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 9/10 of the list will be parents’ desperate ideas for edibles the child might be induced to eat.
Cave Daddy had it easy. He simply clubbed the sabertooth rabbit, carried it home, and handed it over to Cave Mommy who skinned and cooked it open-pit fire style. Cave Baby either aided 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 is no room beside the currently favourite fruit, apples and only apples. For two full years this will be the only unprocessed food the child will eat, switching overnight two pears, only pears, I hate apples.
There are no ice cubes in the freezer since space is taken by Current Cartoon Remake microwavable 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, “Yuck!” This is also true when the home-cooked meal has exactly the same meat, vegetable and dessert as the microwavable 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, doughnuts, 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 plasticwear. At least two thirds of the refrigerator space will be taken up with leftovers, as in “You’re not having another cookie until you eat your noodles, bacon and eggs, pancakes, soup, steak, or vegetables.” The child will reply, “I don’t like noodles anymore. The bacon is 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 reached the texture and flavour of drywall.
Pity the poor parents who express delight when the child likes a new food outside the home. Just because the child ate chili in a restaurant, doesn’t mean he’ll eat homemade chili.
“Too tomatoey,” he’ll say.
“Of course it’s tomatoey,” Urban Mommy foolishly response. “Chili is made with tomatoes.”
“Yeah, but these are the wrong tomatoes.”
“They’re from our garden,” interjects Urban Daddy. “You helped pick them. Everybody’s Chili has tomatoes.”
“I only like tomatoes when you can’t tell they’re tomatoes,” the child will respond firmly.
Childcare 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 chili without beans, lasagna without onions, and pizza with cheddar cheese instead of mozzarella. Any of this can be reversed at the stroke of midnight. In which case, the parents put the newly rejected food in the refrigerator in a container knowing it will be eaten the same day that the children claim to be receiving too much allowance.
Published Sunday, February 16, 1992 in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News.
Parents please note: this was written before the risk of putting hot food, and especially microwaving, in plastic became public knowledge. Please use glass containers in your microwave.
P.S. This same picky eater, now an adult, has become an advocate for plant-based healthy eating. He’d have no problem eating parsley, tomatoes, or even swamp weed now.
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