My beautiful progeny is not only a vegetarian, he’s a persnickety, mercurial eater. Yes, those are SAT words, but they fit, and I’m in a big-word sort of mood. My wife and I are just happy (like we have been the last few days) if we’re able to get to night-night time without gummy bears and milk being his biggest sources of nutrition for the day. Anything else is a bonus, but then we’ll get ambitious and cook for him, then watch him try to fling the plate off his high chair tray. When all else fails, there’s always French fries, but even then, he knows they’re the organic ones my wife gets at Whole Foods, not the über-delicious ones from Mickey D’s, and even then he might or might not eat.
I’ve learned to add more salt to his food, because he’ll just push a plate of unseasoned food away out of spite. I’ve learned to hide things like zucchini and carrots in noodle sauces, and
hope pray that he doesn’t notice. I’ve learned how to get a spoonful of food into his mouth quickly, before he can change his mind or his mood, something I’ve been perfecting since his pureed food stage. I’ve also learned that he doesn’t eat beef, pork, fish that doesn’t already come as a breaded frozen stick, celery, lettuce, most non-fried non-prepackaged forms of chicken, unbuttered bread, or brown rice. What else? Broccoli and cauliflower must have butter on them, but not cheese, and must be cut into 1/2 inch wide florets. Fried rice is yummy, but he’ll taste one bit of meat and spit the whole thing out, then refuse to eat the rest. Same with lo mein. Instant ramen like my wife and I used to eat as impoverished college students? Seconds please, and don’t mind the messy slurping of MSG-laden broth straight from the bowl.
Depending on his mood, he might deign to join us at the dinner table, sitting between us in his high chair. Other times, he’ll insist on sitting at his little table in the living room so he can watch Team Umizoomi or Little Bear; okay, little man, wait while we move everything there, and let’s hope the the show doesn’t ruin your appetite. If there is even the tiniest morsel of meat in his pasta sauce, he’ll pick it off his tongue and give me a dirty look like I just fed him roadkill. If I block his view of the TV, that too will ruin his appetite, but I might be able to make it up to him if I let him have peanut butter Cap’n Crunch instead. If Uncle Jimmy and I, as we did on Halloween, insist that he eat yummy pizza before he gets the ice cream he kept demanding, that could and did lead to a full-blown meltdown. He cried so hard that he was left gasping, and my brother in law said he’s never seen a scarier sight.
He’s gone through different phases in terms of what he prefers. This past spring he was on a jajangmyun kick, followed by pizza in the summer, a flirtation with chicken nuggets in September, and now back to jajangmyun in autumn. The pizza thing was interesting, as my opinionated little man must only have Marino’s in my in-laws’ neighborhood; the other (closer, more convenient, cheaper) pizza place, which actually delivers, is apparently a poor substitute, and even my wife and I have to admit that Marino’s is better, and when we go, the guys usually give him a free Italian ice afterwards. But he’s only two and a half, he’s far too young to be this opinionated over this place or that. I mean, it isn’t like we’re making him choose between Jean-Georges and WD-50.
I tweeted back on the 26th, “Pretty please God, make his little sister not nearly as picky at mealtimes. We just want a kid who eats what we make. Without the tantrums.” That was after a gnarly argument that found me on the losing side of an empty “eat – or else” threat. I’ve heard from parents of two or more that the younger child usually is easier going, but more importantly, less of a picky eater than the firstborn. I can only hope that this is the case, because having a toddler girl who is just as picky as her older brother might be cause for me to seek an antidepressant prescription. Or drink. Or both. I even asked the little man about it, if he would care if his little sister ate his food and he’d go hungry. He gave me a hopeful look that scared me, like “Really, Appa? I can palm off food I don’t want on her? Awesome!”