Saturday, November 01, 2014

There are worse things than being spoiled



If you serve marinated skirt steak and a cauliflower, grape, and cheddar salad for dinner and your 6-foot-tall son pokes at his meal with a fork, mutters that he doesn’t like cauliflower or “sweet” steak, then returns to his room to watch YouTube videos rather than dine with his father and mother, do you later make him scrambled eggs and toast so he won’t go to bed hungry?

I don't. I'm against it on principle. Mark, who is a soft touch, does. We argued about this for years, Mark and I. I'd cook dinner, Owen wouldn't eat it, an hour later Mark would be making him spaghetti. I'd want to tear my hair out. When I saw Mark in the kitchen scrambling those eggs the other night I started to say, "You're spoiling him! I made a perfectly good meal. How do you expect him to ever. . . " 

Wait. The kid is fourteen and won't eat steak because there's brown sugar in the marinade? He's officially spoiled. Game over. I lost.

Here's my question: Does it even matter that he's spoiled? I used to think so, but now I can't see how, except insofar as it drives me nuts. Owen will go out into the world and he'll either continue to eat like a 4-year-old or he won't. No one will care. I shouldn't care. I'm not going to care. 

Problem solved.

Getting back to that meal he wouldn't eat, the cauliflower salad came from Plenty More and consisted of roasted cauliflower, toasted hazelnuts, halved red grapes, raisins, cheddar cheese, and a tart dressing. There’s a lot going in this melange -- crunch, juice, creaminess, sugar, acid -- and I liked it a lot. The adjustments I’d make are two: 

1. The oil-to-vinegar ratio in a vinaigrette is typically 3:1. The ratio in this vinaigrette was 3:2. It was very, very sharp. If I made this again, which I would, I'd add another splash of oil to bring everything together. Also, I'd switch from canola oil to olive.

2. The recipe (as printed in the book) calls for "creamy, mature cheddar,” but when I requested this at the cheese counter, the guy gave me a look and said: “Mature cheddar is never creamy, it’s crumbly.” I said, ok, fine, just give me a good cheddar then. The one I brought home was creamy and delicious, so you’d think it would have been perfect. No. The recipe instructs you to "coarsely crumble" the cheese and it was impossible to crumble this creamy cheese so I chopped and shredded it and it never really melded with the salad. If you try this recipe, go for a crumbly, mature cheddar. 

With those tweaks, I think this would be an excellent dish.

I did a really fun interview that you can read here

47 comments:

  1. 14 is *certainly* old enough to scramble his own *expletive* eggs. And then clean up after themselves, too.

    I have picky eaters in my house. I tell them they can be polite to the people at the table with them, and sit in front of their plate graciously. After the formal/social aspect of the meal is over, they can then go and scramble eggs or have a PBJ or something.

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    1. He can and does scramble his own eggs on other occasions. I think his father just worries he isn't eating properly, as teenagers sometimes don't, and left to his own devices Owen would live on tortilla chips and root beer. And, to be fair to Owen, we released him from his obligation to sit with us.

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  2. You can't predict when he will decide to open his food horizons. My oldest, my pickiest eater, went to Italy on a school trip and ate whatever they put in front of him: swordfish, squid ink fettuccine, deer, mussels...mussels! I don't even like mussels. You just have to enjoy it when he says "I can't believe I wasn't eating this all along" ...or not.

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    1. See, this is what I think will happen. I think once he gets out in the world he'll grow up.

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  3. If your husband wants to cater to him then let him. I have a picky eater and a kid who will eat pretty much everything. If the picky eater won't eat the meal we tell her she is welcome to make something else for herself as long as it's healthy. She also has to clean up after herself. This pretty much ensures she eats whats on the table or she will go to bed without eating. She's still alive so going to bed without supper hasn't killed her yet and she can make some food of her own should she wish to. Another great tip for picky eaters is to get them involved in the meal planning and cooking. They are way more adventurous when they have had to plan and help cook the meal.

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    1. They all seem to survive, don't they? I used to try to get my kids involved in meal planning, but that didn't really work. Basically, I'm over it all. Done.

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  4. I know how you're always looking for recipes to use up your eggs; I saw a recipe in L A Times I want to try: Death by Lemon Torte. Crust calls for 1 egg, filling uses 11!!!!!!

    How are the chickens and goats?

    Maybe your cooking is too exotic for Owen. Does he ever make himself something to eat besides cereal? Maybe you could have each of your kids plan and make a meal of their choice once or twice a month.

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    1. The chickens have knocked off for the winter -- we haven't had an egg in weeks. I had to buy them the other day and was miffed.

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  5. He may never expand his food horizons but he might expect his wife/partner to do what his father does for him. I like Anonymous' idea. I was spoiled "spoiled rotten" as my mother liked to say - I pushed and and snarked and got my way and there have been lifelong repercussions and an extra big being a grown up learning curve. My Aunt Mildred would say "if you don't eat it you will wear it" and was known to live up to her threat. Can you imagine what that would look like in modern day Mill Valley?

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    1. Did you ever wear food? Owen has worn food, but I couldn't figure out how to tell that story without making us out to be a family of barbarians.
      Owen doesn't demand things or expect things -- he's happy going to bed with cereal or nothing. On some level I actually thought it was sweet of his father to make him eggs, but I couldn't find a way to get that in to the post. Mark is very caring and one day Owen will remember his father in an apron making him eggs (or pancakes or pasta or whatever) that he probably didn't deserve.

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    2. You are probably right about that. My father never wore an apron and only fed me clandestine pizza slices when we went out for the Sunday paper. I have never worn food but I did watch many times as my cousin Bobby did. There is a famous family photo of him wearing spaghetti and meatballs on his head. Even in punishment, my family loved a good laugh.

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  6. Okay, my parenting advice (feel free to ignore): Family meals have three purposes - 1) Sustenance, which is important for health and growth; 2) Community, which strengthens relationships; and 3) Tradition, which establishes values and continuity.

    With that being said, not everyone is going to like everything that is served at table, and your family Tradition will establish how respectfully those differences are treated for both those who like AND dislike a dish. In my opinion there should always be a "standard default backup" available, just like you would have if you suddenly discovered an honored dinner guest was a vegetarian just as they sat down to your steak dinner. :) (My mom always had peanut butter and jelly available for sandwiches for those who disliked the planned meal.)

    With "sustenance" addressed, I think the big fail (no insult intended) was the "go to his room to watch YouTube videos" which killed off "building community" UNLESS you were watching television instead of talking to each other, in which case his physical departure was just everyone acknowledging that the opportunity for entertainment was the priority; sometimes we want to focus on something mindless instead of each other, and only you know what your family traditions are. (No judgment here; life can be challenging!)

    Personally, I hope you are having your kids "help" in the kitchen, and that each member of your family has at least one day a week where they are responsible for planning and preparing "sustenance" for your family; my mother made sure all six of her children were comfortable with the challenges of meal preparation (including shopping and budgeting) and it is one of the "traditions" I hope I pass on -- it is easier to just do it myself, but....

    Please take these comments in the spirit I mean them - I am a parent, too, and far from perfect. I think you are doing a great job of raising your children (who sound wonderful!), and your husband sounds like a treasure. Thank you for sharing your life with all of us, and helping me to clarify my own thoughts on these matters; your blog is a regular stop for me, and you feel like an old friend (who I have never had the pleasure of actually meeting - lol!).

    Wishing you all the best, Ida

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    1. All good sense and taken in the right spirit. No, my kids never make dinner and it's an interesting question why that's never taken hold. Isabel bakes all the time and Owen can prepare his own small meals, but there's no cooking. The night in question Isabel was out and Owen was in a lousy mood and I think Mark and I just wanted to talk. Didn't seem like a night for family togetherness.

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  7. The comments are interesting, as always, and I can't believe that I disagree, but I do. I remember when Owen was your constant companion on food adventures. Now he is 14, a teenager, rebelliousness is in his genes at this stage. Whether or not he eats what is cooked will not ruin his life, the life of his future spouse, or compromise his nutrition. He's 6 ft. tall! Seems pretty well nourished to me. I think this will pass. My stepson grumbled about everything I cooked when he was a teenager. If it tasted good, he didn't like the presentation. It wasn't like his mom's. Now that he is a grown man, he says he can't remember being such a jerk, and he loves everything I cook. Everything is relative. I think you are right to just let it go. Owen's behavior serves a purpose for him. Mark's behavior serves a purpose for him. I think you are very wise to just move on. It will pass, like all things.

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    1. Thanks, Beckster. I think and hope this is the last post I ever write about trying to get my kids to eat. It just doesn't matter anymore. I look at Owen and think, my work as a nutritionist is done.

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  8. My teen daughter is also very picky. She's always pretty much liked quesadillas, grilled cheese, and not much else. My husband is like yours and will make her other food later. I'm kind of a foodie and have been frustrated, but I see signs (she's 17 now) of change on the horizon. She's starting to eat different things now (asked for sauce on her pasta!) and yesterday she saw the pumpkin seeds I spread out to dry and asked very specifically if I was going to roast them "with some olive oil and sea salt...yum!" I take that as a good sign that some of my influence has passed on, and I think yours will too.

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    1. I know, they do come around. My daughter Isabel, also 17, is gradually broadening her horizons.

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  9. I'm with you on this one (as with so many other things); the dynamic has been firmly established. On the plus side, it's all Mark's fault! Seriously, you've spent 14 years exposing Owen to new foods, involving him in the selection and preparation of food (note to some commenters: please read the archives of this blog for the hundreds, probably thousands, of hours Tipsy has spent with her children planning and cooking meals before telling her to let them pick a meal or help in the kitchen), and patiently preparing variations of things you think he might like.

    I just wish your cooking talents went to a truly appreciative audience.

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    1. The dynamic is set. Exactly. And now I can just accept it and move on. The family functions beautifully in so many other ways.

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  10. That cauliflower salad sounds great. I'm inclined to agree with you about the oil/vinegar ratio. And why does he always call for canola oil in salads? I find that annoying.

    Not that you asked, but I think you're right to just let it go (re: picky eating) and let him do what he wants. I was an extremely picky eater into my late teens and now I am obsessed with food and will eat pretty much anything.

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    1. This cookbook definitely has quirks. I'm starting to pick up on them as I cook. There's something a tiny bit off in almost every recipe so far.

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    2. Beware! The banana bread recipe is a recipe for disaster. The batter entirely fills the required 9x5 loaf pan. In addition to the loaf, I got six(!) extra muffins. I weighed all dry ingredients, including bananas. Interestingly, he calls for sunflower oil instead of canola oil. I have the U.S. version of the cookbook. Sigh.

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    3. Six extra muffins is no small matter. This is such bad news. I hate when I start to suspect that a cookbook is going to regularly cause problems.

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  11. Tipsy- I love your writing and find your descriptions of your family charming and realistic. I was wondering if you have considered writing about the topic of what you have referred to in the past as "food incompatibility" in a longer format. I am fascinated by the subject and always interested in what you have to say about it. Thanks for all the great posts.

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    1. I don't know how much more I have to say about food incompatibility. I feel like I've been a broken record! I can actually see how it could be much, much worse. For instance if Mark was a vegan, say, or strict Paleo.

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  12. Since everyone has already said everything I would have said about picky eaters, I'll go straight to congratulating you on the interview. Thanks for linking, that was fun to read, and she captured all the things that make me look forward to your writing. I spent some enjoyable hours reading back through your archives shortly after I first discovered this blog.

    Long ago when we got our first gas grill and bought our first grill/barbeque cookbook, I went to the meat counter of a grocery store and asked, as a recipe specified, for a two-inch thick London broil. The meat guy gave me a look and said that no one would buy a cut like that, mainly because it would be so expensive. He suggested something else instead, and I went away feeling less trustful of cookbooks. Sometimes they just lead you astray. Yet another reason why your blog is so valuable.

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  13. As others have commented, he will grow out of it. My eldest daughter wouldn't eat anything if she didn't like the "look" (whatever that was) of it. Now (she's 28) she eats things and tries things that she would never have. My younger one was the daring one - she was eating tuna fish straight out of the can when she was 9 months old - should would even eat raw onions! Now she's a vegetarian - go figure! Although she will eat bacon on "special occasions" :-)

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  14. I feel like I have to comment, because I adore Owen second-hand. Over the years, I have often felt like your food is *tough*. I am sure it is delicious, but it is definitely not for everyone. You choose recipes that are from a very specific taste subset and I think that you and Owen (and I) may not share a palate. For instance, I hate dried fruit. And recipe after recipe, you go for fruit in savory dishes. That entire salad from Plenty More is... not the recipe from Plenty More I would have chosen, even though I like cheddar and roasted cauliflower and I love tart dressings. Owen is probably going to find (like you did and all children eventually do) that one of the truly great parts of growing up is getting to eat whatever you want. Starting with every packaged junk food on the market and moving on to real food after a few years. It's just normal. I'm sure he has a whole list of dishes you make that he loves. My mom is a great cook--has worked in restaurant kitchens--and by the time I left for college, all I wanted was, like, tuna casserole. I just knew it would be awesome. Certainly more awesome than whatever weirdo thing we were eating at home. I realize you probably don't want to hear that. (The good news is that tuna casserole is terrible.)

    My bad news is that I somehow managed to get totally alienated from the kitchen. I'm totally afraid to cook in front of my mother. I'm convinced that she'll criticize how I do things. I won't cook for her and I don't think it's worth it to cook for myself. So. We ended up buying a house together to afford the astronomical housing prices where I live and now I eat her food all the time. Again. At 30-cough. Oy.

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  15. I was also a picky eater as a kid. My husband helped me to learn to try new things, but the main thing was finding the way that *I* like to eat things. I still won't eat raw cauliflower, but roasted is fantastic. Still no baked beans - bleh, what is wrong with those things?? - but have learned to really enjoy lentils, black beans, and chickpeas. My mom laughs at me thinking that I've learned to eat beans, but it's just that I've had beans that I was never offered as a kid in ways that they weren't offered. I love dark leafy greens now, but that's because I put them in to a variety of dishes, don't just boil them and put them on the plate in a giant, mushy/slimy lump. I've come to realize that, as the previous comment said, the way Mom likes things and the way I do are very different. That doesn't mean she wasn't a good cook, just that I have my own mind and my own likes and dislikes. And that's what Owen is finding out too.
    -Luna

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