February 24, 2012

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
Perhaps, WE are the picky ones.

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I am not an expert, but I do enjoy talking about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.

Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

First, let me get this out of the way -- my kids love, love the 4 Food Groups of Ye Olde Typical White Kid ....... Nuggets, Cheeseburgers, PB&J, and Mac n' Cheese. And no, I did not include pizza because there is NO SHAME IN PIZZA, dammit. And yes, we do enjoy some fast food because I strongly believe fast food has an appropriate time and place in our lives (but that is a post for another Friday, yes?) So, lest you think this is the post where I brag about my kids begging for foie gras with a raspberry compote let me assure you that they will never sniff their noses at a chicken McNugget.  Although, admittedly, I do hold out hope that someday they will beg for foie gras with a raspberry compote because obese goose liver is The Yummy.

So!  Moving on!
When I talk about Team Chaos and their eating habits, I have referred to Arun as "our picky eater". However, I have decided to no longer use that phrase because it is simply not fair. Arun is not a picky eater, he just eats a bit differently than Manoj, Anjali and I.

What does Arun like?  Fish, in all forms -- fried, baked, filleted, whatever.  He loves sashimi -- octopus, salmon and eel are his favorite.  He also loves gyros meat, steak (medium-well, thankyouverymuch), lobster, shrimp and crab.  Lately, he's been begging for crawfish.  He also eats a variety of veggies and fruits.

What he does not like, however, is ethnic food (unless it is a Taiwanese style dumpling, Italian pasta, Tex-Mex taco or Indian paratha.)  As you can imagine, this refusal of ethnic food includes just about anything and everything I cook.  And this is where it is difficult to not compare my kids since nearly every recipe I have posted here is Anjali Approved.  That girl will eat just about anything I cook and her spice tolerance is quite impressive (the other day, I made karahi chicken and threw in 2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper because I was feeling the need for some mouth blisters.  Anju groused it was too hot and then, KEPT ON EATING, ZOMG.) Also, I am composing this post in between bites of a bean burrito smothered in Cholula.  I am hoping to get half of this burrito into my mouth parts before Anjali steals the rest from me.

While Arun prefers plainer foods, Anjali prefer foods rich in taste.  Even as a toddler, she would waddle over to Manoj so that he could hand-feed her (it is a very common for Indian to hand-feed their children).  That girl has a ridiculous sense of smell and taste.  Just yesterday, I posted on Facebook:
OMG. all day long Anjali has been insisting that we get Manoj coffeecake for his birthday today. "Coffeecake, Mama. COFFEECAKE." Turns out, she meant tiramasu. 

Good thing I didn't listen to her and actually bought tiramasu.
Of course she meant tiramasu, a cake soaked in espresso.  Stupid, stupid Mama.

The thing about food and our kids is that we really did not do much differently between the two of them.  Until the age of 2, Arun ate curry and this is why, to us, he seems picky.  

For me, I have decided to live by the following two tenets:

Tenet #1  Kids Are People, Too
As an adult, I do not eat things that I do not like.  Period.  I hate ketchup.  I hate Jello.  I hate okra. I hate green beans cooked White People Style.  As an adult, I do not eat these things. Ever.  When I catch myself trying to force foods on my kids, I think back to when I was kid and I was pushed to eat green beans.  Why should I force my kids to eat things they do not like?  Furthermore, I firmly believe the Empty Plate Theory is unhealthy and encourages mindless, purposeless eating habits.  I also do not constantly push my kids to try new things.  Every chance I get, I encourage them to try new things, but I keep the pushing to minimum.  Yes, I do push occasionally.  For example, I made tilapia the other night and used a Creole rub on it.  I made Arun's piece without the rub, but I did push him to take a few bites of my piece because I actually thought it was something that he would like.  And he did!  Will he ask for his fish with a spice rub from now on?  Not necessarily, but I was happy that he at least ventured out a bit.

Tenet #2 The Tastebuds of Children Change
I have seen directly and specifically how my kids tastebuds have changed over the years (i.e. Arun eating curry at a young age)  Even recently, Anjali has begun rejecting one of her favorite drinks.  The way she phrased it was "Mama, I don't like Ovaltine and milk anymore.  My tastebuds do all the tasting and they changed.  They CHANGED, Mama."  I see so much pressure for parents to expose their kids (even babies!) to loads of different tastes and the implication is that if a child is not exposed to a variety of tastes now, now, NOW! they will be ruined forever. FOREVER!  And....well....  I just think that is a load of complete crap.  If that were the case, someone like me would have never grown up to love things like curry and sushi -- foods that I had never experienced until I was in my 20s.  

Yes, I do encourage my kids to try new foods, but I don't push it.  Tasting new foods should be fun.

The next time I find myself frustrated with Arun's Plain Jane Tastebuds, I am going to remember the quail eggs.  A few weekends ago, we went to a huge Asian superstore and in the produce section, Arun spied some quail eggs.  I had NO idea what to do with quail eggs and the thought of them made me queasy for some reason.  Arun kept pestering and we gave in. 

It turns out, quail eggs are pretty tasty -- much like a chicken egg, but just a bit better.

And a lot smaller.

Will he ever like Indian food besides parathas??  Maybe not.  But as long as he continues to try new foods and simply have fun with it, I will be okay with that.


Olivia said...

I'm trying to do similar things with my child(ren). I don't force foods and I don't force cleaning the plate. It's difficult, though, because mine is truly a picky eater. She will not try new things, and her main staple is bread with strawberry jam, hold the peanut butter.

She will occasionally eat something different at daycare like fish sticks. I just wonder what I'm going to do with her when she's not in daycare anymore.

The Hunter's Prize said...

I love this! Chris and I do not have fights over food with Jacob, and for now, it's such a relief! Jacob isn't very picky, but he prefers to eat nuggets, cheetos, chips, and mac & cheese instead of inhaling everything like his cousin. But then he will surprise me and eat half my sweet potato and two chicken legs.

I don't want to force him to eat new things, but I will encourage him to try them, at the very least.

Flybunny said...

We do a "No Thank You" bite - which is a very small (i.e. less than a teaspoon size)portion of anything new. That way we don't waste a bigger portion (or Mom's lunch as the case may be) on something they won't eat and it is still enough to get a taste to see if they will like it - if they don't they say No thank you and we go about our dinner.

We also have a Mom and Dad are not short order cooks rule so you will eat what is cooked or you are welcome to make yourself a sandwhich/bowl of cereal etc as long as you clean up after yourself. Two solid weeks of bowls of cereal got Abby to eat lasagne which she insisted that she hated.

Melanie said...

My daughter (3 1/2) is both my picky and my more adventurous eater, on one hand, she eats VERY VERY little meat, and that can be frustrating when you prepare something (casserole, soup or stew) with meat in it... most of that she will flat out refuse.... HOWEVER, she will gobble down minestrone soup, potato soup, salad, greek yogurt, pasta salads and way more vegetables than I can get my son to eat.... and UNLESS she spies meat (or lately strawberries--what the heck!) she will likely taste anything new she sees. ..

My son would prefer that he lived on a steady diet of spaghetti, chicken enchiladas, grilled chicken, turkey sandwiches, chicken nuggets, hot dogs (GAG), bacon and pancakes.

By the way what is white people style green beans?? My inlaws always put cheese sauce on green beans and it makes me gag, but I love nothing more than picking green beans out of our garden and sautéing them lightly in olive oil and garlic... YUM YUM

Jen said...

I like the "No thank you" bite -- that's basically our policy too (try a small taste before you refuse it), as well as the no short order cooking (you can make yourself peanut butter toast or cheese toast as a main course replacement). I try not to create meals that any one family member would hate, though.

After three kids, I'd have to say that either extreme -- total capitulation to the child's food tastes of the moment no matter how unhealthy NOR angry forcing of unliked food is the best path!

I guess maybe some of it is just in the phrasing one chooses as well -- try a bit sounds different than force, doesn't it?!

We're certainly not clean your plate or else, but then again, I try to only put a normal or slightly smaller than normal portion on the plates (smaller so that child can choose what to have more of). A normal sized dessert would not follow a vaguely picked over meal. Not intended as a punishment, but as a keeping healthy/unhealthy choices in balance -- though obviously a child might disagree on the feeling of the intent.

Mostly -- I don't worry. There aren't a lot of underweight children around these days. Mine are pretty much 50/50 on the charts for height and weight, so I'm not in a tizzy in either direction most of the time!

Moderndayhermit said...

Growing up it was always required to clean your plate and I do not agree with that thought process AT ALL. It took years to overcome the desire to clean my plate.

I've never been one to get worked up about Alex's eating. I don't know if I've been lucky with him or my nonchalant attitude just makes it easier. He goes through phases where he doesn't want meat or fish unless it has skin (like the chicken or fish) because that is his favorite part. There are days that he will eat and eat and eat and others where he doesn't eat much.

I know he's not going to starve himself so I just don't worry about it.