Most mornings on her way to school, Marni, 5, from San Francisco enjoys munching on croissants in the back of the car. She loves croissants - but only the plain ones.
I’ve followed Marni on Instagram for a good few years now. Not only because she’s the best-dressed 5-year-old I’ve seen or the fact that her infectious personality gives me a daily dose of happiness, but because I love watching her eat. Now, I know that may make me sound a little weird, but to me, there is nothing better than watching kids dive head first into their food. That pure enjoyment (or disgust) on their face is so extreme, why doesn’t anyone over the age of 10 pull faces like that when tucking into a bowl of mouthwateringly good pasta?
It got me thinking about my relationship with food as a child compared to now. Wow, I was a fussy eater back then; sweets for breakfast, lunch and dinner, please. Anything else would have been secretly fed under the table to my dog Jasper. Now while I may still enjoy the odd sugary fizzy belt, my tastes buds have drastically changed.
Children have around 30,000 taste buds, so eating must be one hell of a lip-smacking experience, even the simplest or blandest foods (to us) would be an explosion of flavours. As we get older (as if getting hangovers wasn’t enough), we start to lose some of these taste buds. Which explains why we tend to tuck into more food that’s full of punchy and complex flavours, like a curry or a glass of Amarone. Our ‘matured’ taste buds crave more excitement and stimulation.
If children are the ones with these extraordinary taste buds, surely this makes them some kind of superhero? They taste things that we can’t anymore.
On a sunny morning near London’s Borough market, I had a quick chat with Marni. Over a few croissants and apple juice, she gave me the lowdown of food through the taste buds of a 5-year-old.
Marni on Food:
“If I could eat anything right now I would have some broccoli, strawberries, coalfish and apple juice. I love strawberries because they are so sweet. When I was little, I didn’t really like broccoli because it didn’t taste sweet. But then I grew BIG, and now I love it, it tastes sweeter to me now. I especially like the little circle thing that is on the top of the handle, I like that part the most. I like the handle too, but sometimes I say I don’t like it.
I really hate watermelon, oranges, carrots and peppers. I don’t know why they just aren’t my favourite foods.”
Marni on Croissants:
“I’ve had maybe 100, no, thousands of croissants in my whole life. The San Francisco croissant is the best I’ve ever had, the one from a place called Arsicault.
I only like to eat the outside part of the croissant, it tastes like crumbs. Also, when you eat it, your nose looks weird like this....”
Marni wrinkles her nose up and wriggles it around, she pulls all sorts of faces, reenacting what her face does when she eats a croissant.
Most of us grown-ups always put children’s selective food choices down to them being ‘fussy eaters’. Though perhaps with our extensive food complaints: “more salt”, “too sweet”, “not spicy enough”, it’s us mere adults that are the fussiest eaters after all.
While I may never be able to remember or understand what food tasted like as a child, I know I need to start being more facially expressive when I eat. Because who knows? Maybe that’s the secret to really tasting your food.