Okay, so I’m not proud of lying to my children, but sometimes a parent needs to resort to such things.
Dinnertime was often one of those times that caused me to break one of those ten rules many of us know.
I learned early on that children develop particular likes and dislikes for food. Like: sugar, candy, French fries, ice cream, potato chips, sugar-laden breakfast cereals, hot dogs… you know the rest. Dislike: fish, veggies of any sort, any food that is remotely healthy for them. I’m sure you all have had similar experiences if you put a plate of wonderful food (e.g. a cut up lean pork chop with homemade gravy, green peas, maybe mashed potatoes with butter and a little fresh green salad) in front of a toddler; you experience the “painting the plate” with the food syndrome. They push each individual piece of food from one part of the plate to the other in the hopes that mom thinks they are actually eating something. In the end, the food is cold, the whining and complaining starts and the standoff between parent and child begins.
“You’ll get nothing else to eat for the rest of the night and you’ll go to bed hungry if you don’t finish at least part of that plate of food!”
I thought that was pretty fair at the time… even if the gravy had now coagulated on the plate. Many a night the child would sit there, continuing the painting exercise, until it was bath and bedtime. And yes, many a night they went to bed hungry. I guess in this day and age I would be arrested for child abuse, but this was the early 80’s when parents still had a say so.
But I did feel guilty.
So I had to devise a way that the kids would eat. Not only eat, but also eat some nourishing food. And then it hit me!
Chicken! They really liked chicken!
In those days we breaded and fried almost everything we ate. Heck… we even made our own French fries and potato chips! (I know… hard to believe.) So with this method of cooking in mind, I devised my little plan. Everything would become “Chicken!”
If I was making filet of sole it would be breaded, fried and served with ketchup. If I was making pork chops, I would remove the bone, bread it, fry it and serve it with ketchup. (Kids love ketchup!) If it were a casserole with chopped up ham in it, it was dark meat Chicken! Every night at least one of them would come into the kitchen and ask, “Mommy, what are you making for dinner?”
“Chicken with French fries and peas and carrots.”
“Yuck… I hate peas and carrots!”
Okay, so I couldn’t disguise the veggies, but at least I got two thirds of the meal into them! If they ate just a few of the peas and carrots I felt like a successful parent.
Of course, steak and lobster were a problem. But since we struggled with money when the kids were that young I didn’t have to worry about trying to explain why the big thing in the pot of boiling water with big claws was a chicken with a hard shell! Most of the time steak was also out of our reach, so that problem was solved for me without even trying.
Now they are all grown up and I still have a few of them with food issues. One refuses to eat tomatoes (still don’t know why), another is allergic to eggs… but for the most part they eat everything in sight including sushi! And now I get to watch them try to feed THEIR toddlers! And when I see them trying to coax their own offspring with foods that are good for them I whisper in the back of my mind and laugh about…