Dianna asked me about food issues in adoption..
An important thing to keep in mind when adopting from overseas is the type of cuisine served, and the method of eating in the country your child is from.
Ethiopian dishes are very unique. I don't know of any thing we eat here in America which compares to the flavor and heat of traditional Ethiopian dishes. It is very delicious, and the Berbere used to spice the dishes can make it very HOT. Little ones of all ages eat the delicious food. Food which would have me in tears would not even register on our Ethiopian children's radar as spicy.
Also, strong coffee and tea are consumed by many Ethiopians including young children. Our son who was 3 at homecoming would go crazy for coffee. He still loves it, and I ignore the odd looks we receive when we walk into Target and he asks for the coffee the Starbucks sells. The aroma speaks to him still :o) and we do let him drink decaff on occasion.
Sweets are not a regular part of the Ethiopian diet. Our Ethiopian children had no taste or desire for sweets. They would turn their little noses up at them when they first came home. That has since been remedied.. and now they are full fledged sugar lovers. Not that that is a good thing. ;o)
Ethiopians do not typically use utensils when eating. They eat with their right hand. At AAI's Layla House they do practice with utensils in preparation for coming to America. Our son was from Kidane Mehret and he ate with his hand. It was really quite amazing to watch him eat a bowl of rice and not drop one grain. It took several months before he got the hang of using a utensil. At one point he would put the food on the spoon with his hand lift the food to his chin, and then pick up the food and place it in his mouth...I really wish I would have videoed more in those days. Mealtimes were hectic, but we laughed so much.
Also, when adopting small children it is good to ask caregivers what the feeding routines are. The nuns at Kidane put sugar in the baby bottles to fatten up the little ones. Our little guy did not like his milk without sugar at first. We weaned him off the sugar slowly.
Food can be a very emotional issue. We all have strong feelings about food. We often center holidays and traditions around it.
We also turn to food for comfort. There are times it brings us comfort, or reminds us of a fond memory.
It is no different for our children from overseas. Food can be a huge struggle to adjust to. The food will seems strange and different. It will look funny, and taste funny, and smell funny. Many Ethiopian children have not had dairy and pizza and mac and cheese are just foreign to their little taste buds.
We made sure we had rice or pasta, bread, and fresh fruit at every meal. These are things we knew they would like. Then they could try the new American food if they liked; which they usually did.
Our 3 boys had very different food adjustments.
The Wee Babe struggled with food. His struggles were due to his prematurity and it took him time to learn how to swallow. He is doing really well with eating now.
Our son who came home at 14 months adjusted wonderfully to food here in America. He didn't skip a beat. He ate very well, and has had no food issues.
Our 3 yo sons was very malnourished upon arriving into the orphanage. Many of us will never know what it feels like to be hungry. Truly hungry. We can't imagine what it would be like to have no food for days, and to not know when or if food will come again.
Our son did struggle with gorging and overeating until the point of sickness. It was not unusual for him to finish a meal only to dive under his chair and eat any crumbs which may have fallen. There were times where we would catch him eating out of the trash.
He was a survivor. He was still in survival mode, and his little mind couldn't comprehend a world where food was constantly available. His experience thus far had proved otherwise.
We made sure that he had 3 meals and 2 snacks every day at the same time. We could literally see him panic if he began to feel hunger pains, so we tried to make sure he never got that hungry. He needed to learn that food was going to be there. It took TIME to instill this.
God has brought him out of his compulsiveness for food. He still loves food more than your average child, and I think he always will, but he stops when he is full. He doesn't eat things he doesn't like anymore for fear he won't eat again. The day he left the crust on his plate from a sandwich was a day we stopped and thanked God for healing him.
A very interesting documentary on hunger some in Ethiopia face is
Living With Hunger
Here is a synopsis
In an unprecedented mission, Sorious Samura set out to understand the real stories of people living on the edge of starvation. He moved into a remote village in Ethiopia far away from the range of the UN and most NGO's. Between August and September Sorious lived in a hut and survived on the same meagre diet as the rest of the villagers.
It is a hard documentary to watch, but we felt an important one for Jim and I to see.