Genetic Persistence

Think about it.  We generally feed our kids what we like to eat.  We generally don’t feed our kids what we don’t like to eat.  It’s a nasty cycle.

Take our house, for instance.  I hate hot dogs and cooked peas.  Setting aside the bare and basic truth that hot dogs aren’t even really a food, it follows that I probably wouldn’t serve my kids these things anyway.  I don’t.  Three out of my four kids claim to hate hot dogs too, though I know from my ancient and as-yet-unused UCLA degree in psychology that their hatred is most likely perceived and not real, thanks to mom’s years of conditioning them with my gagging noises and barfing charades whenever either food is mentioned.

My hatred of these two things is so well known that every year the cooks at the camp I run manage to slip some form of both into some dish or craft or other, served especially for me.  I’ve been served hot dog chimichangas with pea salsa (even grosser than it sounds, believe me); I’ve returned to my tent to find it decorated with very, very carefully dried and hand-strung pea strings, like tiny little disgusting Christmas lights (in Bear Country, no less); once I found a giant pea sculpture hanging from the trees over my bed (a “pee-nata” instead of a pinata.  Awesome, and it’s still hanging in my garage); I’ve even been awarded an honest to goodness Miss America-style Pea Queen sash and tiara, made of peas, of course.  One year they made hot dog men and hung them from the trees, welcoming me into camp.  One especially crafty cook took a hotdog, dressed it up to look like a Hawaiian hula dancer, and left it in my mailbox.  I perched it in the kitchen (the only real Bear-proof building in camp) and we watched it sort of dry out a bit but remain rather unchanged over the course of the summer.  I accidentally left it there when we closed camp for the season, only to find it the following summer in exactly the same condition we left it ten months earlier.  If anyone ever had any lingering beliefs that hot dogs are truly a food, they were dispelled that July when we opened the kitchen door to find Hula Hot Dog smiling happily back at us.  Even the winter mice left her alone.  Winter mice will eat other winter mice poop.  They’ll also eat each other.  But not hot dogs.

So of course it’s natural for us to want to spare our children the horrors of the foods we have grown to loathe.  This is fine when it comes to hot dogs, but can be extremely troublesome when a parent’s palate is not very evolved or varied.  I figure my kids will survive if the only vegetable I refuse to serve is cooked, nasty, squishy, smelly peas; but what about the kids whose parents are truly vegetable haters?  It must be quite a drag to have to constantly respond to the question “but if you don’t have to eat it, why do I have to eat it?” with the answer “because I said so” or some other such nonsense.  I have three kids who swear they hate hot dogs, though I’ve never, never served them.  I’m actually sickly (and now publicly) proud of their choice, but I know it’s my own dislike of hot dogs that has made them believe they, too, hate the things.    What if (heaven forbid) I hated something, or many things, that would actually enrich their palates or health?

Fortunately, this is a recipe that can turn a vegetable-hating-parent into someone who can actually serve vegetables to a kid and eat them too.  Of course it includes bacon, my own personal form of Kid MSG and the very best way to get kid #1 to try absolutely anything.  It also uses one of the coolest looking vegetable creations ever — Brussels sprouts, especially if you can get them in their natural state — still attached to the stalk.  Trader Joe’s carries huge stalks for $2.99 this time of year, and they’re fantastic.  Stick the stalks into a bowl of cool water and they’ll stay fresh and alien-looking on the counter for a week or more.  Then when you snap off the little sprouts, speaking from recent experience, the kids can use the stalk as a light saber.

I know several people who will automatically ignore this recipe because they think they hate Brussels sprouts.  You know who you are…just add more white wine to the recipe and get over it.  Try it before you decide they’re gross — and especially before you convince your kids they’re gross, before they even get a chance to decide for themselves.  Find the recipe here, on my site.

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One thought on “Genetic Persistence

  1. We call them “Martian Heads” and I actually loved them growing up. For me just lightly steamed with a glistening sheen of butter. Mmmmmm… We find it challenging (okay, I find it challenging) because my husband is not a vegetable eater while I treat veggies like they are dessert. This past Thanksgiving I gorged on broccoli and went back for thirds. Luckily my daughters love veggies too. I have a great recipe for Chicken Tetrazzini that sneaks in a lot of carrots and zucchini that slide right down without anyone knowing it.

    Great article by the way. I have learned that hot dogs and peas are so much more versatile than I thought and that you work with a bunch of sadistic Martha Stewarts. Rock on!

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