Tuesday, June 14, 2011

14 June 1957 “Morgan Learns To Like Food: Children’s Eating Habits”

learnstolikefood4 “Morgan sulks over his scrambled eggs, whines, drops food on floor. He loves pickles and Mother says he can have one after he’s eaten the eggs.”

Having no children of my own I would never deign to give parenting advice, but I do like the various bits of wisdom and knowledge I glean from my vintage magazines and books.

This particular article caught my eye the other day, as a friend and I were talking about eating habits and our likes and dislikes. I was finding it hard to list any foods I do not like. My friend, having been raised by parents who were not very, shall we say, attentive to dietary needs or even general good health and attention, used to allow her to literally eat a box of cereal or cheese crackers as a meal. If she did not want what was for dinner, usually somewhat devoid of vegetables anyway, she was allowed to eat fish sticks and that is it.

I think because of my own early food variety I had a greater palette and therefore find more foods good or interesting. I was always told I had to at least ‘try it and eat half’ before I decided I did or did not like it. However, there were no special orders for me at meal time. My mother prepared our meals and I ate what was prepared. She would, however, take requests as I began to find things I enjoyed more. Yet we always had a vegetable and usually a fruit at breakfast as well as starch and carbohydrates and of course we had a protein at each meal. I grew up with breakfasts of pancakes, waffles, with sausage or bacon and the like.

I recall once astonishing a friend because she was upset over their family having liver and onions. I said, “Mmm, I love liver and onions” and got the strangest look. Perhaps having older parents (who started their married life and parenting in the early 1950’s) I was simply exposed to a greater or different variety of foods early on than my 70/80’s contemporaries. To this day I love all offal and often will smile with glee when chicken livers, beef kidneys, and their like are on sale in my local grocery. Most often I found myself commiserating with my friends grannies over the loveliness of meals their grandkids wouldn’t touch, as they preferred boxed mac n cheese.

I even enjoy all shell fish including raw oysters and anything from the ocean, even kelp and seaweeds, as one gets at Japanese restaurants.

So, I was thinking how I would not alter our eating had we a child. If we had kidneys at breakfast as our child would eat them, well I would insist he try them. But, if from the time he was a child, I simply gave them to him, I suppose he would just eat them. I could of course be completely wrong. I know that now we have no cereal at breakfast since 1955 except good ole’ fashioned slow cooked steel cut oatmeal usually with fresh fruit and some molasses.

I had a friend who has a small son. We once went out to lunch together and she said, “Oh, he will only eat chicken fingers” and he literally ate just processed breaded chicken fingers for dinner, nary a vegetable touched his lips. But his mother also eats almost no vegetables and has very poor eating habits, so learned at home I would imagine.

I suppose those of you with children know best and having a child that is simply ‘picky’ might be more about personality than palette, I don’t know. But, let’s learn how in 1952 Morgan’s mother dealt with the issue of ‘not eating’ when

MORGAN LEARNS TO LIKE FOODlearnstolikefood1learnstolikefood2learnstolikefood3

  • Morgan Hall when three and a half was a healthy normal boy- a bit on the thin side but wiry and active. The doctor pronounced him in good condition. But like many children his age, MO used to dawdle over his food. According to the mother he “ate practically nothing/” She worried a great deal about the balanced diet she was sure he wasn’t getting. Worry let to nagging and nagging to misery at mealtime.
  • Then suddenly Mrs. Hall decided she must change her approach co0mpletely. “For how can anyone have a good appetite when he’s being nagged and pressured into eating?” she thought. First and foremost she discovered ways to lead Mo to some of the unexplored joys to be found in food. Then at mealtime she served his favorites and stopped watching. Now the balanced diet is always on hand but never forced on him. His parents realize that pleasure in food and happy mealtimes are the best foundation for a healthy appetite-and eventually will pay off.

 learnstolikefood5 “Mo helps Mother shell peas while she scrapes carrots. They talk and laugh together. Now and then she pops a piece of carrot in her own mouth but never urges him to.

learnstolikefood6 “Pancakes for Sunday Breakfast. Mother asks him to fetch eggs and the beater. At first he just watches, then wants to help. What child can resist the chance to use a beater and make a bowl of egg white come foaming up just like soapsuds?” learnstolikefood7 “Now it’s Mo’s turn to use the fascinating scraper and make a nice heap of shavings. Later he bites a carrot halfheartedly, Mother pays no attention.learnstolikefood8 “Mother readies the batter, invites Mo to spoon it onto the hot griddle and watch what happens-a messy but absorbing operation.learnstolikefood9 “ ‘let’s count the little bubbles,’ says mother, ‘and see how many there are when it’s time to turn it.’ Mo loses track.”learnstolikefood10 “The pancake’s done. Mrs. Hall dashes it onto a plate with butter and sirup. ‘That’s how Dad likes it,’ she says, then goes about her business while nature takes its course. See what’s happened! Dad will surely need another.”learnstolikefood11 “ ‘Tisn’t manners but sirup’s good to the last drop; for a youngster, it’s even better when licked from the plate.”learnstolikefood12 “Mother and Mo laugh because she couldn’t count the bubbles either.  ‘We’ll try again soon,’ she says.”learnstolikefood13 “What a change! Instead of cross words and tears, Mo’s really a good table companion now.  Nobody makes him eat or looks cross if he can’t finish. Gradually he dawdles less, eats more than he used to. Everyone feels better. He still likes pickles.”learnstolikefood14 “He loves to drink a ‘milk toast’. Thinks saying “Here’s mud in your eye!” is hilariously funny, wants it again and again. Parents humor him for a while but call quits if he starts getting silly.”learnstolikefood15 “Mo isn’t a big eater yet and may not be for several years. But he eats what for him, at this age and stage of growth, is enough. Good-humored parents, good feeling at mealtime-these bring sure results.”


I wonder if Morgan turned into a good eater after all. My friend, who now eats more than cheez crackers, had to slowly train herself to like various foods and vegetables. There are still many things she doesn’t like and it makes it harder for her to enjoy eating out at certain places. I know I am glad that I like most foods (though I do need to like less of them and shed those extra pounds).

I also recall that I wasn’t allowed to wander around with food. I ate at the table or on special nights if we had a movie or something, snacks on the sofa. We always had dinner at the table and never with a TV on. I was surprised many of my friends mother’s had TV’s in their kitchens and often just ate wherever they felt like it. I suppose in many ways I always felt a bit ‘out of time’ due to my older parents home rules. But, were I to have a child, they were have to unfortunately feel as equally unconnected as there would be meals At table. There would be no wandering about with hands in cereal boxes or cracker boxes. It seems we have enough work to do as homemakers then to add more crumbs and mess to every room in the house, right?!

Do any of you have fussy or picky children? How do you deal with it? Did you eat everything as a child or were you let choose willy nilly? A very interesting topic, I think.

Happy Homemaking.


  1. Well, I have five children, and can say with absolute certainty that beyond offering a wide variety of foods; there is nothing on heaven or earth that will induce a picky child to eat. My first child was fed organic carrots as his first meal; but refused to eat anything and everything I ever offered him. I struggled with him, called the doctor, begged, pleaded...all to no avail! I decided to just give him the food and become blind to the amount of food he ate. He's 11; and is still extremely picky; he will actually gag when trying a food he's not used to. He is gradually branching out on his own; but I don't pay attention to the amount of vegetables or fruits he's (not) eating; I just put them on his plate and hope for the best. My second child was quite different from the start; he gobbled up fruit and veggie puree from an early age; and would always at least try something; and no gagging if he didn't like it! Now broccoli is his favorite food; he asks for seconds, and he is more adventurous than we are; we've taken him to restaurants to try crab and lobster, since we don't like them ourselves. Our other three children are a range from picky to not picky; I've done the same thing with all five; and I'm convinced it's a personality issue, or that my pickiest children have a true aversion to those foods and nothing I do is going change that.

  2. That is so interesting. I wonder if some children are just naturally 'picky'?
    I had to laugh about the lobster and crab, because boy do we love it and boy can we eat it! My husband, who is naturally thin and never has issues with weight can eat three lobsters with drawn butter, a plate of fried clams with bellys and scallops and fried oysters 'till the cows come home! Our child would definitely have to learn to like seafood (unless there was an allergy of course, but I think such allergies are genetic).

  3. I was also just thinking, one of my favorite savory is sardines on toast, mmmm. Yes, our child would be introduced to a greatly varied diet, for certain! Poor dear.

  4. Interesting post!! I grew up in a large family and learned early on to do as you did, try a bit and then go forth. We were not allowed to say we hated anything, so none of us hate foods. Now I have some foods I love more than others but I worked hard to carry this method over with my own children.

    I confess my favorite food is an onion. I eat them like apples...I cannot imagine life without onions!

  5. I even surprised a friend the other day when we were eating at our local farms cafe. They serve their salads (made with their own greens) with edible flowers, such as nasturtiums. I swallowed them up and they thought I was crazy. They are good and spicy and if you pickle the buds they are like capers, another thing I adore.
    I also like pairing fun things together. The other day my friend and I biked to the beach and she packed us a lunch that contained brie, rustic bread and dark dark bitter chocolate. Let me tell you brie and warmed melting chocolate (from the warm day) on baguette is heaven! I really like sweet and savory together.

  6. My son is a rather fussy eater. I cook from scratch and he thinks that fast foods are wonderful. I don't make any effort to provide an alternative if he doesn't like what I have made. We have him try a variety of foods, realizing that the more he is exposed to different foods, the more he will become accustomed to their tastes and textures.
    I also don't provide much for snack foods at our house. If he is hungry between meals, I suggest that he make a piece of toast for himself.
    I have seen over and over again as mothers work out of the home and provide snack foods for children to eat unsupervised, the children become overweight. Plus, the snack foods, in addition to being processed, are very expensive.
    We require that our son asks permission to have a food item rather than helping himself.
    I have two nieces who were catered to if they didn't want a particular food that was offered for dinner and they are very picky adults. How annoying!
    Thanks for another great post......Denise

  7. I forgot that I was also trained to ask for things, even in my own kitchen. When I would visit friends house I would say, "May I please have a glass of water" and would often get laughed at, though the mother's would say, 'what lovely manners' or some such. I learned, early on, to be polite, ask, and not butt in when talking. The latter I may overlook today sometimes, but only in informal settings, not at a dinner party or anything.

  8. I suppose some children are just naturally picky. I insisted that my children at least try everything, then if they really didn't like it, I wouldn't make them eat it. I'd make a mental note of it and not serve that particular thing very often, but serve something else equally nutritious in its place. It worked out well, though, for our family. Because they didn't feel forced as to the food thing, they didn't rebel, and would always at least try the new thing. They still do today, and have fun, now that they're grown, grossing their friends out by trying stuff like sushi and octopus and other things their friends won't even try. They say, thank you for making us at least try everything. Now, we'll eat just about anything or at least try it and we come up with some really good stuff we wouldn't even know about if we were not willing to try it.

  9. I agree about asking before taking food; that's always been a rule in our house; though some people find it restrictive and old-fashioned. I cannot tolerate seeing children snacking at will; and always control the snacking in our house. I've even considered a lock on the pantry; because I have one boy who insists on sneaking chocolate chips or cereal!

  10. I was raised in a house where I had to try everything at least once. I think it helped me to become a fairly daring eater (although I do have some exceptions). My husband is the same way.
    I have two daughters, aged 5 and 4. The oldest will try anything once and prefers healthy choices over junk food. My youngest, however, is extraordinarily picky. I can only surmise, as others have mentioned, that this is a personality issue. She does like to help me cook and shop for groceries, but she is not more likely to eat something she helped prepare. Most meals I put the food on her plate and hope she eats something.

  11. Refreshing! At some point American parents just gave up, I think. I take full responsibility for my older son's pickiness as I was the one who fed him all those nuggets with ketchup. Took two very hard years to straighten that mess out...doing things like making one meal for the family, and if you don't like it there's always breakfast in the morning! My younger son is a bit picky but not half so much as his brother was. Also we had to improve our own eating habits and start eating lots of veg and fruits and set the example.

  12. I have to agree that it's definitely a personality issue. I have always been an adventurous eater and a foodie and eat tons of veggies every day. My son (6) mirrors my taste but my daughter (3) will eat only noodles or cold cereal. There was absolutely no difference in how they were raised so far; I am really quite shocked (and sometimes embarrassed if we go out to eat!) that she is so picky. She's even picky about the type and brand of cereal (and she does not see the packaging, so I know it's the taste/texture difference)- a generic version will not do.

  13. It's so interesting and seems to be a personality issue. I wonder, however, for those living in harder times, such as the Depression, or even back when children were 'seen and not heard' that such 'pickiness' was even aloud. I am sure there were many children who had to eat what they got or go hungry. I also bet it was true despite your class, as a working class child had to eat what they had and before his siblings got it while the middle class and upper classes also had to deal with Nanny or the nursemaid in the nursery with milk and bread. All quite interesting stuff. At least we now live in a time when we are allowed choices.

  14. Oh and least we forget the vitamins of the 1950's, children (including my own counter persona 50's gal being a child in the 20's) would have to have had their dose of castor oil! I don't think there was even a question of "My child doesn't like it" I think ALL children didn't like it, but down it went. Maybe some had a Mary Poppins Nanny to aid it with a "spoon full of sugar" but I bet most simply held their nose, swallowed and hoped for the best.

  15. I meant BEFORE the vitamins of the 1950's. By now, 1957, children could easily eat vitamins that tasted good and also had fortified foods, not so a few decades earlier.

  16. My mom grew up in the 40s and 50s and she said her mom used to give castor oil for ANY health ailment. She said her and her brothers would put off saying they were sick so they wouldn't have to take it. Poor things. The cure was worse than the sickness.

  17. I think it's kind of ironic that we joke about taking castor oil (or cod liver oil) but today fish oil is the closest thing to the proverbial magic pill. It just goes to show that, at least in some ways, they really knew what they were doing back then. Somewhere along the line, I think we lost our way a bit.

  18. According to Dr. Jan Kwasniewski, kidney and liver are some of the best proteins for us. I wish I were brave enough to cook and try them!

  19. That little Morgan is adorable! I found it interesting that the advice given in this article sounded familiar. What goes around comes around, right?

    I'm not a strict patent when it comes to food. It's more that I can't and won't make personalized meals every day. I prepare foods that we all like but if one of the kids decides he or she suddenly doesn't they can grab a yogurt or leftovers. My issue is when one of them says they're full at dinner and then snacks on junk later. The variety of junk foods available at home is limited but it's not the basis of a balanced diet.

    My hubby is the one who is picky, as are his sister and brother. I can't help that it has something to do with their upbringing. Their mother was very strict about meals and forcing them to eat what was served. It sounds almost abusive by today's standards, doesn't it? My mother in law is a lovely person but a bit of a food pusher and a neat freak. Maybe that's it. In any case my husband's pickiness makes it hard to please anyone so I just do what I can.


  20. I always say that I’m not picky. I don’t like pork meat, I think I got it too often as a kid, but I like things most other people don’t like. Like lamb, all kinds of fish and shellfish, I truly love offal, especially my mum’s homemade hearts, uuuhm. Son doesn’t like liver, so we don’t get that very often. I respect that he doesn’t like it, since I know it has a very special taste. But sometimes we make it because DH and I enjoy it so much. I’ve always told son that he cannot say he doesn’t like something he hasn’t tasted. At least you have to taste. And he agrees, because sometimes he has found new favourites this way. We also eat at the table with no TV, I HATE TV when eating! We had many old-fashioned things for dinner as a child, which I think is good, since you taste so many different things. Son was very picky as a little child, but I served many different things for him, and didn’t allow him to eat cereals and drink soda instead of food. He didn’t eat much and was very skinny, but I was going easy on him, because I knew he survived. He is a very handsome young man today. :)

  21. anon-kidney and liver meats are SO wonderful. I also love sweet breads, goose livers, bone marrow, the list goes on.Steak and Kidney pie are a good intro to eating kidney meats. I have a recipe on my site that I made back in 55. I still make it today. I also really enjoy kidneys at breakfast times. I had to laugh about the adventurous food and squid. I love sushi and squid and eel and so on. Once I had a friend meet me for lunch in the North End (Boston Italian Neighborhood) and I ordered calamari with pasta. She expected the chain restaurant deep fried ring 'calamari' and was disgusted to see the little heads and tentacles naked and purplish pink on my plate. This is how they are lovely with oil or butter and just a dash of pepper. Then you really taste the food as well. I also really enjoy textures, so pates, offal, and raw foods to me have a complex enjoyment of flavor AND texture. Yes, had we a child, he would be eating all types of foods early on, why not if mama likes them, right?

  22. I was a horribly picky eater when I was a child. I still am, but I've improved over the years and now eat things that I would have died rather than eat as a child.

    My mom, worried I would starve to death, asked the doctor for advice and he said to let me eat whatever I wanted and make sure I got one Flintstone's vitamin a day! I joke that if it hadn't been for Flintstones and peanut butter sandwiches I would have starved to death literally, lol. To try and coax me to eat a vegetable my dad would say, "If you eat that piece of carrot I'll fall of my chair." So I'd eat it and he'd fall off and I'd laugh and we'd repeat the process. Poor man! Eating was always a horrendous ordeal and I'm sure I put my mom through hell with meal planning. I do remember throwing massive temper tantrums in restraunts.

    Like your friend, I had to consciously train myself to try new things. I was in college when one day I just decided to try broccoli on a whim, and to my utter surprise I liked it. That started the ball rolling to be open to other things.

  23. 5 years late, as always! This is a generalization, so take it for what it is worth. But picky eaters were recognized in larger numbers once it became the fashion to use infant formula vs. breast feeding. Think of it...when a baby nurses from its mother, the flavors from the food the mother ate 6 or so hours previous, will flavor the milk. A baby on formula is used to a monotonous diet of the same flavor over and over. I am sure there are differences of opinion on this, but I can say that I had three sons over a period of 7 1/2 years and all of them were eager eaters of anything put in front of them. My biggest struggle was spooning the stuff in fast enough. They did develop opinions later; the middle one was downright insulting about certain family foods during his teen years, but I chalked that up to teen rebellion and thanked my lucky stars that it wasn't something worse! Anyone reading this wonderful blog in 2016 care to chime in on the human milk vs. formula topic and how it applied to her own kids?


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