Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Successful Failure

I suspect every teenager does it; in fact, I'm sure I started as a pre-teen. I'm referring, of course, to that mental file we make called "What I Will Never Do As a Parent." I'm sure my kids have already started theirs.

I was a picky eater growing up, but my parents were of the thought that if they forced me to gag raw, slimy tomatoes and mushy avocado down enough times, I would grow fond of them. Consequently, number one on my mental list was I will not force my children to eat food they do not like.

The people who ran my boarding school were of the same thought as my parents. I remember sitting at lunch faced with a "dessert plate" which contained slices of papaya and wedges of lemon to squeeze on to the papaya. I opted for a wedge of lemon because, surely if I had let a piece of papaya touch my lips, I know I would have lost my lunch. The oatmeal was the worst. It sat in the bottom of the bowl, a sad, lumpy, cold pile of gray mush. No one liked it. Stevie Pittman didn't like it either, but at least he didn't gag when he tried to eat it, so I paid him my allowance every week to eat mine on the three days it was served to us. I still to this day cannot eat oatmeal; even the smell of American oatmeal triggers a gag reflex.

I think it goes without saying that I have a few issues. And I think it goes without saying that I had good intentions adding I will not force my children to eat food they do not like to my mental list.

However. Now I'm actually a parent. And while I still share great empathy with my picky children's food aversions, I have this strange desire to see them grow up healthy. I know it's partially my fault. My oldest would eat ANYTHING until one day at the ripe age of 18 months, she decided she DIDN'T want to eat anything. And, rather than still placing her old faves in front of her, I pulled from my mental file and did what came naturally: "Oh, you don't like that anymore? Well, you don't have to eat it."

So now here we are eight years later. She is by far the pickiest of the bunch. Her willingness to try new things has improved, but there still isn't a vegetable or fruit she'll touch with a 10-foot pole. Until tonight. Only she doesn't know it.

You see, a couple of weeks ago, I purchased this book called Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld (yes, Jerry's wife). I have been poring over this book since I purchased it, plotting my best deception. The strategy behind each recipe is to hide veggie and fruit purees in kid-friendly recipes (think avocado puree in brownies, cauliflower puree in scrambled eggs). Of course, the book has its critics. Some say you shouldn't hide fruits and veggies because then when the kids become adults they will turn their noses up at strawberries, carrots, and broccoli. You know what? My children already do that. I decided I'm going to deal with today and deal with my grown up kids when they're grown up. The goal right now is to get them to grown-up. And in as healthy a fashion as possible.

So tonight I finally stopped my plotting and decided to dive in. In the interest of being honest, I suppose I should divulge a little secret to all of you people who have this false impression that I'm some sort of Super Mom: I don't cook. I don't like to cook. I like to bake, but unfortunately, man does not live by cake and cookies alone. When TravelDaddy is home, he does all the cooking; he loves it, by the way, and is right up there with Emeril and Bobby Flay. He often even overcooks so we'll have leftovers while he's gone. And, really, I do some cooking while he's gone, but I always stick to what I know: spaghetti, tacos, and waffles for dinner, that kind of stuff.

Anyway, the recipe I chose for tonight was for chicken nuggets. And, just to make it seem like McDonald's around here, I made french fries: regular for the kids, sweet potato fries for me (and for them to try). (All we needed for the full McDonald's experience was a cheap toy and bad service.) Unfortunately and in my opinion, the nuggets were disastrous. According to the recipe, I was to dip the chicken in a mixture of raw egg and spinach puree. I was then to dip them in the bread/flax mixture, thus HIDING the spinach. The bread mixture (which was homemade bread and fresh ground flax: score 1 for healthy!) did not hide a thing. So I muttered a few unsavory words in my head but continued the cooking, all the while mentally (my brain is busy, I tell ya!) reviewing the contents of the pantry and fridge to decide what I'd feed the kids once they got a look of the green nuggets.

Everything was finally cooked an hour later than we usually eat dinner. Because my non-cooking cooking takes a lot of time. Thankfully, the later hour meant there was little light in the kitchen, and I decided not to turn the lights on at all. I fake cheerfully set their plates in front of them and was, of course, met by "What is that green stuff?" And here is where I told a little white lie. Just a tiny one, which I know, according to what I've been preaching to my VBS kids all week is just as bad as a big one. But, really, it couldn't be helped; the health of my precious children is at stake. "Oh, that green stuff," I said dismissively, "that's just spice. It makes the chicken taste better. Like salt. Salt's a spice. You guys love salt."

And the verdict? Well...I was finally able to convince Jacob to eat one piece. But the others? They wolfed it down, especially Alex who claimed it was "delicious" and kept getting up to get more. I wonder what she'd say if I told her? I don't plan to, of course, because that would raise high suspicions about all future dishes...and tonight I plan to make peanut butter and banana muffins with cauliflower puree. Shhhhh!!


dclouser said...

This is TOO funny! I can so empathize with gagging food down at ICA and hating oatmeal to this day. And I vowed never to force my kids to eat foods they didn't like. However, when it came to veggies they always had to eat as many as they were years old (4 green beans for a 4 yr. old). In this way, they eventually learned to like all the veggies except the ones that I don't like. Your way sounds good, but much too time-consuming!

CrossView said...

ROFL! I, too, was a picky eater. I say "was" because I'll pretty much eat anything now. My rule was that you had to try one bite of anything new. Now that mine have gotten older *sniff* they have no choice on the veggie. And I often do the combinations that have something in it everyone hates so it takes away whining rights.

My 19-yr old is good about moderation of junk and good at choosing to eat what's good for her. Th 13-yr old and my husband - not so much.

But you're a better mom than I am. I'm not gonna work so hard!

I'm with ya on the oatmeal, though. Mine will eat it. I'm trying to. I gag as I try to eat it, all the while explaining to myself how good it is for me. I'm not convinced it's worth it.

TeacherMommy said...

Oh, the tales still told of ICA food!

I can sort of eat oatmeal these days, but it's not a prime choice. And I still cannot stand fishy fish--brings back nightmares of Sunday mornings when the entire campus smelled like capitain.

Courtney said...

Ah! Very clever, you are! You've given me some great ideas here!

Spinach? A spice? I'm totally going to try that one!

I wonder if it will work on picky husbands........

Tisha S said...

You just made my morning...I am laughing so hard. Thanks one more time for being normal and "keeping it real". :-)

btw, I do not like oatmeal either. I do keep trying a couple pf times a year. Everytime I end up asking myself, why???