A lot of kids are fussy eaters, and I know many parents can commiserate with my dinner time woes. But I’ve given up fighting because it was turning relaxed mealtimes into stressful encounters, and I’m using all my energy preparing meals which meet some specific and very pointed culinary preferences. You know those kids who won’t eat a food if it touches another food, or who refuse to try something that originated from a seed at one point in it’s life cycle? My kids are nothing like that. They’re WORSE.
Let me make you understand the severity of what I’m dealing with here, because my problem may not be quite what you’re expecting. When the thick department store catalogue arrives each holiday season, most kids turn to the back where the toy pages are. My kids go to the kitchen section and start arguing over who’s asking Santa for the pasta roller and which one of them deserves the Henkel knives. We rarely participate in hot lunch days at school, because the order for for “Pizza Day” they didn’t include an artisan crust, anchovy and black olive option. It’s like the school hates kids.
These kids are serious about their food.
I don’t encourage it. I have remarkable few preferences myself – primarily that the food arrive hot, and (preferably) dead. I’d be happy – delighted even – to prepare hotdogs or chicken fingers once or twice a week. I could use the break.They’re still children however, and love junk food as much and maybe more than the next person, but they take it up a notch when it comes to quality. My daughter could pick a Lindt from a line-up of Cadbury’s with her tongue tied behind her back, and when my son was taken out for “treat” lunch with a friend and his mother, he wouldn’t touch the pogo stick or french fries, opting instead to eat everyone’s tomato and soggy romaine garnish.
Their teachers request that snacks come primarily from the fruit, vegetable or protein food groups. This helps people avoid some popular allergens and also encourages kids to eat a healthier mini-meal twice a day. My son was almost granted an exception to that rule when he insisted on bringing tuna with roast garlic olive oil marinated tomatoes for his snack every day. His kindergarten classroom may have smelled like an Italian restaurant, but those kids were safe from vampires.
At any given time my refrigerator holds cold poached salmon, pickled white asparagus, and 6 year-old cheddar. None of it is mine. My daughter pores over imported food brochures from the European deli like other girls admire “Teen Vogue” magazine, and my son requested a Crème Brule torch for his fifth birthday. I blame it on their Italian heritage because their Nona can create a Cordon Bleu worthy meal using nothing more than salt and pepper and an ancient pan she brought to the new country. She’s spoiled their taste buds and now I’m the one who’s paying for it. While I was attempting to dull their gustatory senses with tasteless canned vegetables and rubbery frozen waffles, she was undoing all my hard work with salads so fresh the rain still clung to them.
A few nights ago I put what I thought was nice pork roast on the table. My daughter took a bite and did all she could not to gag on it.
“What did you marinate this in? It’s horrible!” she asked.
“What? Nothing. I just cooked it in a bit of apple cider in the crock pot.”
“Apple cider? A CROCK POT?” she scoffed. “This thing…” she poked it with her fork…”this thing deserves a nice blueberry port glaze.” She shook her head.
“Yeah, and would it have killed you to give it a toasted pistachio crust?” my son added, heaping injury upon already bruised culinary ego.
I apologized and offered to make them some macaroni and cheese.
“Fine,” they conceded. “But could you at least add some creamy French brie like Nona does?”