She didn't mean to hurt my feelings, honest. In fact, I think she was trying to be positive. She wandered over to my refrigerator, yanked it open, scanned the contents and said, "Man, I love babysitting at your house. You guys always have leftover pizza."
I stopped right in my date-night-heeled tracks. You little twit, I thought, we do not always have...Wait a minute. We do.
I worried that little nugget of information as I scanned the menu at said date night restaurant, trying to choose between the marsala or the penne. I scanned through a three page menu and it suddenly struck me--there's nothing on this menu that my kid would eat. Nada, zip, zero. And it wasn't like we were at Chez Panisse, either. There were families eating in this restaurant--a nice locally owned Italian eatery--but I wouldn't ever have thought to bring my kid there.
You see, gentle reader, I have a confession to make. My kid is a picky eater. Now I can see you nodding your heads. I can feel you smiling at me in recognition, because I bet your kid is a picky eater too, and it's an annoyance and a struggle. In fact, I imagine many of you have had a less than desirable restaurant experience because said picky eater is sullen and pokes his unenthusiastic fork at the macaroni and cheese that is undesirable because it's not the right kind, the neon orange kind from home. Maybe, right this minute, you are making your own mental list of the things your child will eat: spaghetti, tacos, sloppy joes, the right mac and cheese, chicken noodle soup, grilled cheese. And it's a boring list, and you wish you didn't have the same 12 dishes in your dinner rotation, but it's really not the end of the world now, is it? And right now maybe a few of you are thinking, "Jeez, get this lady a Valium, wouldja? Lighten up, lady, it's just food."
It is just food. 15 foods, to be exact. The day after that date night, I sat down with pen and paper and wrote down all of the things that my first-born, who is now 7 feisty years old, will eat with any regularity at all. My only requirement of the foods on the list was that they had to have some kind of nutritional value. Fritos do not make the list. Gummi worms do not make the list. You get the idea.
Now some of you with picky eaters of your own will be thinking that 15 isn't too bad. Some of you might be thinking that I'm some kind of kook, some woman who doesn't know that it's normal for a kid to eat peanut butter and jelly in his packed school lunch for years on end. But I do know. I do. But thing is, my kid won't eat peanut butter. Or jelly. Or actually any kind of sandwich. Gentle readers, welcome to the dark side.
Do you know one of the items on my list? Ketchup. Indeed, one of the items on my list isn't even food--it's a condiment, for chrissakes--but hey, if the school cafeteria gets to count ketchup as a vegetable, dammit, so do I. My kid is the Joseph Stalin of foodstuffs. Other things children eat with glee and abandon, things like hot dogs and hamburgers and mashed potatoes and cheese, these things get the firing squad at my house. No, people, I am not joking--my kid will not eat cheese. Not even the orange, plastic-y looking american cheese singles. Not even the innocuous, spongy string cheese. The only cheese she eats is melted on a pizza, and it has to be the right pizza, let me tell you.
So without further ado, I present you with the list. The 15 things-with-some-sort-of-nutritional value that my kid will eat with any regularity. And remember that ketchup made the list, so you know what kind of standards this lady has.
1. Pizza (thin crust, not too sauce-y, some pepperoni maybe, moretimes not)
3. Corn on the cob (buttered, extra salt)
4. Chicken nuggets
6. Bananas (light green or yellow only, NO brown specks)
7. Scrambled egg (but only if made in the microwave and so runny it's probably unsafe for human consumption.)
9. Cucumbers (dipped in ketchup)
10. Ketchup (cringe)
11. Hummus (only Sabra brand but still, boy, am I proud of that one)
13. Frozen peas (only when icy cold from the freezer, dumped in a bowl, NO cooking)
14. Popcorn (does that even count because corn is already on this list??!)
15. Nutri-Grain Bars (only blueberry, thank you very much)
A couple of items almost made the list but were jettisoned because seriously, what kind of nutritional value do they have, really? Such items: cinnamon toast (Wonder Bread), Eggo waffles, ANY sugary breakfast cereal and french fries. Oh, and pickles, but that would have made two condiments on such a very short list, and the idea of that was WAY too depressing.
After reading the above list, please do not call Social Services, I beg of you. Dear reader, I am ashamed. I am ashamed on several levels, actually. Shame #1: I let this happen. I did. It's my fault. We have a rule that if either of the children doesn't like the dinner I've cooked, she can eat cereal for dinner. Okay, I've admitted it. Flog accordingly. Shame #2: I am noticing that "pickyness hideousus" is contagious and now not only the older but the younger of my children is becoming infected. My three year old is now rejecting things she used to eat happily and has copied her sister's stockphrase: "I'm not eating that." Shame #3: I am a personal chef. No foolin.' People pay me good money to cook them healthy, nutritious, delicious food. And yet I'm a failure when it comes to feeding my own family.
So what am I going to do about all of this, you ask? Well, unless they develop a reality television show called Family Food Rehab, I am going to have to fix this mess on my own. And I don't know how I'm going to do it. Not yet. But if admission of a problem is the first step in recovery, I think the shamefest above qualifies.