It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Menu Monday, with a side of Modelling and Reverse Psychology

Monday: Pasta and assorted vegetables with peanut sauce

Tuesday: Rice and dahl, carrot salad

Wednesday: Beef stew, kale salad

Thursday: Potato fish cakes, cooked carrot sticks

Friday: Lentil-beet salad

One day last week, I sat with the children at lunch. It is only recently that I have begun to sit with them when they eat (more on this later in the week), but I do now. I can’t remember what the children were eating that day, but I know was eating something different. I hadn’t been sure that there would be enough for me as well as the children, so I dished out the fresh lunch for them, and hauled out some leftovers for myself.

Roasted asparagus and mushroom, reheated in the microwave for me! NOM. I looooove asparagus, but had never tried it roasted before, and it was delicious. I love mushrooms any way: raw, simmered in a stew, pickled, fried, roasted…

(Food memory: When I was teaching, oh, those many years ago, one of my favourite lunches was a bowl of sliced mushrooms, topped with a generous dollop of grated cheddar. When I got to the staff room at lunch time, I’d sploosh on a bit of water, top the bowl with a plate, and cook it in the microwave until the mushrooms were dark and limp and had released their juices. The result: a bowl of cheesy mushrooms in a terrific broth. Not enough broth to call it a soup, but something like that. Sooooo good, and so easy!)

So, roasted asparagus and mushrooms. My lunch. We all sit down and commence to chat. Soon, five pairs of eyes are rivetted on my fork.

“What is that, Mary?”

“Asparagus. I thought maybe there wasn’t enough of what you’re having for me. I wanted to make sure you guys got enough, so I’m having something different.”

Five pairs of eyes stare longingly at my fork. I thought I could get away with this! None of them like mushrooms, and, though I haven’t tried it with them this year yet, I figured asparagus would be suspect. The grass really is greener on the other side of the dining table, isn’t it?

But I don’t want to share!

And from that dawns A Plan. Or at least, an Idea. Wonder if it’ll work?

“You have your lunches. Eat, eat! Go on! This is mine.” But I pitch my voice carefully. This is not my “And I mean business!” voice, which they don’t generally argue with. This voice is more playful. Just serious enough, but not too serious.

And it works. They keep staring.

“Mmmm,” I look at my fork, chew blissfully, “this is good, good asparagus.” I am not aware of my audience. No, no, no. I am just musing to myself about the glorious yumminess that is asparagus. (Which is sincere, people. I love asparagus. And this roasted asparagus is goooood.) Then my eyes focus past my fork. I abruptly and dramatically become aware of my audience. Let my eyes pop open in surprise. Flap my hand at them, in a shoo, shoo motion. “Go on, you guys. Eat your lunch.” Big smile.

They chew, morosely. Staring at my food. Which is obviously much, much better than theirs.

“Oh, all right.” I sigh. “Do you want a taste?”

“Yeah!”

“Okay, but just one bite. There are FIVE of you! I don’t want you to eat ALL my lunch!”

Into each mouth goes one bite of asparagus. Four of five children eat with visible enthusiasm. I am quite sure that Jazz, Ms. Contrarian and Ms. Non-Eater who mostly lives on air, eats because she knows I don’t want to share. Mwah-ha.

I take another mouthful myself. Five pairs of eyes stare at me.

“Is that good, Mary?” Grace asks.

“Yes. And it’s mine. You had your taste.”

“But what is that?” Because, of course, I have made sure to fill this fork with mushrooms, not the asparagus they just had.

“It’s mine.” I don’t say ‘mushrooms’, because they KNOW they don’t like mushrooms. If they don’t recognize these dark, limp bits on my plate as mushrooms, I’m not telling.

Stare, stare, stare.

“Wait. You guys want a taste of this, too????” I let some playful incredulity slip into my voice. “But this is MY lunch!” They giggle.

“I want some!” Rory declares.
“Yeah! I want your lunch!” Jazz giggles.

“But what will I eat?”

“May I have some, PLEASE?” Sweet Grace softens me up by giving me the Full and Complete Polite Sentence, accompanied by the classic Grace sweeter-than-sweet full-bore beaming Smile of Adorability.

With a dramatic sigh, I pop a piece of mushroom — MUSHROOM! — into five waiting mouths. (Starting with Grace, who asked politely.)

“Okay, are we done? Can I eat my lunch now?”

“NO!” Jazz is totally, totally into this game. Jazz, who loathes mushrooms with a fiery passion. Who has been known to gag on mushrooms. “I want more!”

“But this is MY lunch!! What will I eat???”

And so it goes. One bite for me, one bite, over my loud and indignant protest, to each of them. Eventually Jazz realized that she didn’t really like those things. (Though she views all food but pasta, bread and crackers with suspicion, I think her dislike of mushrooms is neither a fad nor a power gambit, but quite, quite genuine. And yet she just ate about six in a row. Heh.) They ate nearly all my asparagus, too.

So they each had probably a quarter cup of asparagus and mushroom, all told. And then they ate their own lunches. (Don’t worry: Mary did not starve. There was more in the fridge, and there it stayed until the little beggars were safely tucked away for nap/quiet time.)

I think I’ve discovered a way to introduce new foods to these little monkeys… Devious for the win!!!

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June 4, 2012 - Posted by | food | , , ,

6 Comments »

  1. Hee! This is my favorite trick for the Little Dude. He has picked kale out of my soup, eaten spicy tofu, discovered his love for beans, you name it. As long as it’s on my plate he wants some! Too bad it doesn’t work on Big Brother who is rather like Jazz.

    It’s a great strategy, and it’s going to join my repertoire. What is it, really, but good modelling … with a tinge of manipulation, I grant you, but still! Modelling! To be honest, though, I didn’t expect it to work with Jazz. I figured she’d be my hold-out. Nice when you’re pleasantly surprised!

    Comment by Samantha | June 4, 2012 | Reply

  2. I’ve found that this also works even if you have the exact same thing on your plate as they do!

    Well, then. I’ll store that one away for next time. (Another good reason to eat with the children!)

    Comment by Grace Goldragon | June 4, 2012 | Reply

  3. I have a Jazz, too., He eats his asparagus solely because it will make his pee smell funny. Works for me.

    Hahahahahahaha! So we won’t be telling him that coffee makes your pee smell like cigarette butts? (Or maybe that’s just me…?)

    Comment by Tuesy | June 4, 2012 | Reply

  4. My Daughter does this all the time, whether it be the same thing she has or something different. Whatever is on Mommy’s plate MUST be better than what she has on hers.

    Comment by Melissa V | June 4, 2012 | Reply

  5. I love that trick! I did this recently with roasted cauliflower (pretty sure that ANY vegetable roasted = win). Evan wouldn’t touch it, until we wouldn’t let him have any. And when Andrew (who was too little for it, but anything going in our mouths is fair game for him, as far as he’s concerned) wanted some, Evan was all over it and then he wouldn’t stop eating roasted cauliflower.

    Also, eating with the kids it pretty much the best way to help them learn to like lots of things, I’m convinced. I act like I don’t care if they eat or don’t eat, but my food is soooooo good. I’ll even take away their plates if they don’t want what they have… “Good, more for me!” I tell them.

    Comment by rosie_kate | June 4, 2012 | Reply

  6. […] week, they tried roasted asparagus and mushrooms (even Jazz!), because I was sitting at the table, eating with them. We’re having fun, […]

    Pingback by Food, Meals, Food Culture « It’s Not All Mary Poppins | June 7, 2012 | Reply


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