The newest member of our two parent-four kid-two cat-one lizard-one snake household is a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog puppy named Ella. At nearly 50 lbs, this 5-month old is in the middle of her puppy training, though it’s really more like people training than anything else. The main thing we’ve learned, aside from the fact that nothing makes her bark more than seeing my reflection in the mirror, is that puppies cannot generalize. Being able to sit and stay in one room does not mean she has any clue how to sit and stay in any other room. And following dad’s commands doesn’t mean she can follow kid #3’s commands. And learning it’s not ok to pee on the carpet downstairs does not mean she knows it’s not ok to pee on the carpet upstairs.
This got me to thinking about how completely opposite this inability to generalize is to our eating habits. I’m personally guilty of deciding that, for example, if I hated cooked carrots boiled without salt or pepper or anything at all except their overall overwhelming carrot-y-ness as a child, I therefore would hate cooked carrots in all forms. Forever. Many people believe if they hate sliced mushrooms in sauce (kid #4, I’m talking to you), they’ll obviously hate all mushrooms all the time. The way most parents overcome this over-generalization by their kids is to simply lie to them, hiding the hated food any way they can, and tricking the poor kid into eating it before belting out a “Ha! Got you!” and triumphing in their apparent “win.” However, more often than not that kid will still refuse to eat said hated food, and inevitably learns to be wary of all food placed in front of him, wondering what morsel of nausea-inducing food mom and dad have slipped him this time.
I’ve decided not to lie about what foods I’m feeding the kids. This may be a good thing, or it may be a bad thing — I’m sure I could find evidence to support both sides of this ridiculous argument. But the fact remains that our overactive habit of generalizing our food preferences can lead to missed opportunities or, if we’re lucky, surprising discoveries.
Such was the case a few weeks ago. My long-time friend Glenna has hosted a fabulous Halloween brunch for ten years now, and always serves what, until this year, I thought was a delicious sweet potato souffle. I overheard someone mention something about carrots after I’d already enjoyed two helpings of this souffle, and that’s when I somewhat nervously asked what exactly was in this dish. Turns out two pounds of carrots, cooked til they’re squishy, is the main ingredient — and I realized my Carrot Hating Generalization from my youth has probably prevented me from discovering other delicious forms of this food that, until this October, I believed I absolutely hated — in every cooked shape or form.
This mistaken discovery quickly made it onto the 100 Percent List, and I think I’ve made it six times since October. In fact, the kids wolf it down so quickly that the only photo I have is one of an empty souffle dish — seriously. I’m not particularly adept at remembering to take photos of food, but finally after our third Thanksgiving celebration, I figured I’d better get a shot of something. The photo is included with the recipe, here.
Not the first thing I thought I’d learn from puppy training, to be sure. But if we, as eaters, were more like puppies, perhaps the word “picky” and “eater” would no longer be inseparably combined.
The List now sits at 17…