Culinary and Parenting

Arts, that is…
Firstly, I should say that I am a good cook. I’m not trying to be arrogant, or going on the word of my friends and family. I’ve taken prizes in a couple of recipe contests, so I feel I’m allowed to go ahead and just say that now. 🙂

I LOVE to cook. It has ritual purpose for me, nourishing my soul and my mind and my heart-along with those around me, as well as my family. It’s artful and adventurous at times. Exploring a new cuisine can lead you to the most interesting places; literally, as in an asian or indian market for instance. Also figuratively, as you try new flavors and combinations of flavors. Then there’s growing ingredients! I don’t know if there’s anything as satisfying as a cook to wander around through your garden(s) with a basket and then come back into the kitchen and create a meal from it’s contents.

So, why is my family picky? How have I become the short-order cook I’d have never thought I’d allow in my home? I’ve resorted to “sneaking” fruits and vegetables to my youngest! AHHHHHH!

It’s my husbands’ fault.

Okay, it can’t be completely his fault. However, he is a picky eater, and makes faces about trying things, etc. (heavy sigh here). Dear Husband eats lots of things he didn’t when we met, so I accomplished something there-but I truly believe that his example has NOT helped with the diet choices of our youngest son, who just happens to look like a clone of him. I wonder at the genetics of it, considering the subjectivity of taste and texture-and I give that more credit than I ever would have before I became the parent of three boys who are so different from each other.

My eldest son is the “best” eater. Nutritionally, and in reference to variety. He’s mostly vegetarian. I also spend more time teaching him to cook than with the others….but it’s about time and I’m starting with my middle boy now-and I hope it helps the youngest to also participate. Somehow I doubt it, though. My middle son at least tries everything. He’ll even try something again another time! He is overweight, but is the one who doesn’t like sweets and likes his salad with no dressing. Go figure. My youngest….well, the best we’ve done with him is stopping him from throwing a tantrum about a vegetable being put on his plate. He’s still far from eating them…or fruits, which is just SO strange to me. He likes hot dogs and chicken nuggets and salami and chocolate milk and sweets and chips and fries and  is skinny as a rail. Here’s another interesting thing…I said I “sneak” him stuff? Well, I used the Sneaky Chef cookbook for ideas, but he  knows it’s in there and eats the stuff no problem. He will BRAG to his friends about how his moms brownies have spinach and blueberries and wheat germ in them!

Won’t touch a blueberry or spinach to save his life though.

…and Dad won’t eat brownies anymore for fear of what I’ve put in them.

I used to be against the sneaking, figuring it would undermine their EVER getting used to the foods and their textures and thought it was better to just keep trying to re-introduce things and new things. Well, the boy does better (he’s hyperactive) when I give him vitamins and “sneak” supplemental nutrition in to his diet. So, I’m doing it….and hopefully some more things will make it from his plate to his mouth as he gets older.

We garden together. My middle son sweetly chose to put a stevia plant in his garden (he and the little guy each had their own little raised beds this year-one did food, the other just wanted flowers) . “I’m gonna save you some money Mom!” he proudly exclaimed!

The kids help me with coupons in the store. It’s like a little scavenger  hunt to match the products, and opens up the opportunity to talk about what is “good for  you”, and teaches them to shop wisely and plan meals around sales.

So, what’s the point? The point is that kids can really teach us a lot. Maybe one of the most important things is that any of the ideas you had about anything might just be wrong. Don’t think that the solutions that work for you will work for other parents. Don’t think other parents’ solutions are going to work for your family. Food, and Motherhood, are Arts in this sense. You can buy a cookbook, but it’s not gonna make you a great chef. You can buy all the parenting guides and join all the Mommy/Daddy sites in the world, but it’s not gonna make you the best parent ever. The best you can do is the best you can do. Cooking is easier, it’s simpler science and just some practice to get to be able to passably execute recipes. You don’t HAVE to be creative and adventurous to put a good meal on the table. What do we need to do to be good parents? Teach. Even when it doesn’t seem they’re getting it. Holding them down and forcing them to eat good things can be a tempting idea (yep, I’ve considered it). Not giving them anything else until they try it? Ehhhh, depends on the age, and the child’s demeanor (my youngest will go a full day without eating and then I caved). Bargaining for treats? Didn’t believe in that either, but I’ll admit I’ve tried (nope, didn’t work). Consider that things look, feel, taste, smell different to your little individuals. Try and plan things for as little “short order” as possible, cause that really is not fair to the cook and I think teaches them that it’s okay to be selfish and demanding. On that note, teach them to make a few simple things (our little guy can make his own peanut butter sandwich) so that you can pull a “you don’t want to eat what we’re having, you’re on your own” once in a while. It might not work to encourage kids to try anything (hasn’t with the youngest here), but it feels good to say!!!

I’ll tell ya that my kids notice the “junk” the other kids at school take to lunch, and have thanked me for getting them “real” juice/milk (yep, even the youngest). My middle guy planted carrots, stevia, jalapenos, green beans, and radishes in his garden this year. My eldest goes out to harvest things from the herb garden, and helps me with dinner. He was even getting creative cooking for his brothers when I was at work over the summer!

So, keep teaching. Someday they’ll get it, or at least some of it. They’ll get the right thing when their wife/husband sends them to the store, if nothing else. (seriously, so many people don’t know Miracle Whip from Mayo, or Butter from Margarine!)

Here’s a link to a recipe to thank you for your patience reading this rambling entry:

Butternut Coconut Soup


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