With Christmas meals and holiday snacks upon us, who better to interview than Melissa D’Arabian? This wife and mother of four, television host and New York Times bestselling cookbook author believes in the power of the home-cooked family meal. Her four young daughters inspired her to create The Picky Eaters Project — an online experience that provides family viewing over the Christmas break.
Family, Faith and Food
Katy Christian Magazine readers may recognize Melissa as the fifth-season winner of The Next Food Network Star and be familiar with her series and cookbook, both entitled Ten Dollar Dinners. With the goal of nourishing both body and soul, Melissa connects closely to her Christian faith and strives to live her life with meaning and purpose. Faith, family and food are her focus in her Picky Eaters web series, which offers a highly personal glimpse into her home and kitchen.
Melissa may be professional cook, but nevertheless has finicky offspring. “I have my share of struggles and days when I wish parenting were easier,” she says of her house full of picky eaters. In fact, picky eating is something many parents blame on themselves. “I wanted a program — a step-by-step approach — to help my family. So I researched and confirmed that pickiness can be quite complex.” From physiological differences in taste to lack of nutritional context and factors such as human nature, power assertions, habits, and negative associations or experiences with certain foods, many families face picky eater issues. Melissa pitched The Picky Eater concept to the Food Network with a mission to “tackle it together” — her and the viewing audience.
Filmed in her home, it offers a first-hand glance into the lives of Melissa, her husband Phillipe, and her daughters Valentine (8), Charlotte (7), and twin girls Océane and Margaux (both 6). There’s also Roxy, their 8-year-old rescue Lab. “These are my kids, my house and our real problems,” says Melissa. “We had a video camera hovering over our dinner table all summer long.” The project debuted this fall and is an online resource available to everyone.
From Picky to Adventurous
Although her husband and Labrador will eat anything, Melissa’s daughters are another story. While her eldest, Valentine, is an adventurous eater, Charlotte and the twins are inclined toward pickiness. After going through the Melissa’s program, all have improved their eating habits and are more willing to try new foods. Purposeful parenting, limiting junk food, cooking with her children, and introducing new foods not once, but dozens of times, is her key to success.
For Christmas and the Holidays
With Christmas just around the corner, families often travel and mingle with grandparents, relatives and friends. Melissa suggests an idea for challenging kids to try new foods: a taste-testing contest. Whoever samples the most new dishes, wins! The goal is to have children step outside their comfort zones and experiment with unfamiliar dishes, which opens them up to new culinary experiences. Chances are, they’ll find something they really enjoy.
“What do I hope to accomplish? My number one goal when it comes to food and my kids is I want them to have a healthy relationship with it. In my mind that means my kids celebrate food for its ability to nourish their bodies and for the role it plays in bringing people together, sharing lives over a meal. It means my kids growing up unafraid to try new foods, knowing that their opinions count (they are allowed to not like something!), and it means a peaceful, joyful dinner table.”
Connect with Melissa
We thank Melissa for the interview and invite our readers to learn more at www.foodnetwork.com/picky-eaters-project/videos/index.html, www.foodnetwork.com/melissa-darabian, and www.MelissadArabian.net. Her tried-and-true techniques, budget strategies and superior resource management skills help viewers create family-friendly recipes as flavorful and elegant as they are affordable.