My husband tells of how he used to HATE to eat. HATE. When he was a kid. He didn’t want to eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner. He hated coming in to eat dinner, to stare at dinner and try to swallow it down. He naturally assumes all children are like that.
My brothers and I loved to eat. Of course, we hated certain foods. Like fried okra. To a one, we hate fried okra. We would walk into our grandma’s house, smelling the delicious smell of fried oil, mouths watering over the thought of fried chicken, mock chicken legs, or chicken-fried steak. Only at dinner we would be greeted with fried okra. My baby brother actually threw up once from eating it, and he was never forced to eat it again. Tim and I were so jealous. I can’t even eat fried bananas because it’s the same texture. Yuck! But back to loving food, we would race through our meal because seconds were up to first come, first serve. In our teen years, we would compete on who could eat more at the buffet. And to this day, we still sneak treats from the kitchen, devouring like a swarm of locusts as we converge on my parent’s house. (Of course, I’m the only one who gets dirty looks from my mom because I still have weight to lose. Thanks mom.)
Since Evan became a toddler, the discussions of our youthful eating habits are very popular at our house.
Husband: I hated my mom’s cooking. I think she was a bad cook. The only thing I liked were her breads. Your mom is a better cook. Better than you.
Me: Hey! I use the same recipes! But she is good. Mashed potatoes, fried chicken, enchiladas, chimichangas, potato soap. Mmmm. What did you eat?
Husband: Casseroles. Lots of casseroles.
Me: Well, that explains it. Yuck! That and one pot dishes.
Husband: Yeah, I ate a lot of those too.
Me: Really, there are only a few good ones. She was cooking with her time. Everyone did casseroles or one pot dishes back then. Goulash. Yuck!
Husband: I hated steak as a kid! I hated steak!? Who hates steak?
Me: Mmm, steak. The only time we got steak was when it was on sale and we were going camping at The Cabin. Nothing like a t-bone over an open flame. But anyways, your mom had brain surgery in ’69, didn’t she?
Husband: Yeah. She lost her sense of smell.
Me: Well, that’s an answer.
And yes, we have this conversation several times a month. Because Evan eats sparingly. He likes meat but won’t touch a vegetable. He likes raisins (we’re stocked), grapes, and watermelon (what will I do when summer is over?). And of course, he inherited my sweet tooth. And I’m at my wits end.
The other day I served mozzarella-spinach stuffed ravioli. I swear I have seen him it it before. Sean was woofing it down, and Evan stared at the plate and asked what it was. Mini quasidillas. (ok, Lying is bad. but really?) He nibbled. He nibbled. Then he saw the spinach. “Yuck! The green stuff is yucky!” Fine, don’t eat. But the rule stands as you don’t eat dinner, you don’t get anything else. Until you ask your dad for cereal. And he says “at least it’s healthy.” Awesome.
My husband and best friend say that there are just picky eaters out there. Well, swell, but they have to eat more than a dozen things. And the hell I’m raising a picky eater. Not in my household, not when I am armed with my mom’s recipes.
Then the experts say not to force your children, not to beg. After 15 times, they’ll learn to love it. Ok, how do I get him to try it once, twice, the fifth time. My dad insists that I don’t force Evan to clean his plate because he doesn’t want Evan to eat after he is full. Where was this logic when I was a kid? Remember the fried okra? And I have stooped to pureeing and hiding it in the foods, which my grandma thinks is crazy. Hey, I still serve vegetables. Besides, it makes the meal fuller, adds more vegetables, and is helping me loose weight.
So I finally found some options to try to makes him eat, as I watch the Supernanny demand the kids eat vegetables before they leave the table. Ok, again, I don’t want to force past the fullness. And as I tell my mom about one crazy scheme after another, she said, “I thought you were going to try the no thank you bite.” Oh. Right. I forgot.
So tonight, I was determined. Damn it. He was going to eat a bite of everything. The chicken, the rice, the cucumber, the spinach. And it was crazy. He loved the chicken. As it was a new recipe with a soy sauce-honey glaze with sesame seeds, I was worried. He ate the rice. He even took a few bites of the cucumber, dipped it in his milk, and took a few more bites. (At one time, he loved cucumbers, then he stopped six months back. I serve them a lot hoping for that love to return.) Then he was done, and I asked him to take a bite of spinach. One bite.
So began the two hour ordeal. My husband left to work in the home office, as I tried to entertain Sean, clean up dinner, and force Evan to eat one little bite of spinach. Evan didn’t want us to play, didn’t want us to watch TV, didn’t want us to blow bubbles or dance. He spilled his milk on accident. I got him a new plate with new spinach. He had to go potty. He had to be naked. He wanted his daddy. He was too cold. He needed a sweatshirt. He needed a diaper. He wanted his daddy. He wanted to hold his mother’s hand. All the while “Eat one bite of spinach. One bite. A no thank you bite.” “No, thank you, Mommy, spinach is not for me.”
Finally I told him grandma would have made me eat the whole thing. My son did not believe me. Not Grandma. She’s a saint. She’s so sweet. And I remembered what Bill Cosby said, “These people are getting old, they’re going to be judged. They’re trying to make it up.”
So we called Grandma and Papi. And they talked to him. Then after they hung up the phone, I had an idea. I explained my idea to Evan as I handed him his no-spill juice glass. I got the tiniest bit of spinach on his fork. I jammed it in. I forced the straw of the juice into his mouth, clamping his jaw to make him sip. I kept saying drink, drink, it’ll make the taste go away. And the kid didn’t spit out the spinach. And we were so excited!
And am I crazy?