"The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have got to have a what-the-hell attitude." ~ Julia Child

The kids are all right

by Julie Tilsner on March 6, 2007

in Adventures in Parenting

See? SEE? Kids are different from you and I. Their palates are unformed and unsophisticated. They eat in unorthodox and curious manner.  So why, I ask you, why do we insist on trying to create anything special for them at all?

I know why. Because we love food and we want the little bastards to love food too. But I think I might have shot myself in the foot here.

My kids ate widely, and con mucho gusto until right around their third birthdays, when both of them suddenly became textbook examples of picky eaters. Why? What happened?

At the time my firstborn stopped eating (A. would suddenly only eat white bread, white rice, or curly pasta with no butter), I also had newborn J. and things were frantic. My mother gave me some good advice. “Make it easier on yourself,” she said. “Find two or three things you know she’ll eat and just give her that.” So I did. No matter what rich concoction I was attempting for the grown-ups at the time, A. would get her bowl of plain pasta or chunk of bread (with a little dish of something green). I did the same when her baby brother came of picky age. Only he favored Mac & Cheese, PB&J’s and DinoNuggets. Thank God for Costco.

Fast forward ten years. My kids are less picky, but still hidebound in their tastes. They also eat on opposite ends of the spectrum. They never want the same thing. A. will eat my tortilla Espanola, but her brother will not. He will eat buttermilk chicken, or fish fingers, or yogurt, but his sister will not. She loves corn. He likes peas. She loves a good hamburger. He’s only interested in grilled cheese. Honestly, I don’t know how I feed them at all.

I’m starting to realize that maybe I missed some crucial window of opportunity when they were much younger. Reading around the blogosphere, I’m gleaning that the way to an adventurous eater is to not kowtow to their (limited) tastes. Serve them what you’re eating and expect them to eat it or let them go hungry. I agree with this heartily. In theory. In practice, I’m no match for that primal instinct toward feeding my progeny. I try to be tough. I serve them salmon. They refuse. They whine. They beg. I cave and boil the water for pasta. It’s a vicious cycle.

Of course, maybe it’s just my cooking.

Feh. It can’t be. They’re not old enough to know what real good home cooking can taste like. And so I continue to dream of the day when my kids start digging on salsa verde or channa daal or butternut squash soup. I can’t wait for them to fall in love with all the tastes and colors and smells of good eating.

In the meantime I live vicariously through other food bloggers with kids. I just discovered the Gastrokid site, and I’m already a big fan, although these guys clearly have WAY more prowess in the kitchen then I’ll ever have. But apparently their children have more evolved palettes than my children as well. More importantly, they apparently will try new things. I plan to ask them for tips.

Janelle over at Talk of Tomatoes knows all about this conundrum. But then, it sounds like her kids are more adventurous than mine as well. Still, she’s got a “Default Dinner” recipe here for Italian sausage and roasted red peppers that….maybe….my kids would try. And I know I’d eat their portions in any case.

Nikki has one here that involves wagon wheel pasta. Lots of potential there. I might try this one tonight. Or I might make Tony take us all out instead.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

niki March 9, 2007 at 6:51 am

I sort of mixed up the meals for my kids. With Jack, the 4-year-old, I would basically give him a watered down version of whatever we ate. If I made pasta with sauce, he would just get plain pasta that kind of thing. So now he only wants plain pasta if we have pasta (he usually doesn’t get that anymore though).
So I learned with Tor, the 17-month-old. He gets exactly what we are eating and he eats it. I didn’t learn that because of my “mistakes” with Jack, after the second kid, I just was too tired to make adult meals and kids meals so they get what we eat.
Before I had Tor (but after Jack), my best friend told me that her sister makes 4 meals a night. One for her, one for her husband, one for her oldest son and the last for her youngest son. None of them eat the same things. That worried me.
Another one of my friends told me that between 1 and 2 is when I should get whatever food I want them to like into them on a regular basis because at 2 they start getting picky, so I did that for both of them and they seem to eat a lot of different foods.
I was a super picky eater, I mean really really picky. I would only eat a couple of things and if they touched on my plate, that was it :). I also didn’t eat sauces like Jack. Now I eat almost anything and they can touch on my plate! So there is hope for your kids.


audrey April 22, 2007 at 4:29 pm

Re: picky eaters
Six months ago Oliver, much to his dismay, opened a fortune cookie with this message, “Be adventurous. Try something new”. Poor kid, everytime he sits at the table staring with obvoius revulsion at some new, strange looking, untried food, we all shout out in unison, “Be adventurous! Try something new!”
He will moan and groan, but he WILL try it!
If only we could purchase these little helpful messages and stuff them into fortune cookies when needed. Something about the fortune cookie, and my son’s respect for it’s “magical” powers, compelled him to do it’s bidding.


michael jones January 4, 2008 at 3:26 pm

That was an interesting post! My kid is a picky eater too! The biggest problem is the fact that i have to find some different picky eater recipes!


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