JP McMahon: Is paying children to try new foods wrong?

Getting them to try these mussels would be money well spent

We should be eating mussels three times a week. Photograph: iStock

Let us be under no illusions. It can be difficult to feed children. Many of you who read this column have told me on occasion how my children must be great eaters because their father is a chef. This is far from the truth. Don’t get me wrong, I try.

But when your teenager says she’d rather go to Supermac’s than Chapter One, I feel I have my work cut out for me. Maybe it’s just a rebellious streak. But I long again for those days when they ate everything without question. Perhaps they will return anew. For the moment, it’s all about negotiations. Eat this and I’ll give you that. I’ll give you this, if you eat that. You know the drill.

Often, in the depths of despair, a monetary value is put on every new food. Eat these mussels and I’ll give you a euro. What can you buy with a euro, she asks? Give me three. So, I relent.

Stranger foods are more expensive. I once got the nine-year-old to eat a cricket for €5. Is this wrong? Are they questionable ethics? Or does everything have a price? The teenager loves mussels, squid, turbot, and John Dory now, but that’s because I paid her to eat them the first time. It was, I believe, money well spent.


How to cook mussels with garlic and thyme

February is a wonderful time to eat mussels because of the colder waters. As a country, we don’t eat enough of them. Most are exported. We should be eating mussels three times a week. They’re relatively cheap, nutritious and a wonderful fast food.

Fry a diced onion and a few minced cloves of garlic in butter and oil. Add a few sprigs of fresh thyme and a glass of white wine (or one for you and one for the mussels). If you don’t want to use wine, just use fish stock or water. Add a splash of cream or coconut milk. You can also add lemongrass or basil. Wait a few minutes then add a kilo of mussels. Cover the pot and wait three minutes, till the mussels have opened. Garlic bread seems never to go out of fashion. The more butter, the better. Dip in and enjoy.