Here recently, my kids and I gathered around a small bistro-style table outside of a coffee shop to enjoy a round of summer drinkable yummies. I was enjoying my iced latte with double hazelnut shots while they slurped their cold kid’s hot cocoa with whipped cream on top when the subject turned to things that disgusted them, specifically, foods that make them want to vomit. If you have children, you will know that this is an easy and frequent backslide in most conversations. It doesn’t take much to get this going.
“I hate applesauce… and ketchup, “ chimed one while making a gagging motion with her finger in her mouth.
“I hate meat,” the oldest bellowed.
“I hate broccoli, “ my son reported. As he said this, the eyes around the table met one another and silently recalled the monumental occasion that will forever be recorded in the anthology of our family.
“We know you do Joseph, “ I replied.
“What year was that Mom?” his older sister asked.
Attempting to recall the exact year, I said “It was Two-thousand aaaannnnnd….”
“Eight, Mom. It was 2008.” Joseph answered. He would know.
“Yeah, your right.” we all said in harmony. “It was ‘08”
Innocently, albeit occasionally, broccoli graced our family table for many years without incident. Taking the form of Broccoli and Cheddar Cheese soup or singing backup in Chicken Divan, it wasn’t a staple, but it sure wasn’t an outcast. Until the evening I attempted to test-drive my new stainless steel All-Clad wok. Upon entry in my kitchen, I vowed to implement the benefits of wok cookery with vim and vigor. Bring me lightly brightly colored seasoned veggies, or give me death.
The evening of the wok’s maiden voyage, I decided to lay low and do something simple, nothing fancy or even strangely enough, authentic. On the menu for the evening was Americanized Stir-fried Chicken and Veggies…just chicken, veggies, a little oil to keep it all moving. How could I go wrong, right? It’s just chicken and a few vegetables, add some rice (all kids love rice) and soy sauce, plus some egg drop soup for giggles. I recall even angling my knife to cut the carrots and scallions for added visual interest. I was really working hard to make the meal successful and justify the purchase of an over-sized piece of cooking equipment I didn’t have room for in my kitchen anyway.
Placing a plate of food in front of their little faces, I wasn’t meet with much resistance. So far so good. Until my son began twirling his pierced piece of broccoli around his plate and exclaimed, “I’m not eating that. It looks like a bush!”
I gave the short sell: “It’s broccoli, it’s really yummy and healthy for you.”
“It stinks and it’s green!” my son said. He was right: cooked broccoli does stink.
I couldn’t catch the voice of my mother flying out of my mouth quick enough when I replied, “There are children starving and you’re turning your nose up at broccoli?”
“Yep.” the Lone Chromosome replied.
“Well, mister, think again. You’re not leaving this table until you’ve had your “No Thank-you Bite, “ I said, further entrenching myself on the correct side of this tete-a-tete. Up to this point in my parenting career, it was criterium, a requirement, that my kids take at least a small sampling of their food before they turned their noses in disgust. Then, they may politely say, “No, Thank-you.” I thought putting the food before the meal was the ticket to “success”. That was then.
I wanted to give him the illusion that I was ignoring him and his behavior, so I carried on with my own chewing and focused the conversation elsewhere. I wanted him to think what he was doing wasn’t that important to me. But, of course, he knew differently.
As I recall, the rest of the table carried on with conversation. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched my silent son for pocket stuffing, under-the-table-dog feeding or illegal food shifting to another child’s plate. He never even attempted any of those tactics. I looked at him and said “Well?”
“I’m not hungry anymore,.” he stubbornly replied.
Now, if you’re a parent, you will know there is nothing more frustrating than a child that won’t eat. Something happens to the wiring of our brains when we spew forth offspring into the world. Mom’s breastfeed with scabby nipples or pump milk like a dairy cow at their desks or buy enriched formula that is so overpriced we could feed children in third world countries many times over. From the get-go, feeding our children really matters.
And it matters for many reasons. Primarily, survival and status. It’s our parental duty to ensure that our kids are fed and don’t go hungry; however, in certain circles, vegetable consumption, predictable sleep patterns and pottying become the new parental status symbols. Gone are the Kate Spade’s and Vuitton’s and in their place, kohlrabi and Pull Ups. Looking back, I know these pressures swirled in my head. With battle lines drawn right down the middle of the fruit salad, he on one side and I on the other, I pushed and demanded that he eat his veggies. Picking up his fork and on the brink of tears, he put the cold, limp floret in his mouth. With enlarged and untrusting eyes, he chewed and swallowed.
It wasn’t long before a wave of vomit flooded the family table. Dramatic heaves followed the initial burst and what looked to be a full day of food was hurled from my son’s mouth onto the surrounding plates and bowls. His three sisters shrieked at the top of their lungs and bolted from the table into the living room. Joseph stood motionless while I sat in my chair and a state of horror. I should have known there wouldn’t be a happy ending to this war of wills between my son and I.
After the initial shock, I tucked my anger in my back pocket. I don’t know whom I was more mad with: Joseph or myself. I pulled his wet shirt off over his head and wiped his mouth clean. I remember how soft and sweet and blue his eyes were when he said “Sorry Mom”. So soft and sweet all I could say was “Yep, me too.” After removing his shirt, which held the worst of the damage, he trudged to his room to finish changing his clothes. I knelt to gather the cleaning supplies under the kitchen sink when I heard a strange sound. It was lapping sound. I looked and before I could yell “Stop! Don’t!” Oreo, the family dog, had finished the last of the upchucked stir-fry remains. No one but myself saw the dog eat the vomit, so who would know. I accepted the incident as a gift that expedited the cleaning process and finished up with the rest of the dishes on the table. Dinner was now over.
I attempted to reinstate broccoli after its heartbreaking defeat in the minds of my children, but finally discontinued it from my grocery shopping . To date, not one of my four children will go anywhere near it. When it comes to forcing my children to eat something they don’t think they’re ready to eat, I’ve found it’s best just to let sleeping dogs lie. Here is a recipe I have found that works, with modern revisions of course. Note: broccoli is not used.
This is Buster Keaton’s contribution from “Fashions in Food in Beverly Hills” cookbook. Chop suey, which according to legend, was offered to Chinese immigrants working on the transcontinental railroad. Of course it’s not traditional or authentic dish, but is a version that was advertised by Chinese restaurants to Americans during that time. As it is not my desire to promote any stereotyping, it is with great sensitivity I add this recipe. With respect to its original context, I feel I should post it as it was originally printed while remaining vigilant not to promote anything that would be considered a stereotype.
Here’s the recipe, as published in 1930.
“An iron pot is used in making this dish, greased with 3 tablespoons of peanut oil. One cup of raw lean pork is cut in cubes, put in a pot and allowed to cook until brown. After the pork is browned, a preparation of vegetables, mixed, is placed in a pot and allowed to steam, tight-fitting lid making this possible, first cooking it 10 minutes while stirring.
This mixture consists of 2 ½ cups water chestnuts, 2 ½ cups bamboo shoots,, 2 cups Chinese greens, cut in small pieces, 2 cups chopped celery, cut in small pieces, 1 cup onion chopped in small pieces, 3 cups chopped mushrooms, 2 cups bean sprouts and ½ cup salted almonds.
After steaming for 30 minutes chicken stock is added to moisten. Next 2 tablespoons of corn starch is mixed with the chicken stock to thicken it. If this becomes too thick a little more chicken stock is added to thin it.
Next a roast chicken, cut into dices, being careful to use no skin or the fat part of the chicken, is put in the iron pot and cooked slowly for 10 to 15 minutes with a cup of “Soy” sauce added to season it and to give it the proper dark color.
Most of these ingredients are purchased in Chinatown. This recipe takes care of about 8 people.”