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Posted: November 9, 2011 12:00 a.m.

Picky eaters

Editor's note: This column originally ran in 2006.

I wouldn't have believed it if someone predicted I'd give birth to two picky eaters. My older sons actually refuse to eat fresh fruit. I struggle to understand this behavior.

Both of them opened up like baby birds for pureed peaches, plums, even prunes when they were infants. Zachary loved Gerber bananas, but the first time I gave him the real fruit, he gagged on the texture and has hated them ever since. Eli consumed his "nonnies" like a proper monkey until he got old enough for Zach to influence his choices. Sadly, it's been a year since he's eaten a banana.

I look at these darling, intelligent children and wonder how they can refuse fruit? What is there not to like about the honey-sweetness of a crisp red grape, or the heady perfume of fresh golden pineapple? Other kids eat this stuff. I know, because I've seen them. Heck, I was one of them.

I don't remember being allowed to dislike much when I was a child. Perhaps that's why I've always eaten just about anything. I can only recall three things I refused to eat back then - fried green tomatoes, rutabagas, and liver.
I'm a proper Southern lady, so I always wanted to find a fried green tomato that would knock my socks off, something so delicious that I wouldn't notice the sour sting of unripe tomato. After years of recommendations to try them at the Blue Willow Inn, I finally did. Good heavens, they were fabulous, like no green tomato I'd ever tried before, topped with a sweet red tomato chutney. If you've never had them, you must go.

I've also outgrown my aversion to rutabagas. My mom and my grandma, Honey, taught me how to cook them right. I get the whole pot to myself because the men in this house abhor them. They gripe about how the house smells when I boil a rutabaga. They have a lot of nerve. It's not all that different from the air quality when they eat too many baked beans. Rutabagas are my sweet payback.

I still cannot force my lips to open for a piece of liver. I remember crying at Honey's table because I couldn't bear to eat the fried chicken livers we had cooked together. I loved to help her cook, and I owe much of my culinary ability to her example. But seeing that yellow Styrofoam tray of blackish, bloody blobs before they were breaded and fried made it impossible for me to eat them.

Several years ago, my husband and I had lunch with friends at a Scottish pub. Liver and chips was the daily special, and my husband and our friend Steve actually plunked down perfectly good money for the foul stuff. They relentlessly teased me to try a bite. I finally caved just to silence them.

"I'll be nice and give you a piece without too many tubes," said Steve, smiling as he began surgery on his plate. Too many what? Sure enough, he sliced around something white and hollow embedded in that horribly dark meat. It looked exactly like a wobbly piece of cooked macaroni. Steve removed it, and then offered me a liver chunk as big as my thumb.

I protested at the size of it. He cut it in half. I made him cut it in half again and again until it was the size of a pencil eraser.

Oh, it was vile. Even without a tube.

So, it's not as though I can't understand food aversions. I just get stuck on anyone disliking something as heavenly as fresh fruit. I have to admit that my sons have made some progress. Both now enjoy applesauce, along with apple, peach or blueberry cobblers and pies. They eat fruit in yogurt and smoothies, often without realizing it.

Steve's wife, Heather, insists that once our boys become teenagers, they'll be so hungry that they will wolf down everything we set before them. I can't wait until they're happy to see me coming at them with a big bowl of fresh fruit. But they are on their own if they ever want to try liver.


Kari may be reached at kari@kariapted.com.

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