When Douglas Drenckpohl talks about "the fear factor of the unknown," he's not referring to new computer technology or exploration into outer space. He's speaking about common American vegetables. He has devised, tested and tweaked a variety of recipes to integrate vegetables back into the daily diet. His latest and boldest foray into the world of friendly introductions is a line of delicious vegetable ice creams.
When Douglas Drenckpohl talks about "the fear factor of the unknown," he's not referring to new computer technology or exploration into outer space. He's speaking about common American vegetables.
Lots of children and adults are terrified of eating vegetables.
Drenckpohl, neonatal dietitian at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center Children's Hospital of Illinois, said, "Vegetables have basically been eliminated from the American diet."
But he has devised, tested and tweaked a variety of recipes to integrate vegetables back into the daily diet. He has a compendium of baby food recipes and pureed soup recipes. His goal is not to trick children into eating vegetables but to form a relationship.
His latest and boldest foray into the world of friendly introductions is a line of delicious vegetable ice creams.
Once a child enjoys raspberry beet ice cream or pumpkin-butternut squash ice cream, it's easier to view beets and squash as friends. The child's next encounter with the vegetables will be approached with the memory of a pleasurable personal experience, not with fear and stereotypes.
That was the plan when the Neisler sisters, Emi, 6, and Ellie, 4, stopped by the Drenckpohl home recently to give their assessment of the ice cream.
They came with a love of ice cream and no knowledge of the ingredients.
"If your name is Neisler, you like ice cream," said their mother, Tina Neisler, a nurse who works with Drenckpohl at OSF.
The girls sat at the dining room table and enthusiastically watched as Drenckpohl scooped one sample after another for them to assess.
"Do you like lemon drops?" Drenckpohl asked as he scooped out a sample of lime-cucumber ice cream.
Later, when the girls were told beets, zucchini, cucumbers and avocado were in the ice cream, their eyes grew wide with astonishment.
The final analysis: cucumber-lime was their second favorite. No. 1 for Emi was pumpkin-butternut squash. No. 1 for Ellie was chocolate-zucchini.
"Vegetables have gotten a bad wrap. There is no marketing campaign behind them. If McDonald's marketed vegetables like Happy Meals, kids would eat them," Drenckpohl said.
"If Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers sat around eating vegetables, all of a sudden kids would like them."
Drenckpohl said avocado is actually a fruit but is perceived as a vegetable, and kids often crinkle their nose at the soft texture.
"Avocado is a monounsaturated fat. That's the good type. Even adults who need to cut fat can use avocado to give recipes that creamy texture," he said.
His pear-avocado ice cream was a big hit with his young test panels, which have been ongoing for nearly a year during the recipe development process.
"They love it. They freaked out over the beets," Drenckpohl said.
"If you look on the Food Network, they even make meat ice cream and fish ice cream."
Tina Neisler said, "We won't have to go to the Dream Hut in Bartonville. We'll just go to Douglas' house."
Clare Howard can be reached at (309) 686-3250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.