Eaters, Of A Certain Variety

A few weekends ago, I decided to make fried chicken, the way my momma didn’t taught me. I thought it would be a nice compliment to mashed potatoes and creamed spinach, and I thought the girls might actually eat it. Did I mention that I’ve been stockpiling Chik-Fil-A sauce?

Cooking with the girls is tricky, because they’re at an age right now at which leaving them alone for more than five minutes has a pretty broad range of outcomes. On one end of the spectrum (and this end feels very common) I am brought back by screaming. On the other end, the unnerving silence leads me in to find them sitting on the couch, reading books. This is adorable, since neither of them can read.

The screaming isn’t quite as adorable, and it’s amazing what they’re screaming over these days. Saturday, Abby had a blanket spread out on the floor to wrap her favorite doll, Tara, in. I’m assuming Katie stood on the blanket, because I heard “NO KATIE! Get OFF!” in the most upset, angry, anxious voice you can imagine. Followed by a thump, and crying.

I scooped Kate up and she said “Abby pushed me.”

Some of the first words she’s learned relate to the things Abby does to her. Abby hit me, Abby pushed me, Abby touched my nose. Always while crying. I think this is a defense mechanism. She has no means of retribution except reporting on the incident. She’s like a country with no standing army.

I guess that makes me the UN.

I’ve learned to prep for dinner during nap time, if I’m making a more involved meal, so that the cooking isn’t derailed by my mandatory Peace Keeping activities. I diced and chopped and did everything I could.

When the time to cook came around, I put the inch (INCH!) of Crisco shortening in the bottom of the pan and dropped my thrice-dipped chicken into it. I resolved a minor dispute over property rights and started on the creamed spinach. The recipe, from Weelicious, had precise times for cooking certain ingredients before adding new ones. There was a point at which Minced Garlic needed to be added to onions. The onions were ready, and then I couldn’t find my garlic.

Have you ever been late? Of course you have. You know that feeling you get when you’re late, and you can’t find your keys? I don’t mean, “They’re not on the hook!” I mean, calling your boss babbling about how you’ve just emptied your entire freezer and you still can’t find them, and you’re fairly certain that you used them when you drove home last night but, really, WHO KNOWS? That’s how this felt. I looked in the pantry, I looked up by the spices, I scoured the counter, I checked the trash. This bottle was nowhere. After having turned the heat on the onions to low and looking All Of The Places for a third time, I was about to give up. Then I found it. I don’t even remember where I found it.

And the lid wouldn’t come off. I tried so hard that I was sweating and my hand was hurting. I tapped it with a knife. I ran cold water over it, then I ran hot water over it. I swore, very, very quietly, but very enthusiastically. The implacable thing was not phased by threats or quiet pleading. This went on for minutes. Finally, as I was beginning to wonder if I could either cut through the lid or carefully shatter the glass and salvage enough to continue, the seal broke. Ugh.

Fortunately, though the timing listed in the recipe is precise, the recipe is very forgiving. I added my garlic, did the rest of my cooking, and it came out great! And so did my chicken! I took out my residual frustration on the mashed potatoes and by the time everything was ready I was feeling pretty good.

We sat down to eat, and Katie actually tried a bite of the spinach. She loved the mashed potatoes and devoured the chicken, but the spinach wasn’t her favorite. I got her to eat a little more than her first willing bite, by a combination of begging and connivery. Connivance? What have you.

Abigail, on the other hand, rejected my entire plate out of hand.

The creamed spinach was absolutely not something she would ever try. Even the mashed potatoes weren’t interesting to her. The chicken, she finally ate, because I offered her Chik-Fil-A Sauce. I’m glad she ate something, because I took a pretty hard line with her on this meal. She’ll be four in 3 months and I told her this was dinner, she could have as much or as little as she wanted, but I wasn’t making anything else. She ate two pieces of chicken and said she was full, a statement of which I was highly dubious, but she didn’t complain about being hungry that night.

I know I need to keep exposing them to new foods, to help them develop the habit and willingness to try things. To that end, I’m coming up with recipes that contain elements of things they already enjoy, with new ingredients or new sides to help broaden their horizons. I think just having things on their plates that are different will, over time, help them become more comfortable with experimenting.

So far I’ve got some amazing ideas: Hummus and Jelly sandwiches. Creamed Spinach with Goldfish. Steak Medallion and Bleu Cheese Pizza.

What do you do for your picky eaters? How do you introduce new foods and how do you get them to try your new foods without dinner turning into a power struggle?┬áThis is something that’s very important to me. Any advice is appreciated!


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4 Responses to Eaters, Of A Certain Variety

  1. Sarah February 24, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    I don’t have kids so I haven’t had hands-on experience with this, but I’ve read a lot of advice about picky eaters and getting kids to eat better. The two biggest things that seem to work well and are constantly suggested are getting the kids involved in the cooking process. Everything from choosing the foods to preparing to serving.

    The other one is to constantly offer things. It can take ten times of trying something for a child to decide they like something. Always offer things you know they’ll eat plus one or two new items. Then offer that new item for several days in a row, or every other day, until you’ve offered it at least ten times.

    • David March 2, 2012 at 8:34 am #

      TEN TIMES?! I guess they’ll have to live on Peanut Butter and Jelly, Pizza, and Soup.

      Haha. I’m joking, sort of.

      I’ve had Abby involved in every step of cooking, specifically when we made Calamari. She found it at Costco, she and Katie washed them and watched me slice them, then she patted them dry and threw them into the pan. I don’t even think she put one in her mouth, but that is kind of big stretch. Or maybe not, if all food is new, all food is strange. Except for Pizza, PB&J, and soup.

  2. Rachel Beita February 29, 2012 at 7:01 am #

    Ah….three year olds and food! I know about that but as far as suggestions I am basically doing what you are. This is dinner. You can’t force someone to eat but I have told Josiah that this is what he is going to eat he can eat it now or for the next meal but that he is not getting anything else until he eats it.

    I tend to serve him very little so he just has to try it and then it is also easy for him to feel the accomplishment of eating everything on his plate. I have also used the 3 bites (since he is 3). He has to eat at least 3 bites of everything.

    Sometimes one works, sometimes another. With Josiah sometimes it is that he doesn’t want the food sometimes it is his mood. He is like that one day eats a ton of everything and a few days later doesn’t eat hardly a thing.

    I have also had to be strict that mealtime is mealtime and he will not get anything else until the next meal. He get so easily distracted from eating that he often gets up to do other things or he doesn’t eat or he doesn’t eat enough and then wants snacks all the time. I love snacks and they are fun times but only when you are eating your meals!

    • David March 2, 2012 at 8:39 am #

      Interesting. We do snacks, sometimes in the morning and sometimes in the afternoon. For Katie I think eating more often is important but I could try limiting snacks for Abigail. I think it’s just a matter of learning to work together and developing the willingness to experiment. I’m going to try to shift more toward single ingredient foods, that can be combined. Beans and Rice and Chicken, for instance. Maybe with a Tortilla.

      Okay, thinking about serving smaller portions and less is inspiring me to break meals down into simpler units. This is cool.

      What’s your favorite dinner recipe for Josiah?

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