Children alter the contents of a refrigerator more than marriage, low-calorie diets, or self-improvement classes. They may not do the grocery shopping, but nine-tenths of the list will be the parents’ desperate ideas for edibles the child might be induced to eat.
Cave Daddy had it easy. He simply clubbed a sabre toothed rabbit, carried it home, and handed it over to Cave Mommy who skinned and cooked it open-pit fire style. Cave Baby either ate it or starved. The first time Cave Daddy, in an effort to improve his family’s diet according to the Neanderthal Food Guide, brought home a swamp weed, Cave Baby spoke his first word, “Yuck!”
Urban parents can forget bean sprouts and avocado, even for themselves. There’s no room beside the currently favourite fruit, apples and only apples For two full years this will be the only unprocessed fruit the child will eat, switching virtually overnight to pears, only pears, I hate apples.
There are no ice cubes in the freezer since space is taken up by Current Cartoon Remake TV dinners. These are most often used after the parent has spent hours cooking from scratch. The child will recognize that the twenty piece casserole contains parsley, which he decided yesterday was worse than swamp weed, and announce, “I’m not eating that!” This is also true when the home-cooked meal has exactly the same meat, vegetable and dessert as the TV dinner. If parents could learn how to add that specialized cardboard flavour, they’d have a chance.
Children will eat cereal that sparkles, comes in the shape of stars, letters, donuts, or hockey sticks, makes noise, and contains a prize package guaranteed to cause a minor tidal wave when it falls into the milk filled bowl. Granola doesn’t qualify because it has weird stuff in it.
Parents learn to save empty margarine containers and stock up on plastic ware. At least two-thirds of refrigerator space will be taken up with leftovers, as in “You’re not having another cookie until you eat your Zoodles, spaghetti, bacon and eggs, pancakes, soup, steak, and vegetables.” The child will reply, “I don’t like Zoodles anymore. The spaghetti is too old. The bacon’s too greasy. The eggs are dried out. The pancakes have raisins and I wanted chocolate chips. The steak is too fatty. The vegetables taste like swamp weed.” In stubborn persistence, (far simpler with a microwave than an open-pit cave fire but just as futile) the parents will continually reheat the leftovers until they have the texture and flavour of drywall.
Pity the poor parent who expresses delight when the child likes a new food outside the home. Just because the child ate the chilli in a restaurant, doesn’t mean he’ll eat homemade.
“Too tomatoey,” he’ll say.
“Of course it’s tomatoey,” Urban Mommy foolishly responds. “Chili is made with tomatoes.”
“Yeah, but these are real tomatoes.”
“They’re from our garden,” interjects Urban Daddy. “You helped pick them. Everybody’s chilli has tomatoes.”
“I only like it when you can’t tell, “he’ll respond firmly.
Time for the Cartoon TV dinner.
Child care experts (few of whom I’m sure actually live with children) say parents should learn their child’s preferences. Right. They hate macaroni and cheese casseroles, but love it packaged. They prefer chilli without beans, lasagne without onions, and pizza with cheddar cheese instead of mozzarella. Any of this can be reversed at the stoke of midnight. In which case, the parents will put the newly rejected food in the refrigerator in a plastic container knowing it will be eaten the same day their children claim to be receiving too much allowance.
Originally published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News 1991
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