August 31, 2012

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
Catering to the Team of Chaos

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.

Recipe Index can be found here. 

Yesterday, as I was making some chicken saag, Anjali asked if she could help.  I don't push cooking onto my kids, but when they show an interest, I let them do as much as they are able to do safely (e.g. Arun rolls out his own cookie dough but I deal with the oven part.)  Anjali was more than willing to help with the chicken saag because it is one her favorite dishes.   Because of a kid like her, I could boast all day about my stellar parenting skillz.  Except I know that it was just the luck of the draw.  However, where Anjali is fierce when it comes to her food choices, conversely, Arun is picky.  Certainly, he is the one who keeps me honest and my humility safely intact.

We cater to our kids when it comes to food.  And I am unapologetic.  Yes, at every chance, we poke and prod them to try new things.  But we do not threaten or play games.  If they refuse, end of story. After all, as an adult, I do not eat things I do not want to eat.  Over the years, I have seen a variety of fights at kitchen tables -- the threats, the trickery, solemn declarations of "No Dessert".

I simply refuse to engage in that.

Generally, I keep plenty of healthy(ish) alternatives in the house and the kids are allowed to forage at will (it is also why I try to keep junk food at a minimum.)  Also, they usually get to choose the lunch option.  But dinner?  Is for the adults.  I enjoy cooking and simply put, boiling water for macaroni and cheese simply does not allow me to get my culinary jones on.  Generally, if it is a chicken dish, Anjali will partake - even if it is spicy (actually, she can now handle the same heat as Manoj and I).  If it is fish, Arun will sniff around and Anjali will bow out.

Perhaps, in another family, Arun would not be the picky eater.  He likes some veggies, salad, anything fish or seafood, chicken, and steak.  He simply prefers his food to be more bland (he does love a good Persian barg kabob, though)  And yes, to the rest of my little family, that is "picky".  Anjali has always preferred things with stronger flavors and scents and often, meals result in a 3 vs 1 situation.

I like to think that as time goes on, Arun will become more adventurous.  In the meantime, I will continue to cook as I normally do, while offering him blander options.  I will not push my cooking onto him, but I will continue to offer it.

What say you, Gentle Reader?  Do you push your kids?  Do you fight the Good Fight when it comes to food battles at the table??  Dad Cooks Dinner discussed this recently and the comments got interesting.


Moderndayhermit said...

I have a general rule that I won't fight with Alex. I DO get mad when he requests something and then doesn't eat it due to waste. But, I do tend to ask him what he wants to eat and such.

But, I'm pretty lucky with him. He goes through picky phases but overall he's a good eater. He actually gets mad at me if I don't pack his lunch for school.

He did inform me once, "I will only eat foods that I really like or love" and I found that impressive because as a kid I often times just ate whatever was presented so I wouldn't have to hear complaints.

Semele said...

I love these discussions. I've gotten many good ideas fom listening to other parents discuss their techniques. How do you handle it when they don't eat what you're serving for dinner?

I'm also one who doesn't push too much when it comes to food. The kids pick their own breakfast and lunch and I choose dinner. I ask everyone to take one bite of everything, and if they don't like it they don't have to eat it. I try to have at least something at every meal they'll eat, so sometimes that mean they're only eating bread for dinner. :) Once they've given it all a taste (however tiny) I let them have yogurt or fruit.

Sonia said...

I let my kids pick what they'll have for breakfast and lunch, within reason. Usually they want the basics, so they have free rein, but I won't make waffles on a school morning or anything like that.

I make dinners that I want to eat. Bonus points if they like it too! I never force them to eat it, though we do strongly encourage them to try it. If they don't like it, oh well. This is what's for dinner. Eat it or not, but I am not making anything else. If it happens to be a dessert night (not very often), only people who have eaten a reasonable dinner get to have sweets -- the rationale being that if you're not hungry for dinner, there must be no room in the tummy for dessert, and you can't have the treat w/o feeding your body the healthy stuff first.

They are not terribly picky eaters, and will try just about anything. But I think forcing a kid to choke down dinner is not healthy.

For Christmas, I gave them each a homemade book of "special treat coupons" and one of them was the opportunity to pick out what we have for dinner one night. They usually pick something like pizza (which I make from scratch including the dough), but sometimes they surprise me and pick something else.

Unknown said...

Yes! Chris and I do not make eating a big deal. I ask Jacob what he wants and I wish he would eat what we do, but I understand that he doesn't now. He's growing and healthy and I'm sure he will eventually come around to eat a variety of things without a fuss. I certainly don't want to waste dinner time on threats!

jodifur said...

I make one dinner. Michael either eats it, or he doesn't eat. That being said, I don't make things he doesn't like, but I don't change what I am making either. He LOVES MEAT, and I don't eat meat, so that is a problem. He hates spicy, and I love spicy, so I tend to make things mild and add spice. But, I don't make kid food. He gets what we eat, and then if he chooses not to eat it, there is breakfast in the morning.

Goofy Girl said...

Here’s another perspective on this…I WAS that Picky Eater when I was little. Anything that was NOT a McDonald’s cheeseburger, mac n’ cheese, french fries or corn…I didn’t eat. And the cheeseburger was PLAIN, dammit. If they fucked up and put even a dribble of ketchup on it. FAIL. I didn’t eat anything green until I was 25.

I grew out of it and now eat pretty much just about anything. And as luck would have it, I have acquired a little Picky Eater myself – my 9-year old son…and I have to have empathy for him. In his defense, he’s not nearly as picky as I always was. He’s always willing to eat a PBJ, which I wouldn’t have touched with a 10-foot pole. Instead of bribery, pleading or dictating, we just try to be good role models: we eat all sorts of food, and always offer him some. It also helps that Little Brother will eat anything. I figure the peer pressure strategy is better. We’ll see in about 10 years!