Happy New Year from Taste Quest! The year is already off to a busy start at Taste Quest Headquarters and there is a lot to get excited about, but before I get to that, I want to zoom out for a minute, as is custom at this time of year, and speak to the reasons why Taste Quest exists, starting with a gift from a girl named Liliana.
Shortly before Christmas I received a thank you note from Liliana, our Fall Foodie Challenge winner. I had sent her a prize, a cookbook called the United Tastes of America, and she sweetly thanked me for her well-deserved prize. She didn’t have to do that, but I was deeply touched that she did, because her note, as well as her awesome efforts during the challenge, shone with exuberance and enthusiasm for the opportunity to explore new frontiers with food. She took those challenges and ran with them, exercising her creativity, stoking her curiosity, and building skills as she went.
For me, Liliana’s participation feeds a deep passion, namely that kids realize their own ability to influence this world for good. We are each endowed with amazing potential, but many kids grow into adults without feeling like they have anything to offer. Somewhere around age 10, many kids start to believe they are not creative, or not artistic, or not smart, or not talented. My passion is to help kids maintain their sense of wonder, stoke their curiosity, and propel their uninhibited imaginations into the “grownup” world of productive problem-solving.
Taste Quest’s mission is to empower kids to nourish their bodies, their families, and their communities through play-based food education. Broken down, this means Taste Quest gives kids a mechanism through which they not only learn skills and have fun, but can tangibly impact three areas of need: personal nutrition, family well-being, and hunger in their communities. With food as their medium and Taste Quest as the facilitator, kids can address each of these areas simultaneously, and see the positive ripple effects in real time.
Food is a powerful tool. It is a universal language that speaks nourishment, creativity, comfort, and community. It is, for our purposes of empowerment, an ideal tool because of how many areas of life it touches. Cooking is, as we like to say, a superpower; it brings love, joy, and healing. Learning to cook and eat well is a life-long process, and the sooner it starts the more rewarding one’s life can be. My hypothesis with Taste Quest is that if we give kids a real stake in the nourishment–physical, emotional, social nourishment–of their bodies, their families, and their communities, amazing things will happen, not just now, but for the rest of their lives.
What we want with Taste Quest is not only to accomplish short term wins, such as new skills or hungry neighbors fed, both of which are significant achievements, but also to catalyze long-term wins: life-long development of self-confidence, self-sustenance, and creativity. These life skills can be learned in the kitchen, and they seep out into all areas of life. In this way, food is just the beginning. We are tackling much bigger fish.
So how do we accomplish these short and long-term goals? By playing with our food!
When we learn through play, our brains make a critical shift: problems become puzzles, and obstacles become challenges. Play encourages optimism in the learning process, and we overcome inhibitions that might otherwise frustrate us and force us to stop progressing. Therefore, Taste Quest combines the power of play with the power of food, and shapes all of its content into one or more of the following structures: Story, Games, Craft, and Experimentation. If a recipe is an experiment, then we are free to fail. If a shopping trip is a game, then we don’t think of it as a chore. If we think of food as art, then we have three chances every day to exercise our creativity.
Our TQ team is working on some awesome content that touches on all of these elements of play, thereby transforming the food education process. We will release it in small form via our digital subscription, launching hopefully in mid-February. These will be small form pieces of content designed for the home kitchen, and for kids to try new foods and new skills at their own pace. We will be instituting a graduated skill acquisition model that both helps them champion skills over time and indicates to both kids and their grownups where frustrations and technical difficulties might interfere, and how to work around those.
Once we launch this, we will need your help! We will need you to test these new features with your kids, and work with us on how to make them better. Contact me if your family can help in this capacity! Your kids could also join our Kid Advisory board to help with kid-designed elements!
Also contact me with any questions or thoughts. Would love to hear from you!