Tuesday, March 10, 2015


     In my mind, finicky eating is one of the worst forms of close-mindedness in children because by limiting what they eat, they deprive themselves of so much joy.
     When Braden was a toddler, he hated lettuce, which he avoided eating and dropped on the floor by “accident.” Neither worked because we insisted he eat what he was served and replaced what he'd dropped with even more. 
     One lunch, he tested our resolve by refusing to eat any more lettuce or rice, insisting he wanted more fish sticks instead. I said, “No, finish that first,” pointing at his food. 
     “I'm done,” he said. 
     Okay, we can't force him, I thought, we'll just save his leftovers for dinner. At dinner, he looked at his leftovers and acted like he wasn't hungry. I said, “Are you sure you don't want any?”
     He said, “I want that,” pointing at our meatballs pasta.
     I said, “Finish this first and you can have that.”
     He said, “No, that.” 
     I said, “Fine, you're not having any”, and stored his plate back in the fridge. Later that evening, I offered him his leftovers and he declined.
     At breakfast the next morning, I placed the reheated rice and ample fresh lettuce before him. Braden always eats breakfast with relish, but this time when he saw his plate, a look of hurt injustice stole over his face. I did my best to hide my self-satisfied smirk (and relief) while he, with slow, deliberate chews, ate. Upon his finishing, I gave him his usual fare of fruits and cereal, which he gobbled down with out-of-my-way-I'm-serious intensity. This was followed by seconds, then thirds, then fourths. 
     We ever after employed this eat-what-you're-served-or-go-hungry regimen to teach all our kids to enjoy all food.
     Because all food is good. 
     All food is a blessing. 
     Anything tastes great to the hungry. 
     No kid ever starved due to finicky taste.
     Occasional hunger never hurt anyone. 
     And the person who never experiences hunger is almost certainly overfed or overweight. 
     More than once, when Deanne fretted about their not getting enough to eat, I said, “We American have warped perceptions about food. Some people in Asia, South America, and Africa survive on only one small bowl of rice and watery vegetables per day. And they labor in hot fields all day long. Our kids aren't malnourished or underweight. Allowing them to pick and choose what they will or won't eat is spoiling them. Everyone in our house eats what they're served—no wasting food allowed.” 
     Which brings to mind a wonderful piece I read awhile ago. A local columnist (I can't remember who) told her friend from China that her mom always said, “Finish your food. Do you know how people are starving in China?” and asked, “How did your mom get you to eat?” Her friend said, “She told us about all the starving people in Africa.” 
     The columnist asked a friend from Africa what his mom did to get him to eat? and he said, “She told us not to waste food like Americans.”
     We try our best not to waste, but sometimes when we're careless, things go bad and have to be tossed, so we're far from innocent. At least we can take comfort, though, that all our kids love what they are served (though Jaren has distastes for freshly made chicken, pork, and beef when prepared with savory seasonings, which reminds me of when I was a kid and Mom prepared foods with MSG that made me feel like throwing up. So every time I see Jaren gag when eating (MSG-free) meat, a part of me empathizes). 
     Also when I was a kid, Mom insisted I eat at least a little of everything I was served, separating a small portion using my fork to show me the amount I had to eat of a detested dish (chop sueyed celery, carrots, and onions was the worst!), saying, “It's good. I don't want you to be a finicky eater and at dinner at a friend's house say, 'I don't eat that,' and they have to fix you something special. It's such a hassle.” 
     To this day, I'm thankful for my open-minded palate (thanks Mom!) and for Deanne's introducing me to so many fantastic South-East Asian cuisines, including Indonesian, Malay, Hokkien, Thai, and my favorite of all, Indian—many of which I may never have otherwise encountered, tried, or appreciated, and the joys of hot spicy curries sauces, and seasonings. Yum!

No comments:

Post a Comment