You know, I envy moms who complain their children won’t eat spinach or turn their noses up at pot roast. The ones who worry that little Tommy might fall over, looking all pale and emaciated, because he’s eaten nothing but Cheddar Bunnies and plain ramen noodles for the last eight days.
These women know challenge. Like climbing Everest with nothing but a bathing suit and a can opener. Or sailing around the world in a dingy. A dingy with a hole in it. The sheer experience of having to force feed your kid under the threat of tantrums, silent treatments and episodes of holding their breath until they pass out, not to mention just enduring three meals a day with a kid who won’t eat anything but frozen waffles, must make them just better parents and more centered people, simply because they are going against the monster everyday and living to tell the tale.
That kind of pain breeds real maturity.
So, I want you, dear readers, to have the same opportunity to become better, more well-rounded people through challenge. So, here is how you can cultivate and grow your very own obstacle-making, tantrum-throwing, spinach-hiding, fussy eater and be a better, more well-rounded person in the process.
10 Ways to Have Your Very Own Picky Eater
10. Remind your kid what a problem eater he is. Kids love that. In fact, tell him in front of guests. Call him “picky”, fussy”, “difficult at dinner time” or say things like, “He’s like this because he’s adopted,” and my personal favorite, “He’s just like his father,” and then, roll your eyes dramatically. You will only have to label him a few times before he sullenly looks at his plate of food, pushes it away and demands to be hand-fed McDonald’s French fries. If this works, you can go the next step and tell him he is “bad” or “a demon seed” and remind him that he was an “accident”.
9. Put him on the Snicker and Tootsie Pop diet. There is nothing to make a kid love healthy food more than pounding sugar for hours before meal time. I mean, you just want to fill them up, so they aren’t all crying and whining for food, right? So, if they won’t eat your green bean casserole, let him have that Hershey bar. No biggie. I mean, the almonds are protein after all.
8. If you are going to give your kids veggies, take my advice — pass up all that fresh farmers market stuff and give them vegetables from a can. Kids love vegetables from a can. Especially the soggy, bendy asparagus the color of a green suburban mini-van. And those lima beans! Those babies will turn them off good foods until they are 30. Go with that. Remember, embrace the challenge.
7. On the subject of vegetables, kids love them best when you steam them. A lot. And serve them in a heap on a plate all bland and limp. Or you can nuke them good in the microwave and top the vegetables off with a pad of margarine. Don’t let them have real butter until they are well into their teens. That could be inviting the voodoo into your life.
6. Kids hate salt, so don’t use any. Ever. Oh sure, they like it on their salt and vinegar potato chips, but not on their real food. Your food should be tasteless, bland, like cardboard. And this will be a relief to your 3 year old who is very worried about the hypertension setting in and is having nightmares because all the commercials on Noggin are warning toddlers to stay clear of the salt epidemic. Just keep your food tasting like communion wafer and the challenge will continue. Can you feel it? You’re already a better person.
5. Make separate meals for every member of your family. Your kid should know that you love him enough to leave your own food getting all cold and congealed so, like the work horse you are, you can go back to your kitchen and whip up home-made pancake batter and make him the plain pancakes he knows and loves and eats ten times a day. There is nothing that says love more than “Mommy is my slave.”
4. Remember, kids should only eat one or two different kinds of food. Trying a bunch of different foods just incites them to rebellion. It gives them ideas you don’t want in their head. I mean one minute, you’re passing out the braised oxtails and the next, your kids are sitting at the table banging their cups on the table like orphans from a Charles Dickens novel clamoring for sushi or some such exotic thing. You will not be able to handle it. Your life will get weirdly easier and the challenge thing will disappear, as will your attempts to become better a better person. Stick to, say, chicken fingers with preservatives and processed meat and box macaroni and cheese.
3. And speaking of box macaroni and cheese – every time your kid turns up their nose at dinner, just whip them up some orange-colored mac and cheese. It’s awesome because then they know once and for all, they never have to eat anything you put on the table because you’ll always be there with the box in hand as soon as they make the kitten face or make tears well up in their eyes. This is a no-brainer. Your challenge becomes more enhanced in direct proportion to how often you use the box. So, use it more and embrace your better person-ness.
2. Never let your kids into the kitchen. Squelch any desire for them to cook something of their own, throw the basil into the pasta or help you stir. You must do this because letting your kids into the kitchen is messy. They will throw breadcrumbs on the floor. They will hurl eggs at the dog. It’s a given. You will be picking bits of parsley out of the grout in your tiles for months to come. Better to let them peer into the kitchen wondering what mysterious things you are doing in that weird room with all the pots and pans. Oh! And never let them use a knife. Better to keep them completely sheltered until they are 15 or so and can use pointy utensils the correct way, like to dismember cats in the backyard.
And last but not least…
1. Be a food Nazi. Kids need to see all your weird food issues, all the time. Are you a constant dieter who thinks every calorie makes you stupidly fat? Make sure you share that with Betsy. Are you freaked out because you think the venison on your daughter’s plate might actually be Bambi’s mother who died a horrible death in the forest at the hands of a hunter? Go with that. Betsy needs to hear it. Do you think peas are disgusting and make you want to hurl? Oh yeah share, share, share. This will make Betsy really hate eating and then, you are so on your way to becoming a better person through challenge. And for good measure, never let your kids eat anything with sugar. Be a foot-stompin’, finger-wavin’ fanatic. Just ban it from their diet and make the occasional cookie punishable with a beating out behind the shed. This way, your kids will learn to sneak food and feel all ugly inside when they do. And that’s kind of what you were going for, right?
All kidding aside, your kids should be eating what you eat. It’s that simple. Your job is to relax. You’re not starving them, denying them the benefits of nutrition or sending them toward the throes of death. Seriously, I’m convinced many slacker parents know how to feed their kids. They just go with it. Do the same and you’ll be less stressed. And your kids will be equally as healthy and maybe, just maybe, they’ll grow into adventurous and curious eaters.
And now for a recipe…
Try these crab cakes, which I adapted from a recipe at Bon Appetite. I’ve done crab cakes a bunch of different ways but these are especially pleasing to adults and kids because they are loaded with crab and super-crunchy on the outside. They’re also a snap to make. You can prep the crab mixture ahead, like in the morning, and just skillet fry them about 5 minutes before you eat. This recipe call for Japanese breadcrumbs, which give it a fine, crunchy texture, but regular breadcrumbs will work just fine.
Crab Cakes of Death
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup minced green onions or leeks
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons minced fresh chive
4 teaspoons minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound blue crabmeat or Dungeness crabmeat
2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) or regular breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons (or more) butter
2 tablespoons (or more) olive oil
Whisk first 8 ingredients in large bowl. Mix in crabmeat and 1 cup of breadcrumbs or panko, breaking up crabmeat slightly. Let stand 10 minutes. Add more panko if necessary. Form crab mixture into sixteen 2-inch-diameter patties. Cover and chill at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon oil in a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat. Add crab cakes to skillet and cook until golden on both sides, adding more butter and oil as needed, about 5 minutes total.
Garnish with a sprig of cilantro. Serve with a salad. You can also whip up a little caper mayonnaise and serve a dollop on top of the crab cake. To make it, just combine a couple tablespoonfuls of mayonnaise in a bowl and fold in capers, finely chopped cilantro, a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper. You can add a little hot sauce in there if you like your condiments with a little heat.