Friday, August 29, 2014

Food Fights

Food; we all need it to live. But do you eat to live or live to eat? In my family, depending upon the day, we are a bit of both. I love good food and since I am the cook in the family won't hesitate to spend hours in the kitchen perfecting the perfect dish or full blown meal. I actually find all of the tinkering and experimenting to be relaxing but when the cooking is done, I like to sit down, relax and enjoy my meal. Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen. Rather food is alternatively inhaled with gusto or pushed around on plates; often before I've even had my first frustrating but part of my food reality. So this leads to my desire to eat to live with simple and easy dishes gracing our table.

So how do I please everyone's culinary desires? Many times it comes down to the issue of how many dinners can I make on a single night. Do I make three separate meals, as I've done a few times recently, two or a single modified one where we all must either eat what is in front of us or go without dinner? My inclination is to go with the later but as a food lover, the thought of all of us being unsatisfied at the end of the meal is downright discouraging. Three balanced meals is simply too much work so our dinners tend to fall somewhere along the lines of option number two. I try to find foods that we will all enjoy but sometimes it is just so hard. I love fish and seafood, just about every vegetable I've ever encountered and am always game for trying something new. The boys in my family....not so much.

Our family food battles used to be confined to our home. Last year I sent Sidney to school where four days a week he was served a varied and nutritious Belgian lunch. (I still provided a nutritious snack). He didn't always like what was put on this plate but under the pressure of his Madame he was at least trying new foods. And much to our delight there were foods he never would have tried at home that he actually ended up liking at school. But gradually I began to hear complaints. Other kids got to bring their own lunches. According to Sidney, they got to eat chips and cookies and drink soda for lunch and he wanted to do the same. On occasion Sidney would bring a home baked cookie as a snack but he wanted plastic wrapped Hostess treats instead. After all, that is what all of the other (American) kids got to eat.

All summer long Sidney has been nagging me to be able to bring his own lunch to school this year. At camp this summer he brought his own lunch and he wanted to do the same for school. At camp however, every child brought healthy homemade lunches that made mine look like the unhealthy ones (yes, it was that type of camp and I loved it). As other parents are well aware, packing a daily lunch is a pain in the butt even when you don't have a fussy child. With a fussy one it is even worse. But Sidney wants to be like the other kids.....

So we've worked out a deal. Each week we will discuss the school lunch menu and Sidney can choose two days to eat school lunch and two days where he can bring his own. He's already informed me that he wants to eat school lunch whenever they serve fish, pasta or couscous. (Love this and it definitely tempers the rest of our food battles). As for the two days when I pack his lunch, I won't be delivering hot meals the way some of the Italian moms do. Rather, Sidney will carry it to school in his lunch box. The meals will be healthy and balanced but include items he likes and will eat.  This summer Sidney discovered sandwiches so there will be plenty of those. He loves pizza so some weeks my homemade version may be included in his lunch box. Fresh fruit and vegetables will always be present and an occasional sweet treat might be there as well. Of course, the sweets will be home baked by me and won't come with shelf lives that will outlast the school year.

That is our food compromise. Do I anticipate more food battles? Absolutely. I know that some days the lunch box will return home untouched but others it will be empty. Dinners will remain an occasional battleground but I'll take the struggles as long as they accompany successes. New dishes will be on the menu on a regular basis and who knows, we might discover more foods that we all enjoy. After all, you have to eat to live but living to eat makes the experience all the better.

1 comment:

  1. We had an easy rule for this... And our kids started quite young. I make one meal. If they do not like it, they are free to make something else. It might be a sandwich, bowl of cereal. But my commitment to dinner was one meal.

    I am a highly experimental cook. My kids have learned to eat everything. I never made them eat, but they had to taste.

    All 3 are grown now, and all 3 are fantastic cooks.