It’s funny and inevitable that at most play dates we go to or parties we host, someone comments about how well/fast/much our kids eat. Ha ha, not surprising as my husband and I both love to eat. We joke (though it’s true and our friends can attest to it) that during one meal, we talk about the next meal or about a place a friend has recommended. A lot of my texts to friends are about food and I have enough photos of my attempts at new recipes or plating techniques. I think this maternity leave has given me more chances (certainly more time) to practice my skills and according to my family, dinners are always awesome. My eldest wants to describe my food as it’s presented (a la Masterchef style) and she loves to comment, “Wow, you nailed it!”
It strikes me as interesting when I read numerous Facebook posts and blogs and discover many parents and their concerns about picky eaters. I’ve noticed some items my kids don’t particularly enjoy (e.g. eggplant), but I’m not the type to completely not cook it because they don’t enjoy it right away. It took them a few tries to enjoy bell peppers and now they LOVE them. They’ll even eat them raw. They didn’t like onions and raisins either, but again, once I explained that all food has some unique nutritional value, they eat them. The rule in our house is simple, “You don’t have to have more, but you have to eat what’s there.” They know I try to cook healthy balanced meals so the logic of that works with them. However, even when they were younger, it was always the same. Finish your meals. There was no arguing or yelling at mealtimes. That’s just how it was. (Mind you, the girls aren’t angels and they can be stubborn and feisty, but this was just understood.)
I’ve also met moms who will cook a meal for them, a meal for their kids, and a meal for a baby. Wow, props to them. I did the meal for baby thing and another for us simply because the baby was starting solid foods, but there was no way I’d do a pasta for us for example, and another meal for the kids. There just wasn’t time even as a SAHM! Between taking care of the baby, cleaning the house, monitoring homework, making lunches and snacks for the next day, and just everything else that pops up with in life, making two different dinners everyday just wasn’t part of my plan. I grew up eating whatever my parents cooked. If I didn’t like it, I’d go hungry.
I remember a story my grandma told me. I was a very young child and she was babysitting me in Hong Kong. I was being picky and didn’t want to eat my rice. I left it in the bowl during dinner time. She didn’t push me, but late at night, she found me eating from the rice cooker, scooping up rice with my hands because I was starving. Now I don’t remember that experience, but the story has been retold enough times for me to imagine myself doing it and reliving it. Clearly, being picky was not an option for me.
Finding picky eating interesting, I found that being picky with food can also be tied to genes and some disorders such as autism, obsessive-compulsiveness, and anxiety. In one of my favourite books by Jodi Picoult, House Rules, the main character, who has autism, will only eat foods of a particular colour on a particular day (so one day is green foods). Early in evolution, being picky meant that you were avoiding foods that you knew would make you ill. Some people just have taste buds that don’t reflect the taste of food the way most people will taste them. It’s like the common Asian fruit called a durian. Some people find it very stinky and gag at the mere scent while others can’t get enough of the taste and claim it’s the smoothest, most delicious treat ever. It’s just a matter of how our brains are processing the smell and taste of the exact same fruit. I have never tried durian, but would love to, just because.
I’m probably lucky that our kids aren’t picky eaters or at least, we’ve tried to show them that all foods can be delicious. They are open to trying new cuisine and that’s great. They like a variety of food and seem to have Italian, Japanese, and Greek as their favourites. The older one has taken a liking to spicy foods which is great. I think it’s important to expose kids to different tastes when they are young so they are educated and adventurous eaters as adults. Most mealtimes are NOT a chore, but there are days when my middle one just can’t finish off that last broccoli. That’s when I toss out the, “If you can’t eat dinner, you can’t have dessert” line…WHOOOSH! I’ve never seen broccoli move so fast.