Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Past Deadline: The Ongoing Food Battle

I need to know. At what point can I expect my children’s palates to diversify enough that they will eat a variety of different foods?

I should clarify this. Perhaps the word should be “re-diversify.” See, when they were really little, both of my little darlings ate everything and anything – particularly in the fruit and vegetable range. Then they developed opinions learned how to speak in full sentences, and such phrases as: “I don’t like this” became frequent utterances.


I am given to understand that this, too, shall pass – that it is perfectly typical for young kids to go from eating everything to eating next to nothing to eating everything again. I am also given to understand that I should be careful what I wish for because once they start to eat again we will be maxing out our credit cards on groceries.

The thing is I am really hoping things start to improve a little before the “eating like a teenager” phase arrives so the whole family can enjoy a wider range of food – not to mention avoiding scurvy. Granted, Girlchild is still pretty game to try everything, but even her range has narrowed.

When I was growing up, we ate what was served or we didn’t eat. I don’t honestly remember there being many arguments about food and I don’t remember walking away from the table hungry. Eventually I even came to an understanding with my parents that no matter how many times they served Brussels sprouts, I still wasn’t going to change my mind about hating them.

I always assumed my mom was fairly uncompromising on the food front. Certainly she tried to serve things that everyone would eat, but there was a wide range of stuff on the table and my brother and I were encouraged to “at least try” something that was new or that we weren’t overly crazy about.

It wasn’t until after I moved away from home that my parents expressed their intense relief that they wouldn’t have to serve corn every other meal, so I guess they made certain palate sacrifices, too. (And I think they avoided corn for years after.)

We’ve tried to adopt the “at least try it” philosophy and I usually make sure there is one part of the meal that everyone likes (kinda like Mom’s corn deal, I suppose), but that can be limiting.
Despite this, I’m not much in favour of the “you can’t leave the table until you clean your plate” deal because I think that can set a kid up for some unhealthy ideas about food in the future.

Another thing I have started to do is to actually “market” the meals. I know, it’s kinda crazy. Lots of parents out there will be shaking their heads and saying, “The kids should eat what’s in front of them or go hungry!” Maybe there’s something to that.

However, I’m a word girl, so when I pitched shepherd’s pie to a reluctant Girlchild as “Comfort Food Just Like Nanny Used to Make for Mommy,” and added that the macaroni and cheese dish I make is also in the “comfort food” category, she totally bought it and it disappeared off her plate.

Go figure.

Previous efforts to serve shepherd’s pie were seriously hampered by her brother’s exclamations of hatred for the meal (which, I might add, he used to really like). She refused to even try it based on his critique.

Sometimes it’s not so much about the words as it is the presentation. Take chilli for example. Previous efforts to serve this classic dish (also of the “comfort food” tradition), have failed. Then one night I put the chilli in big bowls and lined the edge with nacho chips. Well. Using the chips as scoops was the coolest thing ever. It all disappeared.

Now I need to focus my campaign on diversifying the range of vegetables we eat. Our “corn” is raw carrots, and I’m getting a bit weary of them. Sneaking pureed veggies into sauces isn’t as reliable as it used to be. I have had some success, though, with melted cheese on broccoli.

Do you suppose lining a chilli bowl with asparagus spears would work?
Published in The Perth Courier, Nov. 11/10

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