Saturday, March 03, 2012

Easing two picky eaters toward some degree of normalcy

I've got a new mission and I am finally determined to pursue it.

I am going to ease my two picky kids toward some degree of normalcy in the food realm.

I've joked for years that their pickiness is my punishment for being overly fixated on food. I've attempted to face this down in bursts but then would fall back to old patterns. I've had massive temper tantrums in the kitchen and at the dining room table when they defeat me with their stubbornness. (I always thought no one was more stubborn than me. Turns out that they not only inherited it from me but have amplified it with their own distinct and strong personalities.)

Why do I think I might have a chance this time when they have defeated me in past attempt? Well, they are getting older (9 and 11). And that means that they are getting (a little) more logical. And recently they have shown small signs of adaptation: they both tried salsa when they were at a Mexican restaurant. They both will eat a little plain lettuce (we started with iceberg, that gateway-lettuce, but now they'll eat romaine and Boston and green leaf, too.) And there are a couple of other individual specific reasons too:

The boy like to travel. Loves it, in fact. I bluntly stated to him that there are places in the world which I won't take him until he starts eating more foods because I don't plan to go to, say, Spain, and have his eating habits be a restriction on our movements. [Not that I have the $ to take him to Spain--he doesn't need to know this. And much as I'd love to, a trip to Thailand or India or China isn't in the works for any of us, so we're talking about mainly different European and Latin American types of dishes.]  I described to him some of the cool places I've been and then told him that while what they regularly eat may be unfamiliar, it is something that a person with a flexible attitude can adapt to. This seemed to get through to him.

The girl likes people. And I told her if you want to spend time with people and not annoy the crap out of them, you need to eat what is available. Friends aren't going to invite you to stay to dinner if you won't try what is on offer. It doesn't mean you have to love it. It doesn't mean you have to eat a lot of it. But it does mean that you can't get distressed when it is something unfamiliar and that you need to broaden your repertoire of "safe" foods so that there is a likelihood that you will encounter at least one of them.

Things I'm willing to do:

  1. Keep it mild. I love spicy food and don't plan on giving it up, but I can make spicy sauces on the side or add spice at the end after serving them.
  2. Make a good amount of the new stuff side-dishes so they don't have to freak out at everything on their plates. Since I've recently gone low-meat, and they are decidedly pro-meat this isn't too hard. I don't mind making a turkey burger or plain chicken breast for them so long as the big pile of roasted fennel, sweet potatoes and carrots and potatoes that I make for my own main dish is a small-portion side dish to them.
  3. Add the unfamiliar to the familiar. Like putting a small amount of salsa and sour cream on their quesidillas and expecting them to tolerate its appearance.

I am going to try and document things that worked both to share with other people who may be in the same predicament as I'm in* and to keep track and use as a crutch for my lousy memory. Since this only appeals to a small subset of those of you who still actually read this blog, I've decided to segregate the posts here:

If you are faced with a picky eater of your own, I hope you'll join me and make this a group effort to ease the picky eaters of the world toward a place where they don't drive the rest of us bat-shit crazy.

*I realize that when you've met one picky eater you've picky eater and we all have different definitions of picky. I actually heard one parent describe her child as picky when he wouldn't eat kohlrabi. Ha!

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