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 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.
“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?” “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. “Mother readies the batter, invites Mo to spoon it onto the hot griddle and watch what happens-a messy but absorbing operation. “ ‘let’s count the little bubbles,’ says mother, ‘and see how many there are when it’s time to turn it.’ Mo loses track.” “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.” “ ‘Tisn’t manners but sirup’s good to the last drop; for a youngster, it’s even better when licked from the plate.” “Mother and Mo laugh because she couldn’t count the bubbles either. ‘We’ll try again soon,’ she says.” “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.” “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.” “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.