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September 16, 2008

NYTimesWatch: Our Children Won't Eat!

This morning's NY Times helpfully offers parenting advice. Today's hot tip: How to get your kids to eat food:

HARRIET WOROBEY, a childhood nutrition instructor, knows firsthand that children can be picky eaters, but even she was surprised by a preschooler last year who ate a mostly chocolate diet.

“Chocolate milk, chocolate chip muffins, chocolate chip pancakes — it was unbelievable,” said Ms. Worobey, director of the Rutgers University Nutritional Sciences Preschool in New Brunswick, N.J. “His mother just thought, ‘That’s what he wants, so that’s what I’m going to do.’ ”

While most parents haven’t resorted to the chocolate diet, they can relate to the daily challenge of finding foods that children will eat. Although obesity dominates the national discussion on childhood health, many parents are also worried that their child’s preferred diet of nuggets and noodles could lead to a nutritional deficit.

Well now that's first class thinking! Did this blindingly brilliant insight occur to Mom and Dad before or after they began feeding Junior a steady diet of junk food?

Fussiness about food is a normal part of a child’s development. Young children are naturally neophobic — they have a distrust of the new. Even the most determined parents can be cowed by a child’s resolve to eat nothing rather than try something new. As a result, parents often give in, deciding that a bowl of Cocoa Puffs or a Pop-Tart, while not ideal, must be better than no food at all.

“I think parents feel like it’s their job to just make their children eat something,” Ms. Worobey said. “But it’s really their job to serve a variety of healthy foods and get their children exposed to foods.”

A series of simple meal-time strategies can help even the pickiest eater learn to like a more varied diet. Here’s a look at six common mistakes parents make when feeding their children.

The sad thing is, this is a real problem. Bizarre as it may seem, there are adults out there who have to be told that they are the parents and [wait for it] .... their children are not supposed to be making nutritional decisions. I've lost count of the number of tiny tots who (according to their charmingly helpless parents) 'won't eat anything but chicken nuggets and Freedom Fries'. One imagines desperate late night trips to Jack in the Box at knife point as two thoroughly cowed parents tremble at the implied threat of....

What? A temper tantrum from a three year old? The horror. Perhaps if we got Jimmy Carter to intervene?

While children definitely have different personalities, I've never once seen a child who was willing to starve himself to death. Children are remarkably sensible that way.

Moreover, there appears to be an almost uncanny relationship between food deprivation, appetite, and the willingness to try new foods. Rather than over-complicate life with long lists of rules for picky eaters, why not just try exploiting the well known law of cause and effect? In our home, we had only a few simple rules:

1. No one has to clean their plate. There are times when all of us, for one reason or another, don't feel like eating.

2. But if you don't finish your meal, there will be no snacks until the next meal.

Period. Nothing. Nada. Zip. You can have a glass of water if you're thirsty, but meals are the staple of your diet. They are there to provide nutrition. Snacks are provided for people who have eaten their meals, but are still hungry. They are there to tide you over until the next meal.

If you're not hungry enough to eat at mealtime, you obviously don't need to snack in between meals on food that is less nutritious than what you were served at the table.

3. Mom is not a short order cook. Breakfast/lunch/dinner is what's on your plate. If you don't like the main course, load up on a side dish but if you're wise, you'll at least try part of whatever you don't particularly care for (remember rule #1). Or...not; it's up to you.

It's amazing how well this system works.

I provided in home day care for three years when my children were small. Even children whose parents swore their children were "picky eaters" ate just fine at my house. This wasn't because I'm such a fantastic cook. Unlike most everyone else I knew, I didn't buy chicken nuggets or frozen foods. It was because I didn't load kids up on juice boxes, fruit rollups, Fritos and cookies in between meals and then wonder why they turned their noses up at fresh vegetables and meatloaf.

Articles like this give me hope for my long contemplated series of parenting guides. If the Times piece is any indication there's a vast underserved market out there just waiting to be tapped:

When Children Refuse To Breathe

Teaching Kids To Walk: A Simple 12-Step Program

Potty Train Your Child by College: It Can Be Done!

Surviving Without Nintendo: How To Fill The Empty Hours

Watching parents struggle to get kids to do things they do just fine on their own (left to their own devices), one wonders if it ever occurs to anyone that the real problem is the parents' unwillingness to set firm boundaries and expectations and allow their children to develop at their own pace -- even if this means their kids are sometimes bored, lonely, or unhappy; sometimes fall behind in their schoolwork or have trouble getting along with their friends; sometimes fail at things they attempt?

Even if it means things aren't perfect?

It's as though we forget that a critical part of the growing up process involves learning how to deal with unhappiness and disappointments constructively. Like hunger, sadness is something we try to shield our children from. I wonder: is this wise?

Ours are ominous times. We are on the verge of eroding away our ozone layer. Within decades we could face major oceanic flooding. We are close to annihilating hundreds of exquisite animal species. Soon our forests will be as bland as pavement. Moreover, we now find ourselves on the verge of a new cold war.

But there is another threat, perhaps as dangerous: We are eradicating a major cultural force, the muse behind much art and poetry and music. We are annihilating melancholia.

A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that almost 85 percent of Americans believe that they are very happy or at least pretty happy. The psychological world is now abuzz with a new field, positive psychology, devoted to finding ways to enhance happiness through pleasure, engagement, and meaning. Psychologists practicing this brand of therapy are leaders in a novel science, the science of happiness. Mainstream publishers are learning from the self-help industry and printing thousands of books on how to be happy. Doctors offer a wide array of drugs that might eradicate depression forever. It seems truly an age of almost perfect contentment, a brave new world of persistent good fortune, joy without trouble, felicity with no penalty.

Somewhere hidden away amongst my papers and photographs is a green binder. The front and back are completely covered with song lyrics.

The inside is completely filled with poetry written by myself and several of my friends. Like many teens I went through a period of Gauloise smoking anomie which involved me staying up until all hours of the night listening to Dr. Demento and imagining myself quite the jaded sophisticate who at the ripe old age of sixteen had drunk too deeply from The Cup of Life and - alas! - only too late descried the bitter dregs lying at the bottom of the glass.

babar.jpgYeah baby, that's some serious heartbreak. Those six month relationships can be a bitch to get over. Alas. And alack. And that's nothing compared to the exquisite agony of learning that your favorite childhood read is nothing more than a thinly veiled apologia for French imperialist encroachment on indigenous First World cultures:

By now, of course, a controversial literature is possible about anything, and yet to discover that there is a controversial literature about Babar is a little shocking—faut-il brûler Babar? (“Must we burn Babar?”), as one inquisitor puts it, in a famous French locution. And the controversial literature isn’t trivial: it touches on questions that are real and enduring. In the past few decades, a series of critics on the left, most notably the Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman, have indicted Babar in the course of a surprisingly resilient and hydra-headed argument about the uses of imagery and the subtleties of imperialist propaganda. Babar, such interpreters have insisted, is an allegory of French colonization, as seen by the complacent colonizers: the naked African natives, represented by the “good” elephants, are brought to the imperial capital, acculturated, and then sent back to their homeland on a civilizing mission. The elephants that have assimilated to the ways of the metropolis dominate those which have not. The true condition of the animals—to be naked, on all fours, in the jungle—is made shameful to them, while to become an imitation human, dressed and upright, is to be given the right to rule. The animals that resist—the rhinoceroses—are defeated. The Europeanized elephants are, as in the colonial mechanism of indirect rule, then made trustees of the system, consuls for the colonial power. To be made French is to be made human and to be made superior. The straight lines and boulevards of Celesteville, the argument goes, are the sign of enslavement. Through such subtle imprinting, the premises of imperialism come to be treated as natural. The case cannot be dismissed out of hand: it’s easy to see that, say, “Little Black Sambo,” for all his pancake-eating charms, needs to be thought through before being introduced to young readers, while, to take an extreme example, a book from nineteen-thirties Germany about the extermination of long-nosed rats by obviously Aryan cats would go on anyone’s excluded list, however beautifully drawn.

It's a good thing the book police are busily combing the children's literature supply for dangerous examples of subversive political propaganda. The average Kindergartener soaks this sort of thing up like a St. Paddy's day carnation soaks up green dye. It is probably no accident Babar is an elephant: I always thought there was something slightly sinister about him. Elephants are dangerous creatures.

Best not to talk about them. In fact, perhaps it's best not think at all:

Teresa Belton, a research associate at East Anglia University in England, first got interested in daydreaming while reading a collection of stories written by children in elementary school. Although Belton encouraged the students to write about whatever they wanted, she was startled by just how uninspired most of the stories were.

"The tales tended to be very tedious and unimaginative," Belton says, "as if the children were stuck with this very restricted way of thinking. Even when they were encouraged to think creatively, they didn't really know how."

After monitoring the daily schedule of the children for several months, Belton came to the conclusion that their lack of imagination was, at least in part, caused by the absence of "empty time," or periods without any activity or sensory stimulation. She noticed that as soon as these children got even a little bit bored, they simply turned on the television: the moving images kept their minds occupied. "It was a very automatic reaction," she says. "Television was what they did when they didn't know what else to do."

The problem with this habit, Belton says, is that it kept the kids from daydreaming. Because the children were rarely bored - at least, when a television was nearby - they never learned how to use their own imagination as a form of entertainment. "The capacity to daydream enables a person to fill empty time with an enjoyable activity that can be carried on anywhere," Belton says. "But that's a skill that requires real practice. Too many kids never get the practice."

While much of the evidence linking daydreaming and creativity remains anecdotal, rooted in the testimony of people like Fry and Einstein, scientists are beginning to find experimental proof of the relationship. In a forthcoming paper, Schooler's lab has shown that people who engage in more daydreaming score higher on experimental measures of creativity, which require people to make a set of unusual connections.

"Daydreams involve a more relaxed style of thinking, with people more willing to contemplate ideas that seem silly or far-fetched," says Belton. While such imaginative thoughts aren't always practical, they are often the wellspring of creative insights, as Schooler's research shows.

How much of our problems with our children reflect a lack of discipline on our part as parents? We are filling our time (and theirs) with junk food and junk culture, (TV, iPods and video games rather than literature, games, and outdoor sports) and every spare moment with often purposely activity meant to spare us the possibility of even momentary discomfort or boredom.

And then we wonder why, despite having far more than our parents and grandparents, they feel disconnected and discontented? Perhaps our children, in resisting things they should do as naturally as breathing - eating, playing outside, daydreaming - are trying to tell us something?

Perhaps we should listen to them.

Posted by Cassandra at September 16, 2008 05:31 AM

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My son tells me he has a boat I can't see. "It's called Green Hull, because it's big, and it is green and the hull is really big. And it has twelve machineguns on the back. My friend the bomber is coming over and we're going to fight the enemies. You never know when there are enemies around. Twelve machineguns is a lot of machineguns, isn't it? You know..."

I finally insisted he go play a video game. :)

(I really did -- although it was because it was a cowboy-oriented video game, and I was hoping to remap his mental furniture in a way that involved fewer machineguns and bombers, and more horses. Today, if he's good, I plan on putting him on a horse, so it'd be good if he was thinking in that direction somewhat.)

Posted by: Grim at September 16, 2008 09:35 AM

My oldest daughter is difficult to get to eat.

I never thought of the all chocolate diet. Thanks Cass, you're the best!!

Posted by: Pile On at September 16, 2008 09:53 AM

Yes, but we discussed this years ago too. It may be that this is just her growth pattern. Some kids eat a whole lot and are chubby as kids, then get very skinny as adults (my oldest son, for instance, would eat - literally - nearly adult-sized portions of food as a young boy). He was large for his age.

But by the time he was in junior high, he was falling behind. So if I thought I was going to pat myself on the back as a "good Mom", that was right out! Kids have their own pattern and they are going to follow it. Often I am convinced it's in their genes and nothing we do will change that. By the time their older, you realize they're just like Aunt or Uncle so-and-so, who was the same way when they were that age. This is the kind of thing family doctors used to be able to spot.

But we don't have family practioners anymore, more's the pity. As long as she's fairly healthy and happy and not living on jelly beans, she's probably eating enough. Kids are all different. They have different requirements.

Posted by: Cass at September 16, 2008 10:06 AM

Also, some kids are far more sensitive to 'bitterness' than adults. So it may take them a while longer to take to the more bitter veggies unless they're cooked in such a way that alleviates the aftertaste. That's a good thing to know when you're cooking. Other than that, though, they're usually pretty good with food.

Posted by: Cass at September 16, 2008 10:08 AM

I've never once seen a child who was willing to starve himself to death. Children are remarkably sensible that way.

I'll never forget watching a family I briefly lived with during college. Their six-year-old boy (eldest of three) threw a fit if he didn't get his favorite food and was refusing to eat breakfast. So, mom cooked especially for him every morning and sat there reading to him while he ate. I was appalled. I didn't dare suggest it, but my remedy was a comment ("Oh, you're not hungry this morning?") followed by a note to the private school teacher to avoid any stories of deprivation told by the devious little boy ("Johnny refused his cereal this morning, so he may be hungry before lunch. I packed him a large lunch today").

Yes, that was just a symptom of the way that little boy ran the household with tantrums and manipulations. He was a sociopath-in-training and I watched him over the years after I moved out get worse and worse.

Posted by: FbL at September 16, 2008 10:33 AM

I had a close friend who used to do that.

It drove me nuts (and is one of the things that prompted this). If one of her children didn't want to eat what she'd cooked for dinner, she would get up from the family meal and begin cooking something else. Her kids (who were actually very nice otherwise) would become demanding and whiny at mealtime - very unlike their usual selves. They did the same thing with going to school - they'd pitch a fit and say they were frightened, but it was all a bid for control. It just drove me insane that she couldn't see what was going on.

All children have fears and moods, but they also watch their parents to see how you react when they have a setback. If you make too much of it, they decide it's a big deal and it looms way too large in their consciousness or alternately, it becomes a stick they beat you over the head with to get their way. I've always thought this is one reason first children are more challenging. They provoke us more, but also we are more prone to overreact.

With the younger ones we are so worn out that we tend to take a more sensible approach :p

Posted by: Cass at September 16, 2008 10:56 AM

I know this, by the way, because my oldest used to provoke me and I fell for it hook, line, and sinker every time!

Heh... :) Boys are a slow crop.

Posted by: Cass at September 16, 2008 10:59 AM

The child I'm thinking of had more issues than just the eating thing. His tantrums included screaming and beating his thighs with his fists until he was bruised. His mother would beg him to stop, but to no avail. He was rude and obnoxious to her, openly talking about how he preferred dad--who was rarely home. He bullied his siblings, in response to which his mother again begged him to stop and issued idle threats.

In my more charitable moments I came to the conclusion that he was basically a good kid but that he felt out of control because his mother created no boundaries for him and no consistent disciplinary reactions to his misbehavior. I think that also resulted in his outbursts and anger. At some level he knew he ran that house, and having that kind of power freaked out his little 6-year-old mind.

Posted by: FbL at September 16, 2008 11:58 AM

It still makes me said to think of him...

His parents did him a terrible disservice.

Posted by: FbL at September 16, 2008 12:00 PM

"Articles like this give me hope for my long contemplated series of parenting guides. If the Times piece is any indication there's a vast underserved market out there just waiting to be tapped:"
You would make a fortune supplying a collection of guides, Common Sense - A Parenting Guide for Uncommonly Common Parents.

As far as rules for meals, when I was a kid, we had one fast food joint. A Burger King that opened and shortly after closed due a lack of business. This in a community of maybe 40k during the early 60's. My mom and dad's rules regarding food, which Walkin' Boss and I adopted BTW, were to take what you want, but eat what you take and be thankful for what you have before you. Depression era folks were sorta funny in that way.

"Boys are a slow crop."
Walkin' Boss says that. Hey! Wait just one minute... =8^}

Posted by: bt_what-me-worry_hun at September 16, 2008 12:18 PM

"His parents did him a terrible disservice."
Yes they did.

This may strike many as being completely off base, but I think a lot of young parents would do well to watch a fellow named Cesar Millan go through his problem dog analysis and corrective remedies on his Dog Whisperer show carried by the National Geographic Channel.

IMHO there is much common ground in the techniques used to manage pack animals and toddlers.

Posted by: bthun at September 16, 2008 12:26 PM

Just think if you were a child growing up in France. You would have to learn to eat Faux Gras (goose liver pate').

No wonder they invented Babar to teach the kids that it was a necessary part of French cultural hegemony, because I don't think you could get 90% of young kids ANYWHERE to eat faux gras.

My older son is a bit of a picky eater, but he eats a lot of cheese (behold the power of cheese!). My younger son is pretty carnivorous; he eats more than his Mom. You have to keep your hands away from his plate during a meal, because he would eat that, too.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at September 16, 2008 12:39 PM

Awesome artical Cass, Thanks for the laughs.

Posted by: unkawill at September 16, 2008 12:40 PM

Just think if you were a child growing up in France. You would have to learn to eat Faux Gras (goose liver pate').

Question for the ages: remember when you were small and you were told to eat all your vegetables b/c there were starving children in France?

What do they tell Phrench children? :p

"Aller! Vite! Vite!"

"Eat all your foix gras, Yves! Zut alors! Les pauvre filles et garcons en les Etats Unis!"

Posted by: Cass at September 16, 2008 01:11 PM

My kids eat just fine. Yesterday's breakfast was homemade apple muffins, cheese omelette and sausage (the spiced meat, not the dog). Dinner was tacos. No, I don't use the 'no added MSG' seasoning packets unless a teenager has to prepare dinner and we want to have it sometime before next week.

It also means I don't run a restaurant. On Sunday, I made a rolled stuffed flank steak.
Steamed squash, mashed potatoes and corn bread.
The daughter refused to eat the meat. No, she is a meat eater but a very picky one. I put three bite-sized pieces on her plate. She made all kinds of faces, comments and suggestions.
So, she got escorted to her room until she could behave.

Once she came out she just cried and said we were starving her. The boys were wolfing it down and had cast eyes on her meager portion.
She sat down. I told her to try it. She did.
She asked for seconds. She got them.

There was a bit left over, but we had it for lunch today. She actually asked for it again and really seemed to like it. She will eat the vegetables but anything that looks funny or foreign to her is to be feared and a cause of death.

Posted by: Cricket at September 16, 2008 01:30 PM

My boys pulled stuff like that every once in a while, but it was usually a sign they were getting sick.

I did not like beans and peas. We also had a rule that the boys were allowed to write down one veg that they never had to eat. I didn't care what it was, but they had to write it down b/c I didn't want them changing it up on me. I did this too when I was a kid. Mine was Lima Beans b/c they are the spawn of Satan and his minions.

But I also heartily despise big peas with a nasty old skin on them and ugly old kidney beans if they are old.

It's the skin that I don't like. It always used to make me gag when I was a kid and to this day just thinking about it bugs me. I will eat any other bean on this earth. I make bean soup all the time and I love it. I love lentils.

Just do not ask me to eat those nasty skins :p

Posted by: Cass at September 16, 2008 01:40 PM

Cass, you are what my mother calls a "benevolent dictator". Which is what I am as well.

Those 3 rules you set forth are the same 3 rules we have here. And my kids eat rather well. That isn't to say we don't eat pop tarts or have snack. We do.

In fact, I created a "snack bar" for them. There are 4 categories of foods -
healthiest (cut up veggies, etc. and water),

healthy (granola, raisins, cut up fruit, cheese sticks, etc.),

not-so-healthy (crackers, fruit snacks, juice)

junk (candy, cookies)

They were allowed 2 snacks per day max and only 1 could be from the last 2 categories. They could only choose junk food 2x/week. And I made them PAY (with play money). The healthier the food, the less it cost. The healthiest food was FREE!

It taught them budgeting, value, and nutrition. Even though they are only 6 and 4, they help me shop for the snack bar items and classify them too. It has been a great experiment!

It kills me to watch parents bend over backward to cater to their child's every desire. That is not what I, as a parent, am here for. I am here to keep you safe and healthy and do my best to make sure that you grow up into a productive member of society. That is all.

Posted by: maison-avant-six at September 16, 2008 01:41 PM

I think some give and take (read, bribery) is necessary when getting children to try new foods.
One rule we have is that one teaspoon of the strange, deadly food is put on the plate. The new food must be tried. No comments about the offending food are allowed, which will result in the vocal one being removed from the table until the vocal exercises stop.

The seat can be resumed, whereupon the food will be tried with suitable support, encouragement and appropriate feedback. Only AFTER the Food de Mort is consumed is feedback allowed. This tells them that unless they have tried it, they cannot fully comment on it, because sight and smell are part of the taste experience.

They are then allowed one teaspoon of ice cream for being so brave. Snacks are permitted, but not as meal replacements.

Posted by: Cricket at September 16, 2008 01:41 PM

I pretty much do the same thing, but I dislike rudeness. When you have parents who grew up during the Depression and WWII, when food was hard to come by or rationed, you didn't complain about what you got. To do so was the height of incivility.

I don't mind them saying that they won't try it. I just don't want to hear the whining and complaining about how mean we are to never allow them to eat what they want, as much as they want and when they want.

One book that they have loved that helped with the 'foreign foods' was 'Bread And Jam For Frances.'

Posted by: Cricket at September 16, 2008 01:50 PM

Cass, you are what my mother calls a "benevolent dictator". Which is what I am as well.

That is so true :p

My Mom didn't let us have a lot of junk food, so I never got used to it as a child. We were allowed to have all the fresh orange juice we wanted, though. And things like fruit if we wanted sweets. A lot of times if they were hungry I just had them make half a peanut butter sandwich when they were older. So much better for them than chips.

We always saved that sort of thing for in the evening when Dad came home. That was cocktail hour - you got to sit around and talk with the family and it was understood that the adults had some time to talk by themselves, so the kids got a special treat too. Since they didn't snack all day, they always ate their dinner anyway.

Plus, I was always trying to save money so I couldn't afford to buy a lot of snack food. It was just too expensive and the kids went through it like locusts the few times I did buy it. So we saved that stuff for car trips and special occasions. That way, it was a treat and they really appreciated it.

Posted by: Cass at September 16, 2008 02:18 PM

Surviving Without Nintendo: How To Fill The Empty Hours

When I was young and complained of being bored, my father's standard response was, "Have you read every book in the house yet?"

I'll admit to being a picky eater when I was younger - my mother didn't change the menu for me, but she did start chopping onions less finely so she wouldn't have to sit there forever while I picked them out of the meatloaf.

Posted by: wheels at September 16, 2008 04:05 PM

The onion wars!

I love onions, but I know a lot of people who detest them. I even like liver, and liked it when I was a kid too. I must be weird.

My boys ate it too. I do cook it well though, if I do say so myself. I never make it anymore though. My husband is not all that wild about it. He will eat it, but he's not crazy about it.

There are a lot of foods we ate when we didn't have any money that I don't make that much now that the kids are gone.

That's a good topic for a post!

Beans and franks is one. Man, did we used to eat that a lot.

And split pea soup. And chicken soup. I always made soup when we were broke - I could get more meals out of hen than anyone I knew :p

Posted by: Cass at September 16, 2008 04:16 PM

Ah memories... raised in a Catholic household, we ate fish (or mac & cheese) on Fridays in Lent. Little did I or my parents know I am mildly allergic to seafood. All I knew is, eating fish or crustaceans made me nauseated. More than 3-4 shrimp and I'm in for a very bad night. But try explaining this as a 8 year old. "I can't eat this mommy, it makes me sick." That doesn't go over well. Picky though I could be at times, I'd eat broccoli or asparagus. Seafood? Nuh uh.

One night (about age 13-14) my mother had fixed clam chowder. I'm sure it was very good, I simply could not eat it. I was told "you will sit there until it is all gone." I said "Yes ma'am" and there I sat. My brother brought my homework to the kitchen table after everyone else was done, and I sat. At 10pm, my father picked up my bowl and told me to go to bed. I said "yes sir" and went. I didn't starve to death, but I went to bed hungry. Fact was, it was worth it to me.

Now, I think my mother understands somewhat, but even now she doubts I'm truly allergic (I don't swell up and suffocate for one thing). I will, on occasion eat seafood, like the heavenly Bang Bang Shrimp from Bonefish, and consequently become violently ill later on. In that case, it's worth it. But I seriously become nauseated walking past the fresh seafood in the grocery store.

Now how do you moms handle that?

Posted by: MikeD at September 16, 2008 04:26 PM

Liver is a choice cut in a game animal. Full of blood, it has lots of iron and protein. The Lakota preferred it to everything else from a buffalo, and awarded it to the warrior who killed the animal.

So you're not alone in liking it. :)

Posted by: Grim at September 16, 2008 04:27 PM

Even knowing the value of liver, I could never bring myself to like it. Eat it I would, like it, I never could. But the sauteed onions were good. =8^}

As a welcoming gesture to my Irish Catholic relatives, from me mums side, dad would put on a big fish meal every Friday. And mom and dad would have fish fries every Friday in the summertime with the understanding that all extended family members were invited and expected. We still try to schedule fish on Fridays for whatever reason. Maybe as a gesture to family members long past since the members of my little family are protesters in the faith.

Another thought that comes to me with the discussion of good food versus junk on demand is that I did not have a cavity in my teeth until I was in my late twenties. Maybe it was due to never having junk food as a kid.

Posted by: bthun at September 16, 2008 05:12 PM

It depends on if they haven't had the food before as opposed to eating it and getting sick. You look for a pattern of consistent reactions to the same food, and then eliminate it from the menu.

That is why the one teaspoon rule was instituted. If they genuinely got sick off it, (no touchiness about texture or content but really ill) then we did not feed it to them again. I keep benadryl and syrup of ipecac on hand JIC.

Food dislikes, preferences and even allergies, kids can outgrow.

True story: My son attended kindergarten to see if he would like it. I paid for his lunches for the week (it was the last week of school). He came home in a snit about the fishsticks, saying they fed him fish cut in the shape of a fish and that they tasted ugly.

Posted by: Cricket at September 16, 2008 05:12 PM

I love certain food odors, but if you get nauseated passing by a fish stall, is the place clean? It should smell a tad briny and without a strong smell of bleach or disinfectants. But if you do get ill, you just might be allergic to not just the fish but what they have been eating.

I don't use farm raised fish or shellfish. It is expensive, but worth it. Farm raised fish aren't clean. Chemicals dumped into the tanks to purify the water, and the water is seldom filtered. You are what you eat.

Just a thought.

Posted by: Cricket at September 16, 2008 05:18 PM

Can't do liver. Can't do organ meat in general. And the liver is the filter of said animal's blood and I just can't bring myself to eat it.

And like Cricket, I don't do "farm raised". In addition to everything she mentions, they have NO taste. Blech.

Posted by: HomefrontSix at September 16, 2008 10:48 PM

Wait, I thought Babar represented the civilizing influence of homosexuals throughout western civilization? Maybe I read the wrong memo?

Posted by: WarEagle at September 17, 2008 12:13 PM

I don't use farm raised fish or shellfish. It is expensive, but worth it. Farm raised fish aren't clean. Chemicals dumped into the tanks to purify the water, and the water is seldom filtered. You are what you eat.

Fresh stream or sea caught fish or farm raised... made no difference. If it came out of the water, I'd get sick.

But if you do get ill, you just might be allergic to not just the fish but what they have been eating.

My brother the biologist wondered if it wasn't an iodine thing, but I think you might be on to something here Cricket. That whole food chain thing.

As for outgrowing it, I really wish I had. I LOVE the taste of swordfish (with lemon-butter... mmmm) and as I mentioned the Bang Bang Shrimp. And I WILL eat it, but I just have to anticipate seeing it again later. And I hear lobster is fantastic. More than a bite of that and I'm done.

Consequently, most seafood smells like 'sick' to me (as in, I associate the smell with being nauseated, not with the after-product of being nauseated). That's why the seafood aisle sets me off. The closest I can explain it is a friend who has a serious peanut allergy (it will kill him without an Epi-pen handy) says peanuts smell like death to him.

Posted by: MikeD at September 17, 2008 12:47 PM

Wow. By all means, avoid seafood. I eat liver, but the animal has to be farm raised. The difference is like night and day. When we lived in MO, we would eat liver and heart from cattle we 'knew' as far as where they had been grazed and who raised them. However, in order to get really good meat, you almost have to raise and slaughter it yourself.

I prefer trout myself...but it has been many a long year since I have gone fishing in the Rockies. My grandmother taught me...and it spoiled me for ocean fish after that. She would catch her limit for the day, clean it, prep it for being cooked over an open fire, and you talk about ambrosia! Ummmm.

Just a thought though...and trout is now farm raised as well, which can't be good, since it has to be in a cooler climate. I guess I have to drag the kids to Utah and go fishing.


Posted by: Cricket at September 17, 2008 02:09 PM