Tag Archives: Food

The potato fail

So the question for the day is this; is there anything more unreasonable than a child that refuses to accept that the humble potato wears many different cloaks and not just those of the ubiquitous crisp and French fry (or chip).

My boys seem to have an infinite capacity for denial. Mashed potatoes, by way of example, are shunned and seem to be seen as just another brick in the wall of mashed food that they do not eat. They afford it the same disdain they dish upon squash or pumpkin or any porridge besides pronutro for that matter and they are unwavering.

Another example is the potato wedge or roasted potato which were both, until very recently, rejected outright because they did not fit into the two previously accepted formats, vis-à-vis the crisp and the chip. No amount of explanation, empirical evidence or reasoning would convince them otherwise. At this point I must confess that I once even mashed a roasted potato into an unwilling child’s mouth. I could add the adverb ‘extremely’ to unwilling, but I think it goes without saying.

I had somehow managed to convince myself that the moment he tasted it, he would immediately be sold on the concept and from that day forward love the roasted potato.

I was wrong and needless to say, things went quickly downhill from that point onward. If memory serves I eventually had to clean up a regurgitated potato, that was appreciably covered in saliva and indignant tears. A parenting fail.

So what then for this versatile vegetable?

Are we as a family doomed to consume the perfect food in only two or three formats forever because the lowest common denominator palates in the house are deciding which meals we are allowed to prepare? Or is there a way to introduce our favourite dishes to the imps without the aforementioned regurgitation? I guess I’m hoping for an epiphany here.

At this point I must confess that I am particularly discriminating about the foods that I eat too. Really, on close examination of oneself, my rules for food selection make no sense at all. My wife would probably argue that discriminating is too soft a word. Fussy is probably more fitting.

If I’m honest, I have the palate of a five year old. So really, I’m hardly one to talk about my fussy children. Then again, I do eat all manner of potatoes….


The picking problem

In an ideal world, our children would eat three solid meals a day that are primarily comprised of colorful and fresh fruits and vegetables alongside a variety of proteins and carbs, all in moderation of course.

Yes and they would eat these meals with all of the gusto of a puppy devouring a bowl of kibble and then climbing into said bowl to curl up and fall asleep in it afterwards. Also, in this world, there would be a simple and abiding enthusiasm and love for water over any other type of liquid refreshment among a canon of refreshments including Apple Juice, Strawberry Milk and Oros.

But as the parent of two little humans, a position that basically makes me a zoo keeper, I am forced to accept that we do not live in an ideal world. No, the world in which we live is vastly different.

By way of example, the little guy can often be caught excavating a booger from his nostril and then proceeding to dispose of it by placing it in his mouth. Or to put it somewhat more bluntly, he eats snot. I will give him some credit here though; he only eats his own snot. I suppose we should be grateful for the little things.

But here’s the rub, this very same child will then, moments later, turn his freshly picked nose up at a home-made meatball because it somehow offends his discerning palate. This incenses me no end. I often find myself saying things like, ‘You have just picked and eaten snot. How can you possibly reject any other food?’ It profits me nothing though. The irony is lost completely on the child.

The big guy is no stranger to the pick and eat either, with one notable exception, he completely understands the irony and as such, is willing to try almost anything put in front of him. That is not to say that he will eat everything we give him, just that he will try it. For the most part though, this try before you buy policy has worked quite well and he’s quite easy to please gastronomically. He’s also a little more surreptitious in his picking which means he gets caught ‘snacking’ only occasionally. This does not make him any less culpable or gross though.

I’ve often wondered when or how we’re going to get past this phase in their development.

In my more exasperated moments I’ve wondered what would happen if our minions both accidentally broke their preferred nostril fingers and subsequently had their picking hampered with splints for a year or so until they’d outgrown the habit?

Yes, that might work.

But wait, I hear you shouting accusingly at this point, there are three glaringly obvious problems here. First, what are the chances that one or both of them will break their primary nose picking fingers? I’ll admit, the boys are both at a very clumsy age but let’s face it, the odds are pretty slim. And even if they do both have mishaps, they could just as easily switch fingers. Second, this broken finger scenario might easily draw the unwelcome attention of child services, which might then result in the relocation of the children to new homes and immediately make the entire thing moot, in that the nose picking would become someone else’s problem. Third, it’s a bit of a high price to pay for what is really just a personal grooming practice that’s gone a bit awry.

All very salient points.

What then about sabotage of the finger itself? What if somehow we made the fingers become agents for us, the parents? What if the fingers were laced with some sort of crushed chilie extract and then superficially washed just enough to mask the chilie odor but not enough to completely blunt the effects of the capsicum?

All that would be required then is to ‘forget’ to remind them to wash their hands. A task every parent normally has to do about fifty thousand times a day.

I imagine that very first pick of the day would be an eye wateringly expensive one. Undoubtedly there would be copious amounts of mucus and tears and potentially some emotional scarring. But it might just create an aversion for picking snot, it goes without saying this includes then eating said snot, that would last them a lifetime.

The problem here is, that’s in an ideal world.

In all probability, in the real world, we’d be left with coughing, spluttering, crying, hysterical and justifiably indignant children that will immediately begin to comfort themselves by picking and eating with their ring, in lieu of index, fingers.

The thumbs 

The halflings have both adopted a new yardstick of approval. Gone are the vigorous head nods accompanied by ‘Yes’ or ‘Yay’ and the brain rattling head shakes said in concert with ‘No’ or ‘Yuck’ (Nay).

These days the little pups pass judgement on things in their lives in a much more deliberate, expressive and endearing manner. They’re employing a strange little take on the well known thumbs-up or thumbs-down gesture. They’ve personalised it too in that they use both hands and drum up a little fanfare for it by waving their closed fists in the air for a few seconds while they consider their verdict.

Then all at once they produce an emphatic result, which we as parents are obliged to respect. It is after all a well considered verdict, not just an involuntary negative reaction to a piece of broccoli teetering on the edge of a fork. It is also often elucidated in great detail just in case we might have forgotten what the signs mean.

The taxonomy of the thumbs are as follows; two thumbs up for things that are super duper great, two thumbs down for things that, to put it quite bluntly, suck in a big or even small way. There are also blended results where we have one thumb up and one thumb down or indeed one or both thumbs to the side. The definition for this non-committal gesture varies from day to day but usually it means they’re hedging their bets.

Ultimately though, no matter what the result, there is always a built in, unvoiced disclaimer which reads something similar to the following:

I’ve eaten the raw carrot you offered me in order to appease you. The sign I gave the carrot is favorable in this instance but by no means do I want to give you the impression that we’ve now set a precedent for carrot eating. This sign is valid for today and today only. Be advised then that the same, or better, result is not guaranteed in the future.

It must he said that their thumbs are used primarily as a classification system for food. Specifically for new foods we’re trying out on them. But I have witnessed it used to rate any number of things. Once it was used to describe a family outing on a lazy Sunday afternoon – which got four emphatic thumbs-up (see tobogganing).

I’m also pretty sure I’ve been given a silent, concealed thumbs-down on the odd occasion when I’ve switched off the television mid Miles from Tomorrow for the inevitable bed time. My boys know better than to rate my performance as a parent to my face. I’m not raising fools. But I’m sure they’re judging me in those moments and secretly plotting to commit me to a subpar retirement home one day.

I’m pretty confident too that at some point in the future, the digit used for rating me as a parent might be switched from the thumb to another expressive finger.

The eat and eat and eat

The big guy has begun a phase of growth that can only be described as otherworldly. So much so that when I look at him for any length of time I can see the hem of his jeans drifting up and away from his ankles.

Ok, perhaps not that quickly, but it is really quite fast. The stack of clothes he grows out of each month seems comical, until we try to replace them of course. This textile scrap heap is aside from the clothes that fall into the cannot wear anymore category because they are too torn or too uncleanable or too played in or even items that were simply misplaced while he was visiting Neverland and will as such never be seen again.

He’s the youngest child in his class by a good two months and some of the children in his class were actually born before he was even conceived. That said, my boy is the tallest among them. Everyone else in the class looks like a toddler standing next to him or at best apprentice children standing next to the journeyman kid.

There’s a corollary to his height though which is that he fuels his unchecked growth with food that needs to be available on demand and in abundant supply. In short, my boy eats like he’s preparing for hibernation. He is by no means portly mind you, he’s a slender guy and is very proud of his hard earned muscles, which he has because he eats all his vegetables – obviously.

Of course there are some difficulties around the food. For instance, he will sometimes refuse to eat two helpings of the same food whether he enjoys the first plate or not and is likely to request a new plate of food from entirely different food groups to the first. There may also not be anything with an unknown sauce on it (including tomato sauce). Vegetables must be readily identifiable for what they are and may not be transformed to mimic another food like mash or rice (both of which these days are made out of cauliflower). Butter is also taboo and if there is any end user involvement in a process to complete the presentation of a meal, like adding a sprinkle of cheese over the top of a bowl of bolognaise, this must be left to him to do.

His mother will accommodate him in these demands as far as possible, whipping up a tuna pasta for the first course and an assortment of biscuits and cheese and yogurt and fruit for the second. I must admit that my offerings are somewhat less varied, usually consisting of peanut butter and syrup on bread cut into squares followed by peanut butter and syrup on bread cut into triangles. I very rarely get any complaints and I think it’s because he gets it. We’re guys. When left to our own devices, we just make do. But put a mom in the room and we’re like the judges on masterchef demanding an array of a amuse bouche to sate a hunger.

He may also officially be well on his way to transforming into a monkey. He eats bananas every day. This I expect is more to do with us as parents than with his taste in fruit. Often we’ll announce ‘bedtime’ and immediately there will be a complaint from him that he’s still hungry.

Now, a child that is determined to delay bedtime can make the process of eating an apple take a month. Literally. Each tiny bite can be chewed in excess of thirty times or at least to the point where the child doesn’t even want to swallow the bite anymore. Each bite location on the apple itself can be chosen with excruciating care and this excludes all the breaks in chewing that are required to allow the jaw an appropriate amount of rest before the next bite.

In short, apples are never to be fed to children at bed time. Page one.

That said, there is virtually no food more easily or quickly consumed than a banana. A banana, is your ‘friend’ at bedtime. A few small bites and it’s done. It’s mostly water and so isn’t that filling and it’s like a story in that it has a start, middle and end. An apple, by comparison, is relatively ambiguous  in that it can be milked for every last little bite and drive you to the point where you want to ban apples from the house altogether.

Again, see page one.

As I look forward into the future and imagine my boy in his teenage years, I get the feeling that I should be setting aside funds for food now for not only future rainy days but for breakfast, lunch and dinner on any given day of the week too.

The precision yoghurt

Watching our little guy have a post supper snack before bedtime this evening, I had an insight that I hadn’t really noticed before and it was this; when my two-year old eats yogurt, he does it with such deliberate little movements that they border on the precise.

I’ll admit, precise doesn’t exactly spring to mind when you imagine how a toddler would gobble down a yoghurt, but that’s what he did. What’s more, he didn’t mess a single dollop of his tasty little snack and he was watching television the entire time to boot. To be honest, I don’t think I’d do as stellar a job in his shoes.

I set the tub in front of him at the table and propped him up on his knees. Then teaspoon in hand, he began with an improbable scoop that was overflowing on all sides of the spoon as if it were lava erupting from a volcano. Impossibly, the pink goop made it all the way to the target against the laws of physics and I sat mesmerized as each subsequent spoon was delivered with the same success and at the same steady and measured pace via his seemingly uncoordinated little left hand.

When he eventually reached the bottom of the small barrel of strawberry delight and required my more dexterous hands to get at the last of the loot, it occurred to me that should he tackle life with the same care and patience he had just displayed, he might just end up working at the Large Hadron Collider some day looking for a smidgen of Higgs Boson as improbable as those spoons of yogurt were this evening.

And I’ll be just as proud of him as I am now.

The mother hubbard cupboard

Tonight I was reminded of the nursery rhyme about old mother Hubbard and her empty cupboard. Yes, except in my version there’s no dog.

Our eldest boy is literally eating us out of house and home. Tonight, if I hadn’t taken the bowl away from him, I’m quite certain he would have eaten the empty shells from all the peanuts he had just eaten. Probably would have had a go at the bowl too.

It’s not as if he’s skipping meals during the day either. I mean I’m there to see breakfast being wolfed down like a vacuum cleaner sucking up lint tumbleweed from a hardwood floor. Then theres’s a snack time lunchbox full of fruit and cheese and other tasty bits to eat at school. After school there’s the sit-down lunch when he gets home, which is usually a full plate of hot food including optional fruit and yoghurt.

First supper is at around five in the evening and is usually a cooked meal of some sort covering a number of the food groups. Later when my wife and I get home from work and prepare our meal for the evening, there is more often than not a plate prepared for the gannet. That takes care of ‘second supper’ which is followed closely by more fruit (tonight there were three pieces) and whatever else might be on offer. In point of fact, he asked for something else to eat but I talked him out of it saying he just needed to wait a while to let all the food he’d already eaten make its way down to his stomach. Wasn’t convinced.

So now I have to ask myself; where is he putting all the food? He’s a slender little guy and only takes me up to my waist in height so even if he did have hollow legs that he filled with everything he eats, he’d probably be overflowing or looking like a miniature version of the Michelin Man after first supper, which by the way he does not. I eat a fraction of what he wolfs down in a day and I weigh five times what he does (or thereabouts but we’re not going to go into the details here).

The other possibility of course is that he’s performing some sort of street magic trick with the food. A mini Chris Angel if you like, performing magic tricks for his parents using food instead of rabbits or cards.

I wonder what we’re going to do when he becomes a teenager and starts eating weird concoctions made from everything in the fridge, the grocery cupboard and the fruit basket? We could see a peanut butter, banana, bacon, apple and melted cheese sandwhich with three slices of bread for a pre-lunch snack followed by a sit-down formal lunch that constitutes three platefuls of something cooked.

All of this is in stark contrast to his younger brother who seems able to survive on half a biscuit and three bites of a banana for the entire day. He’s like a model for clean power, where you get more out than you put in.

I wonder if you can take out a bridging loan for food purchases in the teenage years, might have to look into that.

The air-plant

Dinner time with the little guy has become a trial by fire, for him as well as us the parents. For whatever reason, he has decided he’s simply not going to eat solid food at dinner time anymore. Despite this new and improved food aversion, he seems to keep growing steadily and still has boundless energy. For our part, we have begun referring to him affectionately as the air-plant.

The air-plant has never been a good eater and to be fair this is not really his fault. As a baby he had severe reflux which tied him up into pretzels of pain every time he fed and since then he’s been mistrustful of food. In point of fact he doesn’t even eat a piece of chocolate or a spoon of ice cream as a treat without first putting up fists and making a bout out of it. Of course once he’s tasted something that he actually likes, then he’ll switch off the tears and finish the rest on his own sans boxing.

At least that’s how it was until very recently. Now nothing gets past the gate except for a few choice items like biltong (dried and salted beef), strawberry yoghurt, pristine bananas and Nutella. Indeed there is absolutely always an appetite for and a will to eat what he refers to as ‘moretella’. Our dilemma of course is that we have to try feed him fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy and it is here that the battle lines have been drawn.

The past few nights have seen us using the carrot for donkey technique to get him to eat even a small piece of chicken. Picture the scene :

Here we go my boy, you can have a spoonful of Nutella if you open your mouth, eat and then chew and swallow this one spoonful of normal food, pretty please? What about a choo choo train?

No. Sorry, we’ll have none of that thank you kind Parent. Please bring forth the next course and remand the previous one to the trash – I’ll forego the Nutella.

I guess then what I’m after really is a super-duper food. Which is not unlike a superfood except that it tastes like Nutella.

Wouldn’t that be perfect? I mean how hard can it be really? We have robots that can walk like humans (Asimo) and we’ve landed people on the moon (or at the very least built an incredible sound stage to fake the moon landings on) so why is it that broccoli still tastes and looks like something a child would rather swat away with both hands than eat.

I think this must be in part due to the fact that the honest to goodness scientists and engineers out there doing all manner of unbelievable research into dark matter and driverless cars are essentially not married and have no children or are married and have children but have simply forgotten both of those facts. Because if these scientists were married with children that they actually had to feed meals to, we would have had a chocolate flavored Brussels Sprout at or around the same time that Neil Armstrong was taking his first tentative steps on the moon/soundstage.

So the way I see it, the answer here is pretty simple. We need some fertile volunteers, both male and female, to seek out and procreate with the super-intelligent among us and then force the above average IQ’s to feed their children three meals a day, every single day. In short order I think we’ll have peas that look and taste like Rice Krispies. There, go forth now and multiply by Pi!

ps: I’m pretty sure there was a moon-landing, just didn’t want to alienate the naysayers.