Wednesday, September 12, 2012

There's No Accounting for Taste

I was the world’s pickiest eater when I was a child. Until I was about 10, my family couldn’t go out to eat at McDonald’s because I wouldn’t eat hamburgers, only hotdogs. And even after I did start eating hamburgers, we had to wait for them to make me a special plain burger. Merely removing the tomato and pickle and scraping off the condiments was not good enough. If there was so much as a whiff of ketchup or mayo on the bun, I wouldn’t touch it. Pasta could be served with no sauce other than butter. And the only vegetable I would eat was frozen peas. My mother was convinced that I would die of scurvy by the age of 6. I spent many long, lonely hours sitting at the kitchen table staring at a plate of cold broccoli/corn/carrots/green beans until my mom finally gave up and let me leave it. And don’t even get me started on the tricks I used to use to avoid eating certain things, like tucking a bite of something unwanted into my cheek like a hamster then excusing myself to use the bathroom and flushing the offending morsel, or hiding a few forkfuls in my napkin and throwing them away unobtrusively after my plate was clean.

Once I was an adult, I knew this pickiness would come back to bite me in the form of picky children of my own. And I was not wrong.

Although I wouldn’t call my son a truly picky eater. His pickiness, unlike mine, is fairly limited to vegetables. He will eat most kinds of fruit, at least when he’s in the mood. Some days he’ll turn his nose up at a banana, other days he’ll wolf it down before I can blink. But at some point in time or another, he will eat nearly every kind of fruit I’ve ever offered him. He’ll eat hotdogs, meatballs, deli meat, starch in any form (noodles, bread, cereal, rice, crackers), eggs, pizza, cheese and yogurt. But try to slip a few peas in his pasta or some peppers on his pizza, and he’ll refuse to touch a single bite.

And yet, he will eat some of the grossest food combinations imaginable. He is, after all, a boy. This morning, for example, he was eating cornflakes while I fed his sister some yogurt, and he asked for his own yogurt. I gave it to him, and he immediately began putting handfuls of cornflakes into the yogurt, waiting until it got good and soggy, and then scooping it up and eating it with his hands.

He’ll also eat nearly anything as long as it’s dipped in ketchup. This is actually a trick I learned from my cousin. She discovered her son’s enthusiasm for dipping at an early age and contrived some kind of dip for every meal. I’ve tried offering various dips to my son, things that seem to me to be a pleasant taste combination, such as ranch dressing for chicken nuggets, barbeque sauce for corn on the cob, or honey for carrots. Nope. He will only dip things in ketchup. Olives, lettuce, green beans. Dipped in ketchup. Yuck.

But what does it matter if I think what he’s eating is gross, as long as he doesn’t? He might be eating green beans covered in ketchup, but they’re still green beans. He may only eat carrots if they’re mashed into oblivion and dunked in cranberry juice, but he’s still eating them.

Besides, judging by his growth thus far, he certainly doesn’t seem to be lacking in nutrition.

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