When my children were growing up they were picky eaters. I thought they would outgrow that for the most part. Now that they are grown, the only difference is that they don’t spit the beets at the cat and overturn the plate. They just decline to eat. I have had to create a flowchart to help me keep track of all the food likes and dislikes. Plus I have a fourth person in the mix these days – my daughter-in-law. Every time they all come home and I cook, we have a new adventure. They know I maintain a running record of their preferences. Last month when I had the whole gang here, and I made ratatouille from the vegetables in my garden, my daughter-in-law said, “I love these capers in the ratatouille” while my daughter, who was spitting the capers out and assembling them in a pile on the edge of her plate, said, “Mom, add capers to my list of do-not-like.”
I constantly run into new eating preference information to file away. I thought my daughter and daughter-in-law loved a particular kind of cracker with soft goat cheese. So I stocked up on these before they came. Then my daughter reminded me that my daughter-in-law loves the crackers but dislikes goat cheese. Meanwhile, my daughter-in-law was looking for the sundried tomatoes. That’s what she likes on the crackers. I had some of those on hand for her. I ran to the computer to bring up my file to note the goat cheese and sundried tomatoes information. I think they should develop a phone app for moms to keep track of what their children like to eat.
My youngest son won’t eat fruit. He says it has something to do with the texture. I find it hard to believe that all fruit has a particular texture he can’t abide. He will eat apples and applesauce and he will eat watermelon but only if it’s perfect. It has to be sweet, not too cucumbery, not mushy but crunchy but not too crunchy – only perfect-crunchy. Is there a tool that measures watermelon perfection? The watermelon spectrometer? He will drink fruit smoothies but he only allows certain card-carrying approved fruits into them. The list changes. I can’t keep up.
My older son is the one who, as a child, asked for a lettuce leaf and after chewing it thoughtfully and spitting it out said, “This will taste like something when I grow up, right Mom?” Apparently it never did. He is not fond of vegetables, but will eat many varieties of them depending upon how they are prepared. Generally if they are slathered in pasta and Alfredo sauce or embedded in lasagna or something like that then he’s fine with them. He does eat Caesar salad, but salad is still not very high on his list. At least he likes fruit, according to the flow chart.
Last month, when all my children were home, my father was here too. While my children maneuver through meals as if crossing a minefield, Dad will hoover-up healthy portions of anything served to him so long as it’s not spicy. It was a relief to know that if I put the salsa on the side, Dad would be happy with whatever I served. It’s the rest of the crew that requires a schematic. How my omnivorous, easy-to-please father produced such a preposterous pack of food-particular grandchildren baffles me.
One thing all of us share in the family is that we love to cook delicious food. (My older son not quite so much, but his wife is into it.) A few days ago my daughter sent us a photo of the chicken rigatoni Alfredo she had made for herself for dinner. I was drooling (and I don’t even eat chicken). Last year she made tortilla soup for the family for dinner for Christmas Eve and the family licked that pot clean. Once, when my youngest son came home for a visit, he made us the most amazing mulligatawny soup. I had never had it before. He has a gourmet palate. That sometimes runs me into trouble. To make a simple cheese sandwich, he scours the refrigerator for tomatoes, lettuce, pepperoncini, avocado, mushrooms, and other ingredients to put on his sandwich. “What, Mom, you don’t have any caviar, fire-roasted red peppers, Thai green curry sauce, or Brazilian Tuscarora cherry-bomb squash blossoms? How do you expect me to make a decent sandwich?”
A couple of my children love mushrooms, but one of them won’t eat them. A couple of my children enjoy kale salad the way I make it, one of them hates kale. There’s a coconut frozen dessert I’m crazy about and most of the children like it too, but one of them hates coconut. One likes cheese in eggs, one doesn’t like cheese in eggs, one likes ketchup with eggs, one likes cream cheese with eggs, one prefers fried eggs on toast, one prefers scrambled eggs, one prefers chicken eggs, one prefers duck eggs, one prefers ibis eggs flown in from Australia and packed in homespun sheep wool blessed by Maori healers. How could breakfast get so complicated?
Now Thanksgiving is on the horizon. Thanksgiving dinner itself is not much of a problem. Everyone loves all the traditional foods, so long as they don’t find any capers, kale, or coconut snuck into them. Who would stuff a turkey with kale, capers, and coconut? (That doesn’t sound like a winning dressing.) We’re fine for Thanksgiving dinner, and our brood will pitch in and do a lot of the cooking with us. It’s the other meals during the weekend that I have to plan out in detail. Leftovers only go one night. Turkey sandwiches require several ingredients beyond turkey, and you can bet my youngest son is going to be searching the refrigerator for ingredients for his turkey sandwich. In a couple of weeks I’ll pull out the flowchart and begin building my schematic. Potatoes is my safe word.