Kids are a pain in the butt to cook for, which is not a secret, but I really didn't expect it to be this difficult.
I could understand if we were constantly cooking exotic meals seasoned with curry, star anise, or cumin. If our preferred protein were, say, rabbit or eel or boll weevil, I could again understand our children's reticence to eat what we dish out. Even if we served up items only slightly off the beaten path, like sushi or jambalaya, I could excuse their finickiness.
To be fair, our Daughter tries just about everything and has a very short list of disallowed menu items. No chili. No Brussels sprouts. No ham, although bacon is A-OK and close to the top of the list of things for which she might hurt somebody. She amazes me, really. When I was thirteen, my favorite meal most definitely was not grilled marinated salmon with broccoli and a twice-baked potato. I wouldn't have sat on a plate of that, much less eaten it.
No, our Daughter is a great eater. It's the boys that bother me.
For starters, the Italian doesn't like pasta. That's wrong in so many ways, I have trouble processing it. I find myself time and time again standing in the kitchen staring dumbstruck at him when he says he doesn't like pasta. How is that possible?
He likes macaroni and cheese, right? Right.
Macaroni is pasta, right? Right.
But if you take the cheese off the macaroni and give him a bowl of it, he won't eat it because now it's just pasta and he doesn't like pasta!
And if that weren't bad enough, he also doesn't like hamburgers or hot dogs. Not only is he refusing to live up to an ethnic stereotype by not eating pasta, he's refusing to live up to the most basic requirements of an American child by not eating hamburgers and hot dogs. Even if he disliked only one of those, I could let it slide. But both? Patently un-American.
But as difficult as he is, he pales in comparison to the German.
It's much easier for me to offer a list of the foods the German does eat than to attempt summarizing what he won't. Quite simply, he eats bread, cheese, bread with cheese, macaroni and cheese, and plain pasta. It's a miracle the boy has had a bowel movement at all in the past five years. On the odd occasion we are able to blackmail him into eating a kernel of corn or a wedge of apple, his intestines must go into shock.
For a while, taking our family out for a meal was an experiment in pissing away money. As my Lovely Wife put it: "I don't want to go to a restaurant just to order them each a seven-dollar bowl of 'I'm still hungry.'"
These are the same children who, when they are in their twenties, will discover how good food with flavor can be. They will want to bring us to their favorite restaurants, or cook their new favorite meals for us, and behave as though they are introducing us to some previously undiscovered culinary world.
That's when I'll tell them I don't like whatever it is they want me to try, and I'll order a basket of chicken fingers with fries off the kids' menu.
© 2011 Mark Feggeler