Monday, October 15, 2012

Out of the Darkness, and into the belly.

You may have noticed that there has been a significant decline in the number of food-related posts in recent months. There is a reason for that. My daughter, once an enthusiastic foodie with no limits to her culinary prowess, made an executive decision to embark on an elimination diet of sorts. One might argue that she was employing the preemptive tactic of identifying potential allergens in an attempt to prevent a surprise bout of anaphylaxis. I would wholeheartedly disagree before slapping one in the face.

Can I be blunt here?

She was being a jerk.

Yes, kids can be jerks. Yes, even mine. It takes one to know one, after all. There was absolutely no rhyme or reason to her new and constantly shifting palate. Except that, without fail, every single thing I put in front of her for dinner - including things she had never before tried and things she would normally beg for - would be met with "I don't like it". She even turned down sausages. Repeatedly. I mean come on. Lunch and breakfast were marginally more successful, but even the snacks suffered. Whatever it was that I had brought for a snack was precisely the item she did not want any part of at that moment. If I brought three options, those were the three options that she didn't want.

Now. I'm not a pushover in general with the girl, and when it comes to food I can be quite Stalin-esque. You might not have picked that up, because I've never really had to flex my dictatorial muscles with this one. She's been so easy with food. But the minute she started to pull back, it was all I could do not to dig my heels in and bring down the iron curtain on the issue. But, as much as I've always said that I could not tolerate a picky eater, I absolutely do not want to create a war zone around food. It took every ounce of restraint I had to let her not eat, to let her claim to dislike foods that I knew she liked, to not give in to her whiny demands for different food, or send myself through the window after another round of the always exasperating "I'm full (take plate full of food away)…but I'm HUUUUNNNNNGRYYYYY" juggernaut. Yes, that's the word I meant to use.

So I think I've made it clear enough that E has been a pain in the ass in the eating department. The point of this exercise, you may be surprised to learn, is not to complain endlessly about the trials and tribulations of three year olds, but to offer you a shred of optimism among all of the wasted food.

On two wondrous, shiny occasions last week, we made progress!

First I made Pasta E Fagioli, an Italian pasta and bean soup, with absolutely no confidence that it would be well received. Now typically, the more preparation that goes into a dish, the less E will like it. So why, you ask, would I spend ages chopping and dicing when I know she's going to turn her nose up at it? Well, the truth is, sometimes I can be selfish. I love to cook, and I love to cook lots of different things. I love finding a new recipe. And as disheartening as it is to have my efforts repeatedly balked at, I simply cannot give in and open a box of KD. Besides, she doesn't like that either. So I made it, and figured she could pick out a noodle or two, maybe a chunk of tomato, and then fill up on crackers. I couldn't even be bothered to put them in a bowl, I just plunked the bag down in front of her. I've really been beaten down by this whole thing.

Anyhoo, would you believe that these words came out of her mouth?

"This is soooo delicious! Thank you for making me this delicious dinner mama! This is the best soup I've EVER TASTED!" 

I'm sorry. What was that?

She ate the entire thing. Quickly! (If there's another thing you should know about E, it's that she eats like  an old French dude tucked into the back booth of a Parisian bistro. She lingers.) And people, she didn't even TOUCH the crackers.

Round 2: Chicken. Since my finicky feline started her war on food, she has insisted that the only chicken that will pass her lips is "Foolish Chicken". Foolish Chicken is a restaurant down the street that serves BBQ chicken and ribs. Yes, it's delicious. But I will not be ordering a roast chicken from them every week just to satisfy my daughter's protein requirements. Essentially, after several attempts at home, she's looking for chicken thighs swimming in butter and bbq sauce. But, given her penchant for sausages and eating butter by the spoonful, I would really like to stick to white meat as much as possible.

So again, I walked into this next meal without a shred of conviction that I'd hear anything resembling appreciation from my little food critic. It was mexican night and, what with E being something of a deconstructionist, her meal was presented in small piles of ingredients, rather than assembled into wrap form. I used chicken breasts that had been poached in lemons and limes and cut into strips. Not even close to Foolish Chicken. And do you know what she did? She grabbed the strips and dipped them into the salsa and guacamole like they were breadsticks! She even went for seconds and thirds!

Once again I am reminded of the sage advice I received years ago while entrenched in the haze of sleep training:

"Everything is a phase. Maybe it's bad, maybe it's good. But it won't last forever."

So true, as evidenced by E's reaction to the Pasta E Fagioli leftovers this evening:

"I don't waaaaant soup. No thank you. Nooooo soooouuuuup!"

Out of curiosity, when does the "Let's cook for mom!" phase begin?

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