A matter of taste

It’s fascinating to consider the dissimilar approaches that different children take to the topic of food. Our oldest son mostly eats meals, rarely asking for a snack unless a sweet treat is offered. His lunchbox is routinely empty when I unpack it in the afternoon, and when I ask him if he’s hungry between meals, his answer is usually, “Not really.” Our youngest son prefers to graze, rarely finishing even half of a sandwich in a sitting, and I frequently put a bowl upside-down over his partially-eaten plate of food, to which he’ll return throughout the day, upend the makeshift cloche, and have a few bites here and there. Trying to get him to eat a decent amount at one time is a pursuit that, considering how densely-sown the minefield we’re navigating with him is, we’re choosing not to undertake for now.

Our daughter, who was so tiny as a baby and toddler that she didn’t even measure “on the charts” until she turned two, is the most fun to feed (well, she has been since she stopped nursing every hour of every day at the age of 8 months and deigned to finally avail herself of solid foods, all of which she’d rejected up until that point). The first thing she was interested in eating was a slice of orange, and after she passed through that sweet citrus gateway, there was no stopping her. She ate smoked salmon, prosciutto, pickled ginger, tuna, seaweed, cottage cheese, raw tomatoes, bacon, zoodles, refried beans, potstickers, mustard, pumpkin pie, edamame, pesto, potato latkes, and her favorite of all, avocado maki. And it wasn’t just the interesting range of foods that was impressive, but also the size of the portions she could consume. And these portion sizes grew as she did. Three cream cheese bagel halves for breakfast? Sure thing. Twelve Bagel Bite pizzas for lunch? No problem. Five hotdogs for dinner? It’s happened before. Twenty pieces of avocado roll for any meal, with as much soy sauce as I’ll let her have? That’ll do, and some miso soup, please.

Even more remarkable is that, despite her petiteness, she is often ready for another meal a couple of hours after one is over. She can easily eat a second full breakfast most days; a recent example of her choice for second breakfast was a whole can of drained black beans with grated cheddar melted into it. Another favorite is an entire 10-oz. packet of Indian Madras Lentils. We all know and admire her gustatory gifts and metabolic means, particularly because she’s taken an interest in nutrition recently (when asked what she’d like to eat, she famously answers, “Protein!”). So I don’t know why I’m surprised when, for example, I asked her after her first breakfast of waffles one day if she’d like anything else and her response was, “Yeah, maybe just a little something. Like five sausages.” Or when she says she’d like a snack, so I send her to pick something out and she comes back with a family-size can of chicken noodle soup.

However, if you’re reading this and thinking, ‘Wow! What a lucky mom! I can’t get my kids to eat anything besides cheese quesadillas, peanut butter, mozzarella sticks, and raisins,’ don’t worry. Practically all children have an “I won’t touch it” list, and those items are all on hers. She’s also averse to things as seemingly innocuous as croissants and whipped cream, but show her a bag of salt-and-vinegar potato chips, and that girl will be all over it. Feeding children is an endeavor involving equal parts dullness and intrigue, drudgery and excitement, sameness and surprise. So much of it is unpredictable and variable, from child to child and day to day. Sometimes kids like things you’d expect them to enjoy, and other times they refuse what others generally consider to be delectations. I mean, my daughter’s never met a dill pickle she didn’t like, but she’ll shudder with revulsion if you so much as offer her a chocolate chip cookie or–god forbid–a brownie. Her relationship with desserts, pretty much across the board, can be considered “it’s complicated”, which is why she patently rejects the nuance of idioms like “a cherry on top” and “the icing on the cake”. She also questions the use of “honey” as a term of endearment. So, friends, I give you three savory neologisms: “a meatball on top”, “the salt on the pretzel”, and this affectionate nickname: “Pringle”.

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