Friday, May 20, 2011


When I was in high school, my Grandpa Joe used to come and stay with us and give me absolute hell for only using a tea bag one time before throwing it away.  I'd roll my teenage eyes and think to myself that the Depression was long over, and with our robust tea stash, I could most certainly use as many bags as I wanted at will.  I wish he was still around so that I could tell him that he was so right about so many things (although I'm still not particularly interested in joining the merchant marine, which he thought was a great idea for me), and that I now pour at least three cups of boiling water over each of my bags of tea before I throw them away (there's still good tea in there!).

Now that I'm older, wiser, and know that the husband and I work our buns off for every dime of our grocery money, my attitude about wastefulness is completely reminiscent of my Depression-era Grandpa. I shudder every time a veggie goes bad in our crisper (which is rare, because I'm crazy like that, and plan our grocery lists and meals down to a tee most weeks).  We play excellent rounds of cupboards to make sure no freezer item is ever left behind.  If my mom cleans out her pantry and gives me a random half-bag of farro (true story), I'm going to search the interwebs to find a delicious recipe to use it ASAP.  I pride myself on being as thrifty and resourceful with food as possible, while still catering to our foodie passions and organic commitment.  It's a project, and it's why the following situation is driving me insane...

Have you ever been the primary chef for a toddler?  It's a thankless and daunting experience, my friends.  One day the guy likes grilled cheese, the next day he won't touch it with a ten foot pole.  Among the things that Normal Children like that my son won't touch: ravioli or pasta of any kind, including mac and cheese, most cheese and cheese products, and meat and animal products of any kind (with exception of the yolk part of a fried egg).  In short, he eats like a sorority girl preparing for spring break at the beach.  If he could live only on yogurt and fruit with the occasional whole grain thrown in for variety, he'd happily do so.  The pediatrician says to keep on offering things, so we do,  but the amount of stuff that he turns is nose up at or mutilates and then walks away from is astounding.  We end up with plates and plates of good food (Niman Ranch ham grilled with Cabot Sharp Cheddar on multi-grain bread or organic broccoli and cheddar ravioli, for example) that are completely untouched.  The Grandpa Joe in me is tearing my hair out over this on a nightly basis.

Here's the conundrum: if we eat his scraps and leftovers, we're going to fall prey to the new parent equivalent of the freshman fifteen that we're both trying to avoid.  It's classic to pack on pounds from noshing your kid's cast-offs, and I just don't want to do it.  I also don't want to feed him cheaper or less healthy food in anticipation of half of it going to waste.  What we put in his body is high on my priority list, and I want him to eventually develop a palate and appreciation for really good food.  Smaller portions are a possible answer, but hard to measure sometimes.  You never know when he's going to like something and be clamoring for more, and who boils just one ravioli?  I keep going around and around in my head for a solution and am not finding one.  All of the wasted food is making me feel guilty and agitated.  There has to be a better way!

Beloved mama, papa, auntie, uncle, nanny and granny readers of SMJ, do you have any magical ideas?  We already have the best fed dog in Boston... I'm looking for new and better ways to make my Grandpa proud and stop tossing so much to the trash or the canine.  Any and all advice is much appreciated.
 This was last night's dinner plate.  He ate all of the strawberries and one slice of toast (locally baked whole wheat with organic butter, thank you).  I ate the ham and roasted veggies and called it an appetizer.  ARGH!


  1. Oh Jane-this is my life!!!! My 3 year old has finally gotten to a point where he will eat "toddler standards" mac and cheese, chicken cutlets, etc but getting him and the 18 month old to eat the same thing is impossible. I drove myself crazy trying to make them homemade healthy meals every night and then watched them scream and cry at me or feed it to the dogs in front of me-ugh!

    My advice is not great but this is what I would say:

    1) Put something on their plate you know they will eat-for me it's fruit, they NEVER turn down fruit

    2) If you make something from scratch make it easy so you won't be so annoyed with them if they throw it at you, and give yourself a break and don't do it often until you know they will eat it!

    3) Don't give them much. It's so annoying to throw out a huge plate of food untouched, I give them some and if they eat it I'll get them more and if not it's not a huge loss.

    4) Keep offering them healthy stuff, eventually they will eat it. In the meantime all you can do is make it available.

    Good luck sister!

  2. I second Lee's suggestions - they are great. I don't fight with my kids about food, and I really *try* not to beat myself up about how much they eat or don't eat. Some days they eat a ton, other days they won't eat much of anything. I have heard it suggested that things they help make or grow or pick they enjoy eating more. I have found it true with the growing and picking, but only so-so with the "making" (my 1.5 year old is a little too messy for me to go far with the suggestion). Offer a wide variety consistently, and one day little J will go for the broccoli unexpectedly. At least that is what I keep telling myself!

    Ali G

  3. Lee and Ali, thanks for your support and suggestions. It seems like patience is key in all of this, but sometimes it just runs out right around dinner time!

  4. Hmm... Malcolm was/is sometimes still a picky eater. Letting him graze on healthy snacks all day long made me feel less bad if he didn't eat much for dinner. Also, he liked to dip foods, and you can sneak pretty much anything into a blended dip. Have you tried the cookbook by Seinfeld's wife? Deceptively Delicious, I think? Lastly, skewers. Sometimes just giving him a stick to stab his food with made it infinitely more interesting and ingestible. Good luck!