A lot of health programming aimed at kids feels as though it was written by people who don’t remember what it’s like to be a kid. Almost universally, the kid saying they don’t like a food has simply never tried it, and once they do, they like it after all. Now, I have an actual eating disorder that keeps that from being true for me. But even so-called normal kids often go through picky stages, and even adults often have at least a few foods they don’t like. Any show that acknowledges that is going to endear itself to me even if it isn’t full of adorable puppets and entertaining celebrity cameos.
Waffles (Michelle Zamora) is half-waffle and half-yeti. Mochi (Piotr Michael) is, well, a mochi. They leave their home in the Land of Frozen Foods and end up in a grocery store run by Mrs. Obama (herself). They desperately want to work there, and she lets them, with the understanding that they’re going to have to learn about the various foods in the store. Each episode, they explore something new. They meet all kinds of interesting people and learn all kinds of interesting things on their quest to become properly educated supermarket employees. And eventually chefs.
Yes, my hands-down favourite episode is “Rice,” which is a Finding Your Roots parody wherein Mochi traces their family tree—ice cream on one side, rice on the other. This is also the episode where Mrs. Obama is making a family tree, which of course includes her husband who is no one interesting or special la la la. (It’s a very young picture of him, too.) It’s also worth noting, though, that the episode features Michael Twitty, who talks a bit about how his ancestors were brought to the US as slaves because they knew how to cultivate rice, and while I’m not sure my kids absorbed that information, it’ll be there when they watch it again.
You see, Our Heroes have a magic shopping cart called Magicart (Dinoa Elise Burnett) that takes them around the world to learn about the origins and uses of whatever food we’re currently looking at. They learn different ways of preparing the foods in different cultures—I believe it’s on the egg episode that Mochi encounters a method of preparing eggs that they don’t like. (Mochi is voiced by a man but doesn’t really seem to present as male to me, possibly on the grounds of being a mochi.) There are other ways of preparing eggs that Mochi does like, and that’s okay! But they learn about Peruvian uses for potatoes, and that’s not something a lot of shows do.
There’s a fun combination of celebrity chefs, more ordinary people, and kids from around the world consulted about the various foods—and, yes, some of the kids don’t like the foods they’re talking about and are still included in the episode. We have a set-up for how utterly, utterly clueless Waffles is about so many things. She wanted to be a chef before, but being in the Land of Frozen Foods meant that she was . . . preparing ice cubes. With freshly shaved ice cubes on top. There are episodes about water and salt, two of the most basic elements of food—now I think about it, probably the two things we consume that are pure chemical compounds.
Do I have possibly the only seven-year-old who’s listed Good Eats as his favourite show? Yes. Yes, I do. So of course he’d like this show. And my four-year-old greets practically every new kids’ show with, “That’s my favourite show!” And the returns of ones she hasn’t asked for in months is greeted as though she’s been begging to see them this whole time. These things are true. But even leaving that aside, this is a show both my kids like that I will encourage them to keep watching, because it’s fun. Even if I am convinced that Mrs. Obama, one of its producers, invited Lionel Richie to be on it because she had a crush on him in the ’80s and, you know, could.