Food should be one of life's great joys. And, as I talked about on Wednesday, for a long time it was one of mine. I cooked, ate and reveled in the discovery of things like farm fresh figs and artisanal cheese. Then along came Child #1, followed shortly by Child #2
Eating with my kids is like eating with Jack Sprat and his wife. My daughter, loves things like steak, eggs, and yogurt. Potatos, pasta and cherry tomatoes are major offenders on her yuk list.
My son loves all the things she hates and hates all the things she loves. When they were little I would order one meal and two plates. Carbs for him, protein for her.
A not so ideal situation when they were little, grew into something downright annoying as they got older. It's hard to find joy in preparing meals when you know at least one person at the table will be miserable and will feel free to to tell you just how miserable they are.
I tried all the suggested tactics. We insisted on polite bites. The kids visited the grocery store with me and I let them have input into the weekly meal plan. But by the time I had tried to meet everyone's requirements the meals I was making were far from joyful. In fact, they were joyless.
And then something happened.
I stopped caring.
Before you accuse me of hard-heartedness or report me to the authorities for failure to feed my children let me explain.
First of all, I realized no one was in danger of imminent starvation.
Secondly, I realized that cooking by committee was leading to bland dinners of blech. So I stopped. It was as simple as that.
This week, dinner was Baked Polenta with Sausage and Artichoke Hearts, Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and Capers and Broiled Chicken with Cucumber and Pineapple Salad.
None of those meals are revolutionary or fancy. But they were fun to cook and my husband and I enjoyed eating them, even if the kids voiced complaints. One night Child #1 decided to forego dinner and one night Child #2 ate three bites. "That's okay," I told each of them. "You can always make yourself a peanut butter sandwich."
Child #2 grumped about a friend's mom who "always makes good things like corndogs for dinner."
"Wow," I said. "She sounds nice. Too bad you don't have a nice mom like that." And then I joyfully took another bite of my Cucumber and Pineapple Salad.
I said it on Wednesday and I'll say it again. Sometimes you have to find your own joy. If life gives you picky eaters, maybe the best thing to do is cook the things you love and trust that the only damage you're doing is the kind that can be remedied over breakfast.