My son Max is pretty much all about cheese and carbs. He doesn’t believe in consuming plant life—nothing involving fruit anyway, in any form. Well, maybe ketchup… and the natural fruit flavors in gummy candy. Okay, I also sneak mashed bananas into our pancakes. He caught me once, suavely trying to blend it into the batter. He inquired, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? To which I scoffed, “It’s the fruit base, of course. How else are you going to make pancakes without a fruit base?” So now he thinks that bananas are one of the necessary ingredients to make pancakes.
Many people take it upon themselves to try and persuade Max to eat fruit. I tell them I’ll give them ten dollars if they can get him to eat one, but nobody even comes close. “Try some grapes, Max. Cecilia loves grapes, don’t you, Ceecee?” To which Max will respond, “No thanks, I’m good.”
He is PICKY. But… he likes salmon sushi and seaweed, which surprises friends outside of NYC (and outside of Japan). Also, sometimes people offer cookies and candy… and he refuses them simply because he doesn’t feel like eating something sweet. What child does THAT?
I envy those folks with children who eat everything. If my boy was one of those kids with wide dietary horizons, we could travel to Taiwan or India without worrying about what he would eat. Cooking dinner would be so much more interesting if I could break out of my repertoire of five Max-friendly homemade meals:
- bacon pizza
- pasta with bolognese sauce
- ground chicken with sweet soy sauce
- spinach omelet
The first four entrees are always accompanied by either exactly 3 sprigs of broccoli in soy sauce, or exactly 7 scrawny sticks of carrot with a dollop of cream cheese.
Me, on the other hand, I love food. I love kueh teow noodles that remind me of high school in Malaysia, pork belly fat that melts in your mouth, and the soft sweet flesh of mangosteen plucked from its thick purple rind. I love fresh soba, tart ume plums, an orange tongue of sea urchin that tastes like the ocean. I love those knots of escargot bathing in pockets of garlic butter. I love dim sum, especially those greasy gnarled chicken feet.
BUT during my first trimester of pregnancy, all I could stomach was spaghetti bolognese and McDonald cheeseburgers (how ironic)—kid-friendly foods (tho my kid vomited the first time he tried McD’s). Everything else was barely edible. The smell of veggies being sautéed in a pan made me want to puke. My theory behind this weird dietary experience is that it’s meant to create empathy in mothers for the inevitable moment when the child turns away good food and gags like he was almost poisoned. If not for that small flutter of empathy, the baby/toddler might be flung out the window after refusing to eat all the pureed steamed vegetables the mother selflessly slaved over while said baby/toddler napped.
As a one-year-old Max ate everything—he begged for apples before he had teeth—and then one by one he started refusing foods. I don’t push Max hard on eating. I empathize too much because I remember that first nauseating trimester… as well as childhood trauma involving chicken liver and the threat of never seeing my parents again (but that’s another story). Occasionally Max stretches his gastronomical boundaries and puts unfamiliar food in his mouth. Then sometimes ejects it so fast that I don’t believe it even touched his tongue. I’m always surprised when he agrees to try something new. Even more surprised when he likes it.
BUT I have a feeling that those finicky tendencies will subside by college, and when he gets to my age, he will be sampling all kinds of curious edibles. I predict he will learn to love food as an adult. After all, as a kid, I was a picky eater, too.