Season to Taste…

I have no idea what makes us like the foods we like. To some degree, it must be cultural or at least, environmental. North American kids learn to love and live by the peanut butter sandwich. French kids develop a long lasting relationship with the baguette. Hawaiian kids make a staple out of Spam and British Commonwealth children somehow overcome the reaction to recoil in horror at the sight of Marmite. I have no idea how.

My son, Short Stack is, to understate things, a picky eater. He is, in fact, an epically picky eater. To some degree, I can forgive him that. When I was young, I too have an extensive “no go” list when it came to food. It was mostly what you’d expect a kid to eschew, with a few oddities tossed in. Strawberries, for instance, I could no abide. Yes, I know. It was weird.

At one point in my young adulthood, I decided that it was all just too much and I decided to wipe the slate clean and start over. The impetus for this was two fold. First, was my introduction to international travel. When I was abroad, I ate pretty much what ever there was. I was raised to be polite and didn’t turn down food when offered by a kindly resident of wherever I happened to be at the time. The second reason was a rather obvious… inconsistency in my list of foods that I would not touch. Much of what I deemed, “no thank you” food, was either unpleasant to look at or icky in texture. Something like liver? You must be joking. Not a chance.

But… I had a love of muscles. Not the kind that you flex, but the blue muscles, picked fresh that morning and served in a butter and garlic sauce. That was something simply exquisite and I’d would happily use my elbows to make room at a table that included them in its spread. How could I bring my self to eat something that essentially looks like a buttery human ear and pronounce it delicious and then turn my nose up at anything else?

muscles

So eventually, I changed. I decided to eat everything that I came across and give it a fair shake. My only hard and fast rule was that whatever it was, it needed to be dead. I don’t think that’s asking too much from a meal. As it turns out, I like almost everything.

I have become a proud omnivore.

Short Stack is getting truly maddening to feed, however. What you can get to pass his lips is a very short list of food. He’ll eat breaded, fried chicken. He’ll eat breaded fried fish sticks. He does love most fruits and vegetables, so that’s good and makes us worry less about what’s going through his tiny system but then there are the bizarre foods that make no sense.

He won’t touch macaroni and cheese, and yet with happily scarf down a home made white pizza topped with feta, caramelized onion and, anchovies. EH? There is no chance of getting him to touch noodles in any form and yet if you cube up some extra firm tofu and give him a little saucer of soy sauce, he will scarf the stuff down like it was Turkish delight. “Would you like a bite of shepard’s pie? No? Oh, but you would like to have the bratwurst and spicy mustard.” ARG!

One time when he was still eating baby food, I was having a devil of a time to get him to eat the mashed up sweet potato that Gerber Baby Foods thought he should like. He had taken a few bites but then had clamed up and steadfastly refused to touch any more of the stuff. My wife happed to pass through the kitchen and watched as I valiantly tried to squish some more past his pursed lips. With a look of, “I wonder…” she took the jar of mush from me, opened the cupboard and added a good pinch of… curry powder. As you might guess, the rest of the sweet potato was vacuumed up in no time. I looked on in disbelief.

Now that he’s pushing three years old, there are more and more inconsistencies that have shown up. In the drinks category, there is Moxie. This is a regional soda that is loved only by a select, hard-core bunch of New Englanders. The taste starts off a bit like root beer, but then quickly turns bitter in your mouth. I know it sound awful, and to many folks out there, it is, but to me, it tastes great. Naturally, Short Stack loves it and if he catches me with an open bottle, will plead share it with me. He’ll take a sip, wince, and then take another.

Then, this morning, Action Girl called me at work. She has the day off and was home with the kids. One of the things that the two of us love about being home in the morning is the ritual of coffee drinking. Luckily for our marriage, we both like the same coffee, the same way. Black, no sugar, hot and very, very strong. The brand we buy is roasted locally and is called “Blackout”. It’s the type of brew that completely obscures the bottom of your mug even if it’s just a shallow puddle. When the mug is full, it looks like ancient motor oil. It is BLACK.

The phone message started, “Our son is weird.” What she then related was how he had wondered aloud what she had in her mug. When she told him that it was coffee, he had asked if it was very hot.

“No.” she replied. “It’s gotten quite cool now.” She had almost finished her cup and the half-inch at the bottom was not only cool, but also very, very concentrated.

“Can I have a sip?”

Perhaps it was a bad idea, but his food list is so small, and he so often turns his nose up with out ever trying anything that we never turn him away when he wants something new (booze, excluded naturally). He took a drink and immediately, pronounced it delicious. Oh, crap.

So now, I have an almost three year old who wants his own mug of black coffee. Obviously, we’ll have to figure out a way out of this one, regardless of how awesome the mental picture is of him turning up for daycare with a travel mug of freshly brewed joe. Not only that, but the idea of a preschooler with a belly full of caffeine is not a pretty one, to put it mildly.

“Nap time? What nap time? LETS RUN! AAAAAAAAAAH!”

So, to the list gets a new oddity added to it. I’m preying for the day that he’ll go through the same gastronomic metamorphosis that I did and will decide that most foods are in fact, pretty darned good. Tonight though, I know that he’ll be dining on chicken nuggets and peas, just like five of the last ten nights. Either that or Action Girl might decide to make a pizza, in which case, he’ll be eating with us. I’m hoping for mushrooms, turkey sausage and oil cured, kalamata olives.

Short Stuff should love that.

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4 Responses

  1. Having a two year old daughter I can totally identify with your post 🙂 When she started eating solid food it was my worst nightmare and I remember saying to my friend “I can hardly wait till she eats the same food as we do”. To which she replied “And WHEN’s that gonna be?” (Meaning – it will never be ;))

    So when she was one year old I started to offer her the food which we eat. She wants to be like us, anyway, so we have changed our menu slightly and give her “our food”. Personally, I think that home-made vegetable pizza is much healthier for her than “industrial” chicken which is loaded with antibiotics and hormones and other stuff. I haven’t offered her very spicy food but I think she would take that as well if she saw us eating it.

    I think your son has a very good taste in food (like his mother!) and wants to have the real stuff – coffee included ;))

    On the other hand, we have a big “patience problem”. It looks like our daughter doesn’t have any patience at all. She’s a nightmare – when she senses that anytime soon we’ll eat, she wants the food immediately (!!!) even though the meat is still hot or maybe even raw… But, that’s a whole other story.

    That hard part is remembering that kids are not logical. I keep trying to “convince” Short Stack and that naturally goes no where. We tried once again to get him to eat cheese tonight. It was just some sliced provolone, but he wouldn’t touch it, even though he asked for it (I was having some). It’s like an inner battle he fights. He wants to eat like us… but, not really.
    -TP

  2. hehe, the unbreakable rule here is: You always take one bite of everything we’re eating. No need for more, but no exceptions even they didn’t like it last week. Works fine, our kids eat most anything. Normally might take about 4-5 times, until they’ve gotten used to the taste enough to start to like it. Sometimes more, and of course sometimes they don’t grow to like the food at all, but that’s very seldom the case.

    I’ll have to try that. This is getting ridiculous!
    -TP

  3. We also do the ‘no thank you bite’ at our house.

    What I have found is even more effective with my picky 9 year-old is to have her help prepare the food. When they do, they are invested in it. Last week we made ‘polenta lasagna’ with roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts and a couple other unusual items. My daughter helped and had two servings at dinner. If we had made that while she was playing video games and put it in front of her, she wouldn’t have touched it with a ten-foot pole.

    Kids are weird.

    That… is a GREAT idea! Short Stack os still too young to help in any meaningful way, but he can mix and tip stuff into pots. Hmmm. I wonder if that would work with him. I’ll try it.

    Last night, I came home to him vaporizing a pile of snow peas, which he’s never touched before. At least there’s hope.
    -TP

  4. My mother insists caffeine tames the wild in the very young.

    My sister was on Ritalin for YEARS growing up and yet my mother would let her have coffee on our pediatrician’s advice.

    We put everything we eat in front of our kids. If they don’t want to eat it then there’s always breakfast tomorrow. Scout was a much more picky eater when he was young. Lil’bug will do whatever Scout does, so if he turns up his nose she’ll give us trouble, too. The other night I fed her while he was out at basketball practice, she ate everything I put on her plate, he picked out what he didn’t like. I’m sure she would have if she’d seen him do it.

    The only time I don’t give them what we’re eating is when I’m being selfish and want the leftovers for lunch (Scallops, Spinach, & Mushrooms, comes to mind, but then they don’t really like spinach, … or mushrooms, so I’m doing them a favor, right?). I know, I’m bad.

    We finally had to do the “go to bed without dinner” thing the other night. It was not an easy thing to do, as a parent… but it had to happen. The next morning, he pretty much fell on his breakfast like a lion on a gazelle!
    -TP

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