Those pictures are from our recent vacation. Throughout the trip, Owen ate like a starving grizzly confronting a salmon run. He out-ate us at almost every mediocre diner we visited, demolishing ribs, pancakes, scrambled eggs, french fries, baked potatoes, bacon, gallons of root beer. And when he was done with whatever he ordered, he devoured our leftovers. In between meals, in the car, he kept busy with tortilla chips, cocktail peanuts, and cinnamon Altoids.
Wow, I thought. Finally. He's growing up, getting an appetite. Boy, it's going to be fun to cook for you when we get home!
So, we got home. The other night, I made a beef stew from Andrea Nguyen's Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. It was stupendous; recipe here. You braise chuck in a rich sauce of onion and tomato, with a little lemongrass, star anise, and 5-spice powder for flavor. Chunks of carrot go in at the end. Served with bread. Nothing weird. Like "regular" stew, but zippier. Isabel -- the world's daintiest eater -- loved it.
Owen: I hate soup. Why did you make soup? You know I hate soup.
Tipsy: It's not soup, it's STEW.
Owen: I hate stew, too. And cooked carrots. You know I don't like cooked carrots.
Tipsy: Okay, you can go to your room.
Seeing an opportunity for family drama, instead, he went to the computer. Tipsy then had to put down her fork, lay down law. Husband played good cop, annoying Tipsy because there should be no good cop in such a negotiation. (Right? Please tell me I'm right.) Dinner disrupted, possibly ruined.
We long ago gave up trying to force kids to eat anything. (I don't know how my parents pulled it off, because I can't figure out the mechanics.) Unfortunately, it's not enough that Owen doesn't have to eat what he doesn't like, he's furious and insulted that I even cooked it. He will actually get up in the morning and say first thing, "What are we having for dinner?" No matter what I answer -- unless it's pesto pasta -- he gives a massive groan and responds with either: "I hate X," or, "I like X, but I don't feel like X today." He'll drag the grievance on and on if he gets so much as a nibble.
I am really loath to pander to his tastes. And if I did, I'm pretty sure it would backfire. What I cook, by definition, is objectionable.
Maybe I have pushed too far. This is possible. I am an extreme cook and have, on occasion, betrayed his trust. Two words: bacon salad. For this, I am sorry.
But the comedian husband also plays a role. For dessert the night of the beef stew, I made Nguyen's almond jelly with lychees, jackfruit and strawberries. Is it helpful to the cause that husband loudly referred to the lychees as "eyeballs?"
I have three possible solutions:
1. Enlist Owen in the cooking. Maybe then it will seem less hilarious and cool when male role models who stockpile Good n' Plenties make side-splitting remarks about the dishes.
2. Ask him what he wants and basically just make that.
3. Grimly wait him out. One day he will come around. Isabel did. She eats almost everything now, including eyeballs.
I am leaning towards #1. In fact, am suddenly filled with excitement about this new tactic.
P.S. the yummy almond jelly dessert looked a lot like this borrowed photograph, but without the maraschino cherries. I first tasted this dish at a Chinese restaurant when I was a child and it's one of my favorite things, though it involves an appreciation of almond extract.