You can be forgiven for thinking — as that carefully prepared organic kale/carrot puree slowly drips down your face — that your kid’s distaste for kale/carrot puree is genetic (you’re not eating it, are you?), but you’d be wrong. Award-winning British food writer Bee Wilson meticulously researched what creates picky eaters for her new book, First Bite: How We Learn To Eat, and she has good news for parents everywhere: There is no such thing as a naturally picky eater.
Wilson concludes that fussy eating is almost entirely learned, and your baby starts learning to like carrots and kale as early as in the womb. French researchers exposed babies to the smell of anise (a flavor that’s about as divisive as Congressional politics) and babies whose mothers had eaten the stuff during pregnancy “stuck their tongues out with a licking gesture,” which to the French meant bébé liked it. And if you’re looking at your newborn kid and thinking, “Well, we blew that,” never fear! According to Wilson, between 4 and 7 months, babies are particularly receptive to flavor. Researchers in the US confirmed that babies given tastes of a variety of fruit and vegetable ultimately develop broader palates — although they failed to divulge what weird tongue gesture confirmed this.
Even if your kid is exclusively breastfeeding, you can still capitalize on this window of taste bud free love just by having them lick some broccoli, brussel sprouts, and salty licorice (or whatever you hope they’ll eat when they’re older). Expose them early and you might just raise the next Anthony Bourdain, whose mother was apparently snacking on bull pizzle while he was in utero.