I wonder if we haven’t all, at some point or another during our parenting years, tried to fool our children with some food replacement or trickery. You know what I mean: hide wheat bran or ground flax in a favourite dish; make them some kind of cookie with a purée of vegetables mixed in*; tell them that it’s something that it isn’t. There’s even a cookbook by Missy Chase Lepine (which is fabulous and deserves attention even without the whole Seinfeld controversy) with recipes which everyone in the family loves, even knowing about the puréed veggies.
In our case, we’ve really only done “food trickery” with the Girl. The Boy, as noted before, is definitely an adventurous eater. With the Girl, we’ve had to resort to either deliberately denying that something she doesn’t like, is in there, or outright lying and telling her that it’s something else. Most of the time, it used to be the line, “It’s chicken.”
“Mama, what is this?” she’d ask, starting at about the age of three, fearing that it was some kind of seafood.
“Oh, okay. It doesn’t taste like chicken, but it’s good.”
Now, don’t think that we were being deliberately cruel, forcing our child to eat something that she shouldn’t have; she had never shown any sort of allergy to seafood, and in fact, had at one time loved tilapia and other white fish, and had tried shrimp without hating it. But something in her made her refuse to eat fish and shrimp, even though if she did not know, she did not object to them. So it was always, “It’s chicken” for the longest time. And I have to say, we were proud of ourselves for cooking so well that we could adequately disguise something like shrimp as chicken.
Until one day, I don’t know how it came about, I made a confession. It must have been a conversation we were having about seafood, about how everyone in the family loved lobster, except her. She defiantly told me that she would never eat lobster, shrimp, or fish—any kind of seafood.
“You know what?” I said to her with a hint of delight. “You have many times, and liked it. Remember one time you liked that thing wrapped in bacon, and we told you it was chicken? It was scallop. We’ve told you seafood was chicken many times.”
“You know what?” she answered, seemingly with equal delight. “I think I always knew. Sometimes it didn’t taste like chicken.”
I was blown away with surprise. So all this time, she had known, and hadn’t said anything? And even when she knows, she doesn’t mind? (This week, she said, “There are seeds in my scrambled eggs.” “Yeah,” I replied. “It’s zuchinni.” “Oh, okay,” and she popped it into her mouth.)
It’s pretty great having a child who knows that she’s being fooled some of the time, and doesn’t put up a fight, letting you continue the farce for her own good.
. . .
* One of our favourite cookies-with-veggies recipes, modified slightly from this recipe:
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/4 cup organic cane sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour OR whole wheat flour mix
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 3/4 cups grated zucchini
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
- In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; gradually stir into the creamed mixture. Fold in the grated zucchini. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.