I think this is the first time I’ve admitted this fact – I dislike cooking. While I’m not a bad cook, I don’t enjoy doing it. I think it’s because I’m just not a foodie – I mean, sure – I enjoy good food, but I love eating a $10 meal at a greasy spoon joint where coffee flows freely as much (if not more) as I enjoy a meal that costs multiples more than that. To me, food is just food and hence, I get very little joy out of creating culinary “masterpieces.”
Because I don’t get excited about cooking, I’ve never mastered the art of pre-planning meals. Every day at about 4:00, a nagging thought comes over me: “What the hell am I going to feed the kids for dinner?” I rarely pre-make meals which usually means that because I get home after 6:00, their dinner ends up being anything that can be made in less than 15 minutes – starch (pasta or rice), frozen veggie, and frozen meat (chicken nuggets, hot dogs or fish sticks). Lather, rinse repeat. My kids honestly believe that the microwave and toaster oven, not the stove or oven, are the main tools for cooking meals.
People close to me criticize me because they believe that by feeding them only a few choices, I’m setting them up for a lifetime of eating problems – obesity, poor eating habits, picky-eating. My mommy guilt wrestles with this because as someone who has terrible eating habits and struggles with my weight constantly, I don’t want them to struggle with the same issues. But then I realize – my mom was/is an AWESOME cook. She was a stay-at-home mom who would start preparing dinner before we even got home from school. Dinner was always hot, fresh, delicious and elaborate. Yet despite this, I: 1) am the world’s pickiest eater; 2) have suck-@ss eating habits; 3) never learned to really properly plan and cook a meal. My dinner of choice is often a bowl of ice cream.
As I observe my kids, my friends’ kids, and those around me, I realize that healthy eating and the tendency to be adventurous is way more about personality than it is about what they eat as kids. I, as the world’s pickiest eater, and my son as one of the most adventurous toddler eaters out there are living proof of that. My son will try ANYTHING – he doesn’t always like it, but he always tries it. I mean, he devoured a steam tray of chicken feet (possibly the grossest dish EVER) the last time we went for dim-sum and is always looking at other people’s dishes to see what’s on there. On the other hand, my daughter has my tastes – she could happily live off mac & cheese and cinnamon waffles for the rest of her life, and refuses to try new foods unless they look like they might taste like candy. And yet, these two drastically different eaters don’t have two moms who feed them different things – they both get the same exact meal, every single meal.
(Just in case you were wondering, when I was pregnant with them, I lived on PBJ sandwiches and white rice with hot water, so to those who tote the what mom eats when pregnant affects the kid’s tastes can just go preaching somewhere else).
So, perhaps what I really should be feeling guilty about is not that I am setting them up for a lifetime of terrible eating, but that my adventurous eater is getting short-changed of the opportunity to experience the different tastes and flavors that he might not know he craves. I have decided that the best I can do at this point is to feed them balanced (even if repetitive) meals and teach them to have a healthy relationship with food. The rest will fall into place in time.
(Although, after writing this, I have decided to become reacquainted with my crock pot, as I am the slow cooker queen…at least that way, my kids might have a chance to taste freshly made foods rather than nuked meals).