Ricardo’s 5 Sanity Saving Tips for Feeding Kids

Ricardo’s 5 Sanity Saving Tips for Feeding Kids

Earlier this summer I got the chance to visit the offices, test kitchen and home base of the Ricardo team in Montreal. Of course you know Ricardo Larivée, host of the popular Food Network show Ricardo and Friends and publisher of the gorgeous Ricardo magazine.

If you know the man through media then you can imagine how fabulous his workplace is. I was texting Laura all day: “You cannot believe this place. Amazing.” For instance, Ricardo and his team greeted me and small group of food bloggers who had made the day trip to Montreal with glasses of their own wine. What, 11 a.m. is too early for a drink? Oh, relax! Then they gave us a tour of their building, which has all sorts of great little corners for meetings or just quiet places to work away from a desk, a stunning deck where staff were having lunch. A design staffer tried – and failed – to slip by Ricardo with a sandwich on her plate, clearly heading back to her desk. “You need to take a break,” he insisted.

ricardo portrati

Then we sat down to a beautiful lunch created by the kitchen team. We talked about food, of course, and the way it connects families together. It’s something Ricardo has lived as a parent but has also just thought a great deal about when it comes to his audience. We had a lot of laughs that day but also came away with some great ideas about feeding kids (without losing your mind).

1. Give yourself a break. No one becomes a great, or even competent, cook overnight. “We don’t remember, but our parents were bad in the kitchen when they first got married!” Ricardo reminded me that parenting is really about the long game, “Give yourself ten years and you will be as good as your mom was.”

2. Stop being adventurous! When did it become an accepted notion that if you’re not constantly growing your repertoire of recipes you may as well give up? It’s crazy-making! “It’s a big mistake to try to make something new all the time. A big mistake. You’re destroying your family’s culture. Why do we have turkey every Christmas whether we want it or not? What if one year you said you were going to serve Jerk Chicken? Yes you could, but where’s the tradition? Whatever you have in your family that’s what you should do. The only way to create this tradition is to repeat it over and over and over, year after year. If you want your kids to remember your chocolate cake, make it all the time. It will be a beautiful memory. Find recipes you feel comfortable with. Take an idea, add something, give it a little twist. Everyone is going to be happy.”

3. The dinner table is a fight-free zone. He makes a good point. Why would kids want to come to and stay at the table if they know stress is waiting for them. Why would anyone? Let everyone know that there will be no arguments at dinner. “There are so many battles. Getting up. Having breakfast, doing their homework. Having a bath. I mean, life is a battle. Do you want to battle for that half hour to an hour around the table, too? Well, I don’t. Because I think there are more important things. I would like you to talk to me about how it was at school today. It should be a protected area, you don’t argue. It’s a safe place. That’s a very important thing. I know a lot of pediatricians who say you don’t argue. It’s not a place to battle. It’s a place to share.”

4. 20 minutes, minimum. The dinner table may be an argument free zone in the Larrivee home but that doesn’t mean there aren’t rules. Everybody stays at the tale until everyone is done.  And the real hero of family dinners? Conversation. Yes, of course, just like at your house, when Ricardo and his wife ask their kids how school was the answer is, “Fine.” But if the kids have to sit and listen to the adults talk about their day, the news, what have you, pretty soon their kids are chiming in. “Then you will know everything that went on at school, you’ll know everything. They’ll be unstoppable.”

5. Don’t care so much. This was a real gem of the day. Sometimes caring too much about what our kids are eating means we make it an impossible task. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect, don’t worry if it’s not unique and original. Just do it. “Our parents didn’t care. It was good and that was it.”


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