Spare moments in the evening were once used to flippantly flick through glossy magazines and observe the latest cosmetic trends or fashion tips while sipping on wine. Now its tea, and the glossy magazines have morphed into mountains of discourse and opinion on child-friendly food options displayed in various coloured dustcovers and fonts. Supposedly riddled with endless culinary options for the discerning toddler, each celebrity Chef tackles the sensory food debate with a sufficient amount of enthusiasm that translates confidently through their idyllically-dressed pages.
So imagine my frustration, when it would seem as though these ‘self-help’ cook books prove to be about as useful as a raincoat in a desert. Paul Tillich (1886 – 1965, USA), famously said; “the first duty of love is to listen” – but what if my two year old son only knows how to respond by saying; “no way”, or “yuck”? Do I beat my deflated psyche against the wall now after five failed eatable masterpieces, or at a more convenient time?
I ask myself at this point (somewhere between behaving like a tipped Waiter trying to impress, and a lunatic pretending my spoon is now a train or an aircraft); why is it so difficult all of a sudden to entice my child with food? Food – you know that glorious thing that heals hearts, remedies awkward first dates, prompts decadent memories and delights the senses? When did FOOD become so repulsive and off-putting? Or are we confused by food categories themselves and only seem to appreciate the health and nutrition they gift us with after we work through our relationship with flavour?
My Grandma suggests the times; we seem to rely on processed packaged food for convenience. Society seems to have become so busy and consumed by daily work pressures and mounting family commitments that it is often easier to reach for something that promises satisfaction. I was guilty of promising myself I would never cave and conform. I was fondly raised alongside my brother and sister as a bit of a ‘health nut’ – my Mum spending copious amounts of time crafting carrots into people and cutting wholesome slices into stars. I liken it to a spell that eventually wears off; somewhere along the line we were always going to be tempted to swap our smiling ‘carrot man’ for a mini pie in the tuckshop line. The curiosity and desire to sacrifice my carrot man resembles the mythical scenario whereby the serpent offers up Eve ‘forbidden fruit’. Eventually, despite all my parent’s efforts, I was going to be introduced to a category of food that was delicious and desirable, but not nutritionally ideal.
And so before too long, suddenly it would appear as though my bacon and corn frittata was ‘yuck’, and the favourite pumpkin and sweet onion soup was ‘tolerable’ – my son couldn’t say ‘tolerable’, but the bemused eye motion and lack of enthusiasm alluded disappointment. And as we’re not able to phone Matt Preston or Jamie Oliver and request a suitable suggestion for why our child’s taste has changed overnight (if only it were like Dr Harry for pets); then I suppose we will have to continue to do the best we can each day and night.
So whether you cut the sandwich into triangles, wrestle your watermelon into perfect spheres, gently craft homemade biscuits into hearts or mould fruit medleys into ice creations; remember that balance is healthy and inevitable – the packet of tiny teddies isn’t your nemesis and what worked yesterday is likely to fail dismally today. Not because we didn’t blend it properly, and not because we didn’t put every ounce of spare time and energy into lovingly baking it – but because sometimes that’s just kids.
So next time you endeavour to find enough will and energy to pour all of that nutritional knowledge into one pot in the hope that it may be well-received; best have a glossy magazine and glass of wine nearby.