If you know me well, you know that my love affair with food didn't begin as such. No, no.. it started like this.
Parent #1: “Hmmm.. It's time for Pixie to start eating real food.”
Parent #2: “Ok, what do we feed her?”
Parent #1: “Well this says to give her baby food..”
2 hrs. later
“Oh my gosh! Do you know how much baby food is??!!” Receipt flung from purse onto the counter in front of Parent #2's then, gaping eyes.
Within minutes I started looking up ways to make baby food. And within hours, I realized that the ingredients on homemade recipes were nothing like the ingredients on the back of the baby food jars. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was reading the ingredient lists for other foods in our fridge and cupboard (yes, I said cupboard – makes me sound old-timey or crafty or something, I think ;). At first, I regarded my spice rack (just one spice rack.. and most of the spices were crusty blocks of, well, I don't actually know what they were) with trepidation. What if I used the wrong one? What if I didn't measure exactly ¼ tsp? What if I didn't have ____ ? Ahhh, our dinner would be ruined!! Then Parent #2 (he wasn't Farmer-Man back then) would bust into the kitchen and dump a whole bunch of whatever spices were carefully lined up on the counter into my perfectly measured bowl of ingredients! Ahhh – again! Now dinner was surely ruined – he didn't even use a measuring spoon! Alas, it wasn't long before I realized that dinner was, sometimes, irreversibly ruined.. but, sometimes it wasn't. That encouraged me to try new things; to begin a couple dinners without recipes; to consider the crazy possibility of experimenting!
One thing led to another, and today I am the wild and care-free woman you see before you – fearless (except when it comes to baking, and then I pray every step of the perfectly measured recipe) with one part distracted (because I manage to come up with an idea that I absolutely-must-try-at-that-moment with hungry children attached to all my appendages) and two parts curious whimsy. I like to walk on the wild side like that.
Anyway, I digress. This month is a milestone because it was this month three years ago that I took my next big leap of (cooking) faith - and threw away all our bought flour. In a fit of, “Parent #2, Pixie's allergies test came back and she's allergic to everything,” I jumped head first off the cliff of normal person into “I'm going to make everything from scratch beginning this moment.”
And that's how I got to be so weird. It's true. So that's my milestone.
But when Hurricane (hooligan #2) started eating (real) food, I tripped over that freakin' milestone and landed flat on my face. Whereas Pixie would eat, experiment, roll between her fingers, smell, smear lovingly across her chest any food that I had so carefully prepared for her, Hurricane, well he didn't. Instead, just because he was a little person and I was (wait, I am) a big person, he decided that he wouldn't – eat, smell, smear, whatever, he wasn't having any of that. Let's just say that he's turning 4. And while I am super grateful that he loves breakfast and lunch (sometimes/ most of the time?), he has been on dinner strike for a little over 2 1/2 years. Um, what? Yes, I love cooking, and I'm pretty decent at it, and my son won't eat dinner. Grrrhhhrhrh! So what's a mama to do? Well, apparently I've been doing the same thing for about 2 1/2 years, and I'm only now seeing some relief (so you may or may not actually want to take my advice ;). This is where the victory part comes in... I let my son maintain his dinner strike. No really. I made dinner, every night (ok, some nights we went out – which he ate.. grrrhrhrh), and if he didn't want dinner, I didn't make him eat it. And I didn't offer him anything to substitute it.
This article I posted today on FB said it wayyy more succinctly then I have. The author has several really great points – 2 of which I will reiterate, and 1 more that I would add:
#1 Little minions cannot eat what's not in your home. Which, let's get real, after the 5th day (week, month...) of Hurricane not eating his dinner, I got frustrated and very seriously considered caving to the (2-year old) peer pressure. But, since most of what I had was pretty healthy anyway, he didn't care. While this is very hard to do all at once (in my opinion, going into your pantry and discarding all the crappy foods is not very wise – you'll probably binge shop tomorrow), try removing those yuckies one at a time. Choose one thing that you know you shouldn't be eating: do a quick google search on the ingredients; gasp; throw away empty bag (you probably ate it while you were reading the ingredients anyway); and don't buy again. Then do the same thing with another product next week – or maybe next month. Take a step – even a baby step is better than no steps.
#2 Get reinforcement: You, your partner, and any small bi-ped (older siblings are sooo good at this) should be enlisted to ooh and ahh and mmmm all the way through any meal that may be questionable to your picky eater. I can't tell you how many times Pixie's expressive excitement has been contagious! (Word to the wise: dogs should not be used as examples for enjoying their or your meals – or you may have your little one feeding your 4-legged one his dinner while he eats dried kibbles.. just trust me on this one.)
Added point: Let them help you cook – as much as you can, however you can, even when it means that you have extra salad dressing (because a little drool never hurt anyone). Several weeks ago Hurricane asked if he could help me make dinner (for the first time in his life). Heart fluttering, trying to act cool, I said (screeched), “OF COURSE! Yes, come right in! Here's a chair and an apron – I'm soooo happy you're here!!!” Anyway, he made dinner with me – and then for the first time in memory, he ate dinner. Two servings of dinner. It was fish and savory oats groats. Over a bed of greens. And he's been eating dinner a couple times a week since. Victory!