Cafe Paloma

kids food and travel


My children are disgracefully fussy about food. I’m not going to even try to comprehend why. The genetics involved (i.e. mine and the WanderDad’s) should point towards adventurous palates with a penchant for hot and spicy. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. I did an experiment once, and fed them their favorite food every day for dinner – wondering how long it would be before they would object. Two months later, I was sick of preparing pasta and cheese so I told the kids that I was going to do something else for dinner that night and was told “Well, it’s about time, Mom. We’ve had an awful lot of pasta and cheese lately.” Who knew?

Since my children are food fussy and I, like any mom, worry about what and how much they eat, food issues can add additional stress to traveling. One thing which helps is that we live in a fairly large city which has many, many nationalities represented in the restaurants available. We use these usually interesting, sometimes funky ethnic restaurants to try out new foods before we travel. Sometimes it’s a disaster – and we have to come home and cook for the kids – and sometimes it works like a dream. It’s never a waste of time since it gives me advance notice on whether or not food will be a problem when we’re at our planned destination.

Food is one of the best ways to experience and appreciate a new country. It makes me sad to see parents feeding their children pizza and chicken nuggets when they could be sampling local fare. Getting your children to try something new does take patience (which I’m not so good at) but sometimes it takes no more than a hungry child and a little encouragement to try the local ‘plain food’. When we visited Cyprus in 2007, CAM developed a taste for hummus and pita – out of necessity, because he was hungry and there wasn’t a scrap of peanut butter in sight. You have no idea how excited I was by this development.

Cafe Paloma
Cafe Paloma (entrance on the right-hand side of the photo) with Smith Tower in the background.

It’s easy to forget that getting a child to try out new foods when you’re away from home also pays dividends when you return. On a recent Saturday afternoon, we took a wander around the Pioneer Square area in Seattle and decided to have lunch at Cafe Paloma, a Turkish restaurant which is a favorite of mine. I’ve eaten there many times – usually for lunch since I work nearby – but this was the first time we’d taken the kids there. It was a bit of a gamble since hungry kids are grumpy kids and we still had a 30-minute bus ride home.

Cafe Paloma was quiet when we entered and the staff welcomed us warmly. There was, of course, no “kid’s menu”. We ordered some hummus to start, lamb pitas for the WanderDad and I and a chicken pita for the boys to share. I requested that the chicken pita be served with all salad and dressings on the side and asked for two plates. My food fussy kids will eat chicken and warm bread any time but (vile) greenery on the chicken could cause them to refuse to eat.

When the food arrived, CAM and BigB polished the naked chicken pita with gusto. The salad and the yogurt sauce were, as predicted, totally ignored. (Our lamb pitas, sauce and all, were scrumptious). I’m pretty impressed with how our waitress had interpreted what I had asked for and then brought the boys a plate each on which half a chicken pita was beautifully presented. There’s not many $10-a-plate places where you will get that level of service.

I feel so good writing about this. It’s taken many, many trips and countless arguments over food both at home and abroad to get to a place where this kind of food experiment would go so smoothly. Over the coming year we’ll be experimenting with Asian cuisines (outside of spring rolls, chicken satay and fried rice) in the International District in preparation for our RTW trip. We tried Dim Sum in a Vietnamese restaurant earlier this year and my boys ate exactly nothing. It’s going to take a little more effort than getting them used to mediterranean foods, but I think we’re up for the challenge.

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This entry was posted in Exploring North America, Mom Talks Tech and tagged , , , on by .

About wandermom

". . .life is short and the world is wide" - Simon Raven I'm not sure I've ever consciously planned a trip based on this sentiment, but it definitely influences my subconscious! I've been traveling as frequently and widely as possible since I finished school. And I love it. I love the research, the planning, the fervent packing and the curiosity of exploring somewhere I've never been before. My husband & I are both Irish - as in born-in-Ireland. But we live in Seattle. We have two boys: wild, boisterous, regular boys. So, since becoming a Mom, I've been a WanderMom. Given our slightly-unusual family situation, routine "visits-to-Grandma" are international trips requiring passports, 10hr-flights and (oh joy!) airport transfers. I have rants, raves and opinions about how, where & why to travel with kids (start them as young as you can, I say!). I hope to learn even more by researching topics which other wandermoms may be interested in reading about on this blog. Passports, pacifiers, diapers and gameboys at the ready - off we go! Contact Info: Email Michelle: michelle (at) murphnduff (dot) org

8 thoughts on “kids food and travel

  1. Mara

    Your post made me hungry! We ate lots of Turkish food in London – our neighborhood there was full of restaurants and our 1-year-old loved it.

    Good for you for not giving up hope on this issue, one of the most challenging about traveling with kids IMO. For me eating local food is such an important part of any trip. It was tough in France this summer since older boy doesn’t like cheese or meat. One night I did cave in and buy him some sushi. That’s right – he’d rather have sushi than French cheese. You just never know.

  2. Debbie Dubrow

    I couldn’t agree with you more. We work hard to introduce our kids to local foods before we travel (and in general) but sometimes they’re just picky wherever we are.

    The funny part? When we finally broke down and took my son to McDonalds in Spain, he wouldn’t touch a thing. He’d never been there before, and even the toy with the happy meal didn’t convince him that the chicken nuggets would be any good. We’ve given up on that route, but I usually keep a jar of peanut butter in my suitcase (carefully wrapped) for true food emergencies.

  3. wandermom

    Mara: Sushi in France!! That’s a story which I’m sure you’ll be able to tell when he’s older – to tease :)

    Debbie: We have had the exact same experience (although I think it was in Greece). We don’t have a McD’s habit at home – since there wasn’t any McD’s in the towns where the WanderDad and I grew up, it’s just not what we think of for emergency kid-food so our kids are not used to it either.
    But I REFUSE to travel with peanut butter. I can’t stand the stuff :)

  4. jamie

    We’ll try anything with our kids (bipolar eaters also), but I always have a plan B (a purse full of cashews, for example).

    We’re usually in a apartment instead of a hotel, so that helps. One meal out in 3 days is survivable. NINE meals out in 3 days, and I’m usually ready to scream.

  5. Meg

    Even if kids will eat any kind of food, what they are willing to eat on any given day or meal is a gamble. Mediterranean is actually one of our back-ups. I figure hummus has to have a lot going for it and surprisingly you can get something like it in a lot of places. Baba Ganoush is a veggie right?. Fruit and rice are good back ups. My daughter won’t won’t touch PB, so I bring a pound of almonds for emergencies.

    Here is a question – how do you get kids to eat spicy food (hot pepper spicy)?

  6. wandermom

    re: hot and spicy.
    My neighbor tells me that her 13-yr-old son seems to have grown a brain. I can’t wait for this particular development in my (currently) 12-yr-old.
    An affinity for hot and spicy foods seems to follow a similar developmental timeline. Today, my kids might just take a crumb of jalapeno chips. Friends who are just six or 12 months older than my big guy are fighting over the same extra-spicy chips with the adults in the room. (Actually, since they’re just teens and they’re boys, they’re all taller than their moms and eat more than we could eat in a week – and that’s just the chips).
    Seriously, so far, I keep on offering and demanding no-thank-you-bites. Some day, I’m sure, the genetics will kick in. I’ll keep you posted :)

  7. Gregory Hubbs

    To confirm the author’s observations, when my son was 9 months, we took him on our first trip to France and he discovered that even canned babyfood there has taste and is full of spices such as herbes de Provence.

    He would not eat canned food when he returned to the States (no spices, no mushrooms, just corn syrup, etc.) So we had to cook a la Francaise or a l’Italiano for him – which means he ate what we ate…

    I think that bland food makes for picky eaters and likely unhealthy children. After all, even the taste buds should be educated as soon as possible.

  8. Claire

    First, funny to stumble across another WanderMom – that is one of the user names I have historically used..

    My sons were 7 and 11 when we went to Iceland 2 summers ago. It was one place where the 7 yr old’s eating habits actually let us eat affordably. Food was wildly expensive, but “Margharita Pizza” was an offering at many spots, so the 2 kids routinely split that. Occasionally this was available at a local boutiquey restaurant that had nice “entree” specials for adults. Had we not been on a “Margharita Pizza” spree, our food bill would have been perhaps double what it was…

    My now almost 13 year old now wants Prime Rib whenever we go out in the states…

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