Florence, where several local cooks invite visitors into their kitchens for a hands-on cooking experience. Toscana Mia welcomes families to work together as they learn to make pizza, pasta and gnocchi, sitting down together afterward to enjoy the fruits off their labor. And everybody goes home with a Toscana Mia apron as a souvenir. This experience is suitable for all but the youngest children.


Take a Food Tour

Pizzas calzones foccacia © Stillman Rogers

Most large cities have food tours, and the trick is to choose one suitable for the right age group and more focused on the food than wine or beer. In London, our teen and pre-teen were immediately engaged in our food tour of the East End with Eating London Food Tours. In the course of the four hours they discovered bacon butties and, with the encouragement of strangers on the tour (“Oh go on, try some of this!”), realized there were some tasty curries in the world.


In Venice, our Rialto Markets & Cicchetti Tasting tour with Walks of Italy gave us all a chance to sample Venice’s own distinct snack form, cicchetti. With a local guide to describe the ingredients and small sizes of each, these bite-sized snacks stopped being mystery meats as we discovered flavors we liked (and identified the ones we didn’t).


Go to the Source

Some local food experiences can take you and your kids right to the source of the ingredients. When our daughter was young, she didn’t like lobster. We had to admit the creatures with big claws could be a bit scary for kids. But, on a lobster boat with Lucky Catch Cruises in Portland, Maine, she donned a rubber apron and gloves and helped measure the catch on the 1.5-hour tour of Casco Bay. From then on she tucked into steamed lobster with the rest of us. And none of our kids were especially fond of fish until the day we spent a morning with Al Gauron Deep Sea Fishing, out of Hampton, New Hampshire. They took a greater interest in fish after grilling those they’d just caught over a campfire that evening.


It may take more than an afternoon of truffle hunting in Italy for Mary to love mushrooms, though.


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