“And I – I took the food less eaten…”
Our five-year-old, Fae, is either a really picky eater, or a contrarian (or, she might just be both). I mean, really, have you ever met a kid that didn’t like mashed potatoes?
“This is too spicy” for barbeque sauce.
“I don’t like rice” for any kind of rice, although not so much with cheesy rice.
“It’s too brown” when I serve roasted broccoli.
“I’m not eating burnt meat” when she sees the grill marks on chicken.
Etc. Etc. Etc.
Almost every night ends up being a battle with Fae to eat a good portion of her dinner. Often she’ll comply, or she’ll talk us into taking 2-3 “no thank you bites.” Sometimes she just flat out refuses. My hope is that Fae will learn to like different foods as she gets older and continues to be “forced” to try new things.
And, we try all types of tricks to get her to eat, most of them to no avail. Kiki and I always eat the same dinner, so it doesn’t seem like we’re singling Fae out. We explain what each thing is so she’s not confused by what she sees on the plate (Grill marks does not mean the chicken is burnt.). We even separate out the parts of a dish if she doesn’t like it combined, like taco salad (making a bean and beef dip, and a separate greens salad). And if there’s no catchup or ranch dressing accompanying the meat, then fugetaboutit!
I normally cook dinners in our house — even before being a stay-at-home-dad. Cooking is one of those zen meditational things for me. Start with a concept, gather the parts, and create something where the sum is greater than the parts. And, I specifically cook what I think the whole family would like… ergo, no stewed tomatoes, no fried okra, no steak tartar, no Gorgonzola cheese. So yeah, it tends to hurt my feelings a bit when I’ve put in a good amount of thought, work, and care into creating a healthy and nutritious dinner; just to have Fae thumb her nose at it. Well, usually it’s crossed arms, big ol’ frown, and a vicious shaking of the head while telling us, “No!” or “Uh unh!”
Kiki will usually tell me to lay off, let her check out the food on her own, kids don’t starve themselves, etc. Ok, fine, I get those arguments. I’ve laid off getting upset at Fae during dinner when she doesn’t want to eat. I’ve learned a little to work around for some of it… No second piece of bread until you eat your salad, for example. I’ve learned to be OK — for the most part — when Fae still refuses.
It’s not about me.
Which, come to think of it, should probably be the mantra of any dad: “It’s not about me.”
Sure, Kiki and I still crave our pad se ew, Cajun-rubbed New York strip steak, pasta tossed with bell peppers, and all the other “grownup” foods. But, we’re not all grownups in the house, and teaching cuisine to the kids is just as much a process as teaching handwriting, or riding a bike. Force the lesson too much and the child will just butt heads with you, making that much more of a negative imprint.
We try pretty hard to be a positive family. To paraphrase Robert Frost:
I shall be telling this with a sigh,
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two palates diverged in the kitchen, and I —
I took the food less eaten,
And that has made all the difference.