Culinary Minefield

Zachary rang out 2009 much the same way he rang it in: complaining about dinner and eating nothing.  Come to think of it, that’s how he spent the last half a decade.

We went around the table, performing our nightly ritual of asking each person what the worst and best parts of the day had been.  Zachary’s worst?  “You making food I don’t like for dinner.”

Hmmm.  “Well, babe, that’s a mighty short list: foods you don’t like.”

“No it’s not.  It’s a very long list,” he spat back.  Five-year-olds lack a capacity for sarcasm.  He went on: “You can’t just make food for one person.  You have to think about everyone.”

“Dude.  I made pizza. I am pretty sure I was thinking about you.  Do you think Daddy and I want to eat pizza?”  My husband, mid-bite, shook his head.  The pizza was unbelievably bland by the time I left out the garlic and olive oil to which Lilah is allergic and the various herbs to which Zachary would no doubt have vociferous objections.  Benjamin was far too engaged in his third piece of pizza to bother telling us the best part of his day.

No one knows why Zach elects not to eat.  All we know is that food is enormously stressful for him.  We’ve tried hard to make our house a stress-free zone.  I bake muffins with all the fruits and veggies pureed in.  We buy the fruits he likes.  We try to make sure there is one healthful item at each dinner that he will enjoy, even if it is just fresh, whole wheat bread.  Going out to eat is another story.  It is an experience fraught with potential disasters.  Butter!  Sauce!  Green things!

How is a small boy to know what could show up on his plate in a place as wildly out of control as a restaurant?

I feel sad for him.  While the rest of the world is out, gorging on flavors of all sorts, Zachary is hiding in the corner, terrified that someone might try to slip some butter onto his popcorn.

Life, I am quite certain, is not meant to be lived this way.

9 responses to “Culinary Minefield

  1. My sister was a really picky eater growing up (me, not so much). When she was ready, she ate. I am sure he will do the same.

  2. My little girls tries and eats anything and everything, but she has a LOT of neuroses about the, you know, result of eating, and it’s just this huge, stressful, unhappy, scary, life-controlling thing for her. And us. And so I sympathize.

  3. It can indeed be so stressful, for them and for us. Like you I try to be sure there is one thing he likes — even if it is just a handful of carrots thrown on his plate. But now that he is older, I’ve drawn a line (a bit). And when I cook an actual meal (which sadly isn’t always) there is not alternatives. My sister allowed her picky eater to make her own cheese sandwich on tough nights. I may do that now that he is possibly old enough, but it could be a slippery slope. I also give nights where he totally gets to pick and remind him he needs to suck it up the other nights.

    Regardless, it is just not fun I know. *sigh*

  4. She Started It

    My brother is in his thirties. He still does not eat. I’m not saying this to frustrate you — just to tell you to not be so hard on yourself. My mother used to beat herself up about it, and now here’s my brother — very happy, healthy, and with a beautiful family. His eating habits didn’t hurt him in the end.

  5. my kids go through phases like this but none have been as complex as what you are going through, the pediatrician has always told me to relax, that the child will not starve him/herself and if i feel he/she is not getting enough good stuff to supplement with a vitamin.

    Growing up my sister had a laundry list of food allergies OH MY GRAVY did she ever, I have no idea how my mom managed to make all home cooked meals with this huge list in mind, but she did, and we all ate the same things…. she didn’t want Amy to feel differently, and since she never talked about, we didn’t realize we were getting a different diet either, we didn’t always like it, but we knew mom was not a short order cook and it was eat what she made or dont eat at all!

  6. My son has pretty hefty sensory issues and a lot of them center around food. The smells, the textures, the tastes, the sounds made when the food is chewed! For years he ate only a small handful of foods and nothing we did changed it. Even two years of food therapy didn’t do it. Then one day he suddenly started to eat. It was like someone flipped a switch in his head. He’s still what most people would call a “picky eater” but at least now he eats a decent variety of foods. Maybe something similar will happen to Zachary.

    Or maybe not. Maybe he’ll always be an extra sensitive eater. The good news is that at least you give him healthy foods. So many kids with a limited diet just end up eating crap.

  7. It’s so sad to me that with our food-obsessed culture, we end up with perfectly normal children having neuroses about their food. Hope he does grow out of it, out of the neuroses I have myself. I agree- life is meant to be lived with buttered popcorn.

  8. My husband and I love pizza, our son does not. I gave him a pizza and swim party for his birthday. He ate apples.

  9. If it makes you feel better, until I was 12 I ate nothing but hot dogs (no bun, only ketchup), pizza (only cheese), peanut butter and crackers (but not Ritz crackers), pancakes, waffles, french toast and apple juice. Seriously, I think that was the whole list! Now I regularly make dinners like curried pumpkin soup and lemon brussels sprout risotto for my family, including a 2 year old. It does get better. For me it happened when my family sent me to Yugoslavia at 12 to visit friends and I was too embarrassed to keep up with my restricted diet.