Deal Breakers

Some people may think it would be easy to find food that four kids would happily and energetically eat. Maybe, but here is a list of my personal deal breakers, ingredients and other things that earn a recipe, any recipe, a quick trip to the trash can.

1. Cream of mushroom soup. Cream of anything soup. Actually, any canned soup at all.
2. Hot dogs. Grossest food ever.
3. Mayonnaise. I’ll make my own mayo for certain things, but not in vast creamy-gooey-salad-type quantities.
4. Canned peas. Holdover from my youth.
5. Anything with the phrase “pot roast” in it.
6. Anything with the word “casserole” in it.
7. Anything that requires American cheese or bologna.
8. Ketchup.
9. Any recipe with the word “surprise” in it.
10. Anything with both “jello” and “salad” in the title.

There are probably more, but these ten come to mind quickly.

These ten rules also eliminate most of the recipes from my own youth. I don’t tend to rely heavily on a recipe anyway, but I do like some guidance sometimes. I rely on good foodie websites, like Chow and various high-end restaurant menus posted online (love Acquerello), and even Epicurious when I want a complete recipe, and I have a vast cooking library of everything from my Escoffier to my newest prize, Arabesque, a beautiful book on Turkish, Moroccan and Lebanese cuisine by Claudia Roden. So it’s not like I don’t have access to a wealth of options.

My problem, plain and simple, is that my kids’ tastes do not jive with my and my husband’s tastes. Plus, kid #1’s dealbreakers don’t jive with kid #2’s, #3’s or #4’s, etc… For a while one kid refused to eat anything with cheese. Fine — that’s easy to deal with. But kid #2 refused to eat anything that was mixed with anything else. Ok — more difficult, but still ok. But kid #3 refused to eat anything that was crunchy. Again, ok. However, when kid #4 refused to eat something if kid #2 liked it, I started the 100% list…it was more of a challenge to them to come to some sort of an agreement than anything else, but it has since turned into a personal challenge for me to fill that annoying bisque colored piece of paper tacked to the inside of my pantry door with menu titles and enticing dishes that fit all of our criteria. Who knew it would be this difficult?

I know I’m a stubborn person. I refuse to allow them to wallow in their pickiness. If a kid doesn’t like what I fix for dinner, he or she is allowed to fix a bowl of cereal. But if the dish is on The 100% List, they’re SOL. You loved it once, you’ll eat it again. Period. I refuse to raise a bunch of hot dog eating, chicken nugget loving kids.

I know my kids are living in a slightly odd environment compared to their peers. They pull their granola bars and fruit snacks from a pantry shelf that, at the moment, also contains four different types of dried seaweed, six different types of rice and five different types of salt. They didn’t eat baby food from a jar. They actually know what a tagine is, what coq au vin means, the difference between the good knives and the it’s-ok-for-you-to-cut-your-fruit-roll-ups-on-the-counter-with-them knives, why the crystal doesn’t go through the dishwasher, and why mom has no fewer than 43 ramekins in all sizes and shapes that we really do use all the time. But, despite the very well-stocked wine fridge in the den, the jars of homemade prickly pear ginger chutney from the cactus in the side yard, the cubes of three different kinds of homemade pesto in the freezer, the 26 jars of home-cured olives in the second fridge, the rotating herb and vegetable garden that fills our yard 12 months of the year, and the three kinds of aged goat cheese in the cheese drawer, they’d still rather eat mac and cheese from a paper plate on their laps while watching football on a Sunday evening.

Enough bitching. Time to figure out what to cook tomorrow night.

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