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Leave Food Fights Off the Menu: Don't Waste Your Time Together

My online friend Debbie Koenig (author of “Parents Need to Eat Too”) recently blogged for The New York Times about her picky eater, and it got me to thinking. I’m fortunate in that my kids probably fall in the middle of the pickiness range. One willingly eats odd things like mussels and clams, but steadfastly refuses fruit; the other will eat every fruit under the sun but she won’t touch shellfish. Their tastes don’t concern me all that much, with two important exceptions. One, I want to make sure they’re getting a balanced diet (I was recently relieved to learn that potatoes are a good source of Vitamin C).  Two, their reluctance to try things curtails my enthusiasm for making new dishes. They’re just kids, and I get it, but if I make a fancy new dinner and they don’t go for it, I feel like I’ve wasted my time. I don’t just cook to feed myself—I cook to feed everybody. Sometimes I feel like I’m getting stuck in a rut, but that’s another story.

Koenig sought expert help from a registered dietician Ellyn Satter, who had a few suggestions, including, “stop talking about food at the table.” Koenig, who is a food writer, said that that would be hard, but she’s trying it. The idea makes a lot of sense to me. When I think back about how I grew up, we never discussed food around the table, and just about all my siblings have sophisticated palates. I never had sushi until I was in my twenties, and I don’t think I tasted arugula until I was well out of college. Parents of our generation tend to make too big a deal about who is eating what, and when.

It will do everyone a heap of good to back off on the subject, and turn to other things that are happening with your kids.  We all live atomized lives, with work and fill-in-the-blank afterschool activities keeping us apart. Don’t waste the moments around the table together fighting over that last (or that first!) green bean.

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