It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Picky eaters don’t fade away…

they just grow up and get rude…

Remember how I advised you to deal with the pickiness now, before it becomes a life-long habit?

It seems that, along with those words of wisdom, I should also address the issue of older children who believe that everyone should cater to their dietary whims as mommy does. Because those older children become teens who become adults — who still hold to this ridiculous notion. You are not just creating picky eaters, you are creating Dinner Guests from Hell.

Follow that link! The article is acerbic, fun, and her conclusion — I expect you to eat what you can, ignore the rest and not make trouble — absolutely bang on. If all those picky adults’ parents had followed her advice (and mine!) years ago, we none of us would be facing these dilemmas today.

Won’t eat dark meat… good lord.

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November 23, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , ,

8 Comments »

  1. Mind boggling. Not in a million years would it occur to me to call up someone who’s invited me to dinner and make requests/demands about the menu.

    I totally agree that her conclusion is spot on.

    Unless you have a potentially deadly allergy, you let the cook prepare what she will. If you have a mild allergy, so something on the menu makes your eyes itch… don’t eat it. If you just don’t really much care for it? Eat it. Oh, and be grateful for the friend who cooks for you. Jeez.

    Comment by Zayna | November 23, 2009 | Reply

  2. When I was a kid, I was allowed to avoid the foods that I had a pre-established hatred of, such as fish and eggs. My mother didn’t serve them to me and would prepare me a burger or something if she and Dad had salmon – her only sign of deference to my dislikes, because she knew that I had tried them a number of times and continued to dislike them.

    …unless we were company at someone’s house. If we were served salmon, or my grandmother’s seafood choweder, or omlettes, I was to eat without complaint. This was so ingrained into me that I don’t even remember struggling about it. It was just SO. Refusing what I was served was impolite, and therefore entirely verboten.

    The only time I got leave to eat something else was the time I was served an omlette – and we discovered that I didn’t just dislike eggs, I was physically incapable of keeping them in my stomach. My great aunt made me toast instead.

    Years later, going through my old baby book, I discovered and pointed out to my mother that I had had an allergic reaction to egg when she first fed it to me. Much was explained.

    But fish, sadly, I still have to eat!

    I remember going to a birthday party when I was seven. Now, when you’re seven, “birthday party” means hot dogs, pizza, cake and ice cream. Maybe, if the family is particularly health-conscious, veggies and dip. Imagine my dismay, then, when this lovely family provided me with chicken, mashed potatoes and… BEETS. These days, I quite like beets, but when I was seven? Not so much.

    But did I complain? Did I refuse to eat it? Of course not. Like you, that option never even occurred to me. I did complain, vigourously, to my mother when I got home. “You didn’t forget to thank her, did you?” Because for my mother, too, the thought that I would refuse to eat it simply didn’t occur… but she did think I might not have thought to say “thank you” for BEETS.

    (Did I? I can’t remember. I hope I did…)

    Comment by ifbyyes | November 23, 2009 | Reply

  3. We have friends from college who are incredibly picky people. Two of them will eat no fruits or vegetables, period, and the other does not eat fruit because of the “texture.” After years of sharing meals of meat, bread, and cheese with these crazy people, I finally just stopped having them over to eat.

    That said, the vegans who live across the street are never rude about it. And they’ll even eat a salad with feta cheese on it or put some pesto (parmesan in my pesto) on a cracker. I’m not going to serve up big steaks for them, because I’m not rude either, but I’m not going to veganize my meal unreasonably.

    My approach is the same as the woman who wrote that article: I serve a balanced, nutritious meal, and let people eat (or don’t eat) what they will. Heck, that’s what I do with two-year-olds. Why should I expect less of adults?

    Someone who eats no produce whatsoever would be filling up on rice and chicken, I guess. Vegetarianism is the easiest dietary preference, I find, because every healthy meal has a couple of vegetable dishes in it. Veganism is a little harder, but I wouldn’t get insulted if I found a small pile of cheese left on the plate.

    Comment by bridgett | November 23, 2009 | Reply

  4. Oh lordy. It’s hard to believe people really do that. We are vegetarians and I often mention that because friends tend to feel bad if they have us over for something that we are not likely to eat, but I always say not to fuss, that a salad or a side dish is fine and that I’m sure whatever they do will be lovely.

    We’ve had a cousin visiting with us for a couple of months now, and she’s vegetarian. It just isn’t that difficult to accomodate. When I made turkey chili for the whole family, I pulled some of the broth aside before I added the meat, and put beans and tofu in it. Same strategy for chicken pot pie, and any soups or stews. I’m probably most sympathetic to this dietary preference, because I see it as very healthy, hence my willingness to accommodate it. When I served roast beef, I made sure there were two vegetable dishes, made the Yorkshire pudding with veg. shortening instead of beef drippings, and provided her a bowl of chick peas to put in her salad. It’s just not that hard.

    I wanted to report some progress in our house since Mary’s last food post. We have taken inspiration from you and begun to be more insistent that our children eat what we eat. We were never overboard with the special-this and special-that, but it was getting to be more of a headache than I wanted.

    Our new policies are having good effect. Our son (almost 6) has been more willing than expected to just eat whatever we serve once we pushed him a bit. Yeah!

    Good for you! And for him!

    Our daughter (almost 2) has been more random and more recalcitrant. Veggie soup that is gobbled up one night is completely refused the next, etc. I suppose at 2 this is to be expected, but I am not sure she understands what we say when we tell her that this is it for dinner. We’ll keep at it.

    You’re describing typical two behaviour. She may not understand your words, but she’ll get the concept through experience. Keep it up — it won’t be too long before you see distinct improvement, and by the time she’s three (and past the negativity of two), she’ll be a varied and reliable eater. Well done!

    Comment by Sarah | November 23, 2009 | Reply

  5. I was always taught if we were visiting others, take a small portion (you can always ask for more if you like it), try everything at least once, and be quiet and gracious about it. After all your hosts took time and effort to make a meal for you, at least be appreciative. I never once had an issue where a meal had Nothing I could eat.
    I’m trying to raise my children to be the same way. I can’t even imagine calling to request specifics.

    The exception is that we do have friends with children with major food allergies (milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts) and for them? I ask when they come over and generally they will bring some “safe” food for their son and the rest of us will eat what I have prepared.

    Calling to inform the hostess that your son requires a pasta dish at each meal. Outrageous! It’s bad enough that you’re letting him be a food tyrant at home, but now you’re demanding that the rest of the world do it, too. And then they’ll wonder where this boy got his demanding sense of entitlement… yeesh.

    Yes, life-threatening allergies are the clear exception to the “eat what you’re served” rule, and I like your solution. But how many allergies are life-threatening? Most are simply inconvenient. If something on your plate could kill you, you can reasonably expect not to have it on your plate. If something on your plate will merely make your skin itchy, or your nose snuffly, you can reasonably be expected to eat around it. Without comment.

    Comment by Dani | November 23, 2009 | Reply

  6. Basically, yes. I agree with what the author says: eat what you can, and leave the rest. There is always white meat and dark meat on chicken. You are an adult and perfectly capable of saying what kind of meat you want.

    I cater to food allergies – I have a friend who has celiac disease and cannot tolerate gluten at all. I have another friend who is vegetarian and is perfectly happy to eat side dishes. I just make sure the salad has a bit of protein in it like chickpeas and will toss in an avocado too. I make it abundantly clear to anyone coming over that I will only cater to allergies. There are always dishes for vegans and vegetarians.

    “There are always dishes for vegans and vegetarians.” Yes, there are, making those the easiest to accommodate. As for allergies, my approach has always been that if it’s life-threatening, of course! If it will put the person in pain for hours, or cause vomitting or other bodily horrors, yes! But if we’re talking sniffles and itchy eyes? They can just eat around the offending food. Quietly.

    Comment by Nicole | November 23, 2009 | Reply

  7. I am a picky eater (but I’ve met worse and I have gotten lots better as I’ve gotten older!) but I was also raised to be polite about what was served- to just take what I want and avoid what I don’t. If it was a main dish, my mother taught me to at least take a small amount and try it.
    However, my entire life, the host (or someone else) has ALWAYS said, “Oh don’t you want any squash?” the second they see I don’t have any. OR if I take food and eat around or leave a bit- that is always commented on too “OH! Didn’t you like the squash?!” Talk about being put on the spot! What am I to do then? I think it’s equally as rude to comment on someone else’s plate as it is to be a demanding guest.

    The second question shouldn’t be asked unless the host/ess can deal with a potentially uncomfortable answer. (Would he/she really welcome, “Actually I normally love squash, but you’ve scorched it”? If not, don’t ask.)

    That first question is innocuous enough, though. Perhaps you really wanted squash, and just didn’t see it on the table, or maybe it didn’t get passed to you. Your host/ess won’t know without asking, in which case I think it’s perfectly all right to give a cheery, “Yes, it looks lovely, but I’m not a big fan of squash”… at which point the conversation should shift to something else. (In fact, you can switch it. Since this happens to you routinely, have your next sentence prepared in advance! Deflect attention from your eating patterns to the host’s children, or a showing at the local gallery, or the weather or a great book you’re reading…) A host who pressures you to eat is indeed being rude, while a dinner guest who can move the conversation along in a sprightly manner is a gift to any social occasion!

    Of course, a lot depends on the tone of voice in which the quesion is asked, and I’m guessing you’ve often been asked in tones of obvious disapproval. In that case, you’re quite right again: it’s rude.

    Comment by Jenn | November 23, 2009 | Reply

  8. Sophie is a pro at the “It looks lovely but I’m not a big fan of squash/potatoes/dark meat. I’d love to have more of the rice/steak/salad, though, if you could pass that!” and she’s NINE. How did she come by it? Constant reminders at home. We’re always getting compliments on her table manners.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: insufferable children grow up to be insufferable adults. I’m doing my best to make sure I don’t produce insufferable adults.

    Comment by Candace | November 23, 2009 | Reply


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