Kid #4 now eats mushrooms. Victory is mine.
This is more than just a silly little fungal triumph; this is about getting a kid to trust, to tackle apprehension, and most impressively to admit she was wrong and adopt a new way of thinking. These steps, now burned into the newly-created neural pathways in her 11-year old brain, will help her in ways that go far beyond portobello cream soup and oyster mushroom calamari (though, yes, on a very fundamental level I am probably more excited about the prospect of now being able to add these things to The List than I am about the more ephemeral gains I admit my human brain doesn’t consciously rejoice over without a bit of prodding).
I’ve spoken briefly in this blog about the camp I run. Thanks to this endeavor, I annually come into contact with about 400 people, mostly female, 300 of whom are under 18. We collect evaluations and surveys from as many of these folks as possible, and without exception every single person has something to say about the food we serve. Believe it or not, most adore it and I’d be lying if I said we didn’t flaunt the fact that our food is definitely not typical of camps anywhere, in its variety, quantity, and certainly quality. But more important than the accolades, we’re always struck by the intense, unwavering passion with which people express their food opinions, be they positive or negative.
We eat family style at camp, so on a typical day I may sit with 16 other people, mainly kids. I am no longer frustrated or infuriated by their general collective unwillingness to try something they’ve never seen before, something their moms may not fix for them at home, something that doesn’t come out of a microwave, something that isn’t deep fried, etc. The frustrating part comes when a kid actually does try it, decides it’s not too terrible, and then still refuses to eat it. In our culture it is sadly more important to be right than to alter one’s opinion based on data received and experiences gained.
One other example of this occurred at my daughter’s birthday party a couple years ago. One guest has grown up with my daughter, literally, as her own mother and I were in kindergarten together, were pregnant together, and they were born 29 days apart (and those were long, long, long, long days, as I was due first yet hers decided to appear early but mine decided to not make a showing til she was three weeks overdue…not that I’m still bitter or anything…). We had a chef party, where I prepped most of the food ahead of time but the girls were responsible for finishing the cutting, measuring, sauteeing, baking, etc. of a multi-course gourmet meal, which they then served to their parents and guests a few hours later. I’ll talk more about this in an upcoming post, but for now, know that it was a riot and we had a ball…but what was really fun was watching girls, including this particular one, try food their parents swore they’d never eat. This girl cut asparagus, cooked asparagus, and ate asparagus. I have pictures to prove it.
Yet it’s my understanding that in the presence of her mother she still refuses to eat it. This is pretty typical of the kids at camp, too…I watch kids eat foods there I know they don’t eat at home, I report to their parents, and then a few weeks later I get an amused email from them telling me their daughters won’t eat said food at home.
So this is why our mushroom triumph here is such a big deal. It’s not about the future of shiitake ravioli in this house, but about a lesson of growth and learning and acceptance that will hopefully bleed over into other areas of her life. Particularly, perhaps, the whole dumping-dirty-clothes-two-feet-from-the-hamper thing. Still working on that.