Even chefs sometimes raise picky eaters.
"I find it inconceivable that my daughter won't eat what I cook," Wade Burch, the executive chef at 11 restaurants told The New York Times recently.
It makes me feel better to know that someone who oversees the cooking in 11 restaurants sometimes has trouble feeding his 3 daughters—one of whom is named Brie because her mother ate a lot of cheese while she was pregant—because it used to piss me off when my daughter would summarily dismiss something I had spent time cooking.
I also find it hilarious that Burch can't believe his kids could be picky. (As if people who cook well are immune.)
Anyway, in this article Burch and his daughters set out to make Summer Corn Soup. Read the article both for the cooking adventure and for the recipe: Palates, Like Children, Grow.
Cooking with your kids is a good idea but it doesn't guarantee your kids will eat what they prepare.
Burch predicts at the outset of the cooking session which child will eat the soup and which ones won't. He wasn't surprised when his prediction comes true, and neither was I.
If you are parenting a picky eater, don't expect cooking together to automatically solve your child's picky eating problem.
I'm not saying that cooking together isn't a good idea. To the contrary, cooking with your children is a great idea. It exposes your kids to a wide range of ingredients. It helps your kids develop necessary survival skills. Cooking together is also a bonding experience.
It's just that cooking alone isn't enough to change how most picky eaters eat.
What does help? First:
- Realize that young children don't have stable taste preferences. Read You Can't Feed Your Way Out of a Picky Eating Problem.
- Remember there is a difference between what your child likes and what your child is willing to eat. Read What "I don't like it" Really Means.
Then, take a page out of Chef Burch's playbook:
- Take the rejection in stride. Don't make a big deal out of it and you won't fuel the fire.
- Don't offer up a food alternative. Instead, let your kids make do with what's on the table.
If you feed to your children's narrow taste preferences you'll reinforce their narrow palates.
And, if you become a short-order chef, you won't just drive yourself crazy, but you'll also deny your children the time they need to grapple with their food "issues."
I know that sounds weird, but think about it this way: If "offensive" food is always out of sight, it will always be out of mind.
I am absolutely not suggesting that you force your kids to eat, or even to try, food they don't want to eat. That will only reinforce the standoff.
Children need time to stare offensive food "in the face." They need time to think, to ponder, to consider, and to struggle. Eventually they'll eat.
You have to expect kids to eat new foods, without pressuring or forcing them to do so.
That's a delicate dance. However,
- The expectation comes from the structure: "This is what we're eating tonight."
- The lack of pressure comes from your attitude: "Take it or leave it."
- Then make sure there's something on the table you know your children would eat if they wanted to.
You might not be able to turn out the kinds of side dishes that Burch does.
When Burch's daughters shunned the soup they nibbled on two side dishes—fried tortillas and a tomato and avocado salad—but you could just put out some potatoes.
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~