Monday Mom Challenge: Try a new cuisine

Aug 3, 2009 at 11:30 a.m. ET

The world is becoming a smaller and smaller place. To learn about the cuisines of the world, you used to have to travel the world. But while some might argue that's still the best -- or even only -- way to expand your culinary horizons, chances are a nearby restaurant can introduce you to new foods and a new culture.

Vietnamese Food

It's easy to get into a food rut, whether cooking at home or eating out. We tend to find what we like and stick to it. Stepping out of your culinary comfort zone is a risk, and you might not like the food you try. But you'll never know unless you do. You may even discover a new favorite.

Ask around

How do you even begin to learn what's out there that's different? The same way you search for recommendations for anything, really: Through friends and through the Internet.

Start by asking friends and neighbors if they have been to or heard about any good ethnic restaurants recently. Then move on to the Web, searching restaurant directories, foodie sites and the like. I bet you'll be surprised by the number of options available to you. We used to think that our area had a dearth of ethnic restaurants, but it wasn't true at all. We were just overlooking them, and we were in kind of a rut.

Check ratings and reviews for the restaurants you identify. Once you have a set of possibilities, dive in and try something completely and totally new (Ethiopian? Moroccan?), or try a cuisine that's just a step off of a cuisine with which you are more familiar. For instance, if you like Thai food, give Vietnamese a whirl.

Be an example for the kids

Seeking out and trying new cuisines is a terrific example for the kids. So often, we ask our kids to have an open mind and give a new food a chance. But why should they do it if they don't see us doing the same thing?

If your kids are particularly picky, taking them to a new restaurant may not be the best idea -- but just knowing you are going to try something new can have an impact. Tell your kids what trying new food was like. Maybe a little bit scary? Exciting? Somewhere in between? Knowing that their parents understand what they experience when trying something new can go a long way toward their openness to new foods.

Trying something new can be scary for everyone, even grown-ups. But as you say to your kids, you'll never know what you're missing unless you give it a try.

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