on Onions, Snails and Gatsby

I was a fussy child. Reflecting on the childhood I was privileged to have, I have new-found respect for my parents’ patience. Unfortunately I forget from time to time that kids will be kids and that they will go through their periods of likes and dislikes.

My eldest is now eight going on twenty-one. I say this because although she isn’t quite the know-it-all I’m expecting in teenagerdom, she IS aspiring to be a lady. Something which I am both proud of and somewhat worried to see. But more on that at a later stage as it is my wont to waffle off topic.

She is eight. When she was three she discovered bolognaise and fell in love with mince. . . until at three and a half when her grandmother casually mentioned she doesn’t enjoy it. Three years later was the first time she managed a taste at it again, and Lo! a miracle occurred and humble mince redeemed and elevated the best foodstuff in all the world. My dear little girl had many such similar culinary discoveries and rediscoveries, and without exception the same process had to be followed.

In short; Parent asks child to try something. Child retorts “I don’t like it”. Usually something new that parent is pretty confident that child will enjoy. Parent says “you’ll never know if you don’t try it”. Child refuses. Parent gets all parenty and advises that foodstuff in question WILL be tried because it is either the meal or part of it. Crocodile (fake) tears are pushed through magical ducts in child’s eyes. Parent feels awful but ploughs on. Child picks morsel up. Drops it as if bitten. Accusatory glance thrown at parent as if to say “how could you torture me so?”. Parent stoic and grim. Child warily approaches morsel not unlike I’d approach a Brazilian Wandering Spider. Food gingerly lifted to lips. Again one last tear-filled glance in the hope of salvation. Food quantified only on the atomic scale is bitten off with lips pulled back in unsightly grimace. Child immediately shakes head and testifies to original sentiments regarding food. Repeat until food tried in earnest.

I wish now to state that I am no Superdad. I have my flaws of which I am not proud, as we all do. So please exercise that quality F. Scott Fitzgerald so eloquently laid out in his masterpiece, The Great Gatsby, which is to be a reserver of judgement, which is a matter of infinite hope. Please understand that had we not attempted to have her try new things, her diet would consist entirely of hotdogs and chocolate. I wish I was kidding here.

Her sister arrived on the scene just before she turned four. My second child was not fussy, to begin with. In fact we had to stop her eating any “foodstuff” she could get her pawing little hands on. A potato, raw as you or I would eat an apple, was one that surprised me. ¬†Grass was another, which she acquired a taste for. Garden snails became an endangered species on our property. I decided to test her limits and went on a mission to find her nemesis of the food world. None of the usual culprits phased her. Broccoli: yummy. Peas: delicious. A raw onion was bitten into with undiluted glee, but I stopped her before she could take a second bite, mostly because it was wrong of me and maybe because Wifey-poo caught me doing it. After the scolding I explained my theory and she decided to help me, so we gave her a slice of lemon. Again the slice barely touched her cheeks as it disappeared down her insatiable gullet.

This unstoppable appetite finally met it’s immovable food. The tomato. That beloved ingredient that I (used to) use in almost every recipe of my tiny repertoire of recipes. She tasted it then, and until this day she cannot abide it, even though she has (bless her soul) tried. Eldest caught wind of Youngest’s distaste and we had a new devil among us. This particular episode lasted until last week, when my patience finally broke and I sternly stated that the tomato on her sandwich would be tried if not eaten. See above text for procedure.

I daresay that we have relaxed somewhat, after our children have tallied up an acceptable list of foods; enough to sustain and at least nourish them. Nonetheless I feel a pang of regret that I pushed them into trying things they did not want to try, especially when reflecting on my own childhood. I eventually came ’round and now enjoy most everything.

The beautiful Tomato is now enjoyed by at least half my brood.