Problem Solved: Scream At Picky Eaters

Picky Eaters Are Extremely Annoying

I understand when my child turns up her nose at completely foreign food (foreign to her, that is.) I’d probably balk at someone serving me a fruit bat or some such. Even if it was covered in chocolate. I have standards, people.

I even empathize with the little fussy punks. I was a ridiculously finicky eater for the majority of my childhood. I recall vividly the first time I enjoyed eating broccoli. I was a junior in high school. In college, the waiter at Inter Urban served me salad with ranch dressing I didn’t order and I tried it begrudgingly for the first time. Mac-n-cheese and PB&J were even too radical departures for me as a child. I would have demanded my crusts cut off if my mother had given in the first time I asked. She held her ground on that one. And heels. No discriminating against the bread loaf heels. “That’s the best piece!” my mother would implore. I don’t know how I got any nutrients at all. I pretty much subsisted on grilled cheese sandwiches, buttered spaghetti and potato chips. And don’t give me any of that super soft Wonder bread. It doesn’t grill right. Or the flavored chips. Yuck. Or buttered linguine. That’s weird.

picky eaters

Two restaurants from my youth are burned into my memory with infamy: The Court of Two Sisters in New Orleans and The Russian Tea Room in New York City. I remember these two restaurants vividly because my father lost his flippin’ mind at both after I ordered rice with butter for brunch. “We are at The Russian Tea Room! YOU WILL NOT EAT RICE! THIS IS A WORLD CLASS FINE DINING ESTABLISHMENT! I did not bring you to New York City so you could eat buttered rice!” I don’t remember who won those food battles, but I suspect it was me. You can’t bully someone into trying new food. You might make them an offer they can’t refuse (“Eat two bites and you can order dessert.”) but you can’t force someone to eat something they don’t want.

This is where my empathy ends and turns abruptly to disdain. I don’t have to tell you how unpleasant it is to eat a meal with picky eater. Especially when you’ve gone to the trouble and expense of eating out. You can’t help yourself to not put the focus of the meal on trying to get the picky eater to eat. It’s exhausting. You convince yourself that you have great persuasive powers and that you can make them see reason this time. No matter that you have failed to persuade them 20 times previously. “Really? You’d really rather eat Tony’s frozen cheese pizza than the fresh brick-oven cheese pizza at this restaurant after we waited forty minutes to get a table?” Right. You lose.

There is so much more that I don’t understand about children’s insanely annoying food hang-ups. Like food they ate without complaint yesterday. Yes-ter-day. Perfectly fine 18 hours ago. Today? Piss off, mom. Rancid awfulness they will gag up if you make them put it in their mouth.  Or how about familiar food prepared indistinguishably different. For instance, a hamburger on a kaiser roll instead of a plain bun. Or mac-n-cheese with penne instead of elbow macaroni. A plain baked potato at a restaurant they’ve never been to when they are used to eating it at home.

I get that kids fear trying new things. Many adults still carry that hang-up. Being afraid of monsters under your bed makes more sense to me than trying a blueberry waffle when you usually have homestyle. You can see it on your plate. It doesn’t have tentacles. It has syrup, delicious syrup, smothering it. Only it has tiny blueberry bits you can’t taste. Well, you wouldn’t taste them if you’d taste them.

Making your kids eat is primal. In the words of Louis C.K., “You’re on the grid! Eat! They know I have you! You have to eat or you’re going to die!” I suggest the Hungry Dog approach. Your kid is not going to perish from a missed meal. They will, in fact, eat if they are hungry enough. I promise it won’t escalate to a  prison food strike.

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