My Daughter the Communist

Several weeks ago we were having a playdate with blog-friends turned friends when Tony began preparing dinner for his daughter.

"Fishsticks. Is that okay?" he generously offered.

"Um..." I hesitated, not eager to confess to the embarrassingly slim range of foods that pass Thalia's lips. "Probably not. I don't think she'll eat that."

"Oh," he said. "Can I get her something else?"

"Got any couscous?"

"Couscous!" Thalia repeated, delighted. She settled for an apple.

Recently the New York Times published a much-discussed article about kids' menus in restaurants and how the ubiquitous chicken finger/grilled cheese/hot dog selection is keeping kids in a culinary box.

I only wish my daughter had even one pinky toe in that culinary box. Then she might actually eat something besides the contents of the bread basket when we go out for dinner.

Instead Thalia has created her own box, one comprised of meals not ordinarily in the American toddler repertoire: Couscous. Quiche. Pesto. Her latest request is "sushi," although her version has nothing to do with raw fish and everything to do with dunking a chopstick into some soy sauce and licking it.

It's not so much what she eats that concerns me but what she doesn't eat. And I don't mean leafy green vegetables. Lord, what I'd give just for her to eat one damn McAnything like the normal kids. In desperation we once bought her some Chicken Nuggets at a Florida highway rest stop, but she only nibbled at the batter for a brief moment before burying the rest of it in the crevices of the car seat.

(I can't entirely say I blame her.)

Needless to say, childrens' menus are not our friends. Thalia will feast on the fries but not the grilled cheese. She'll have the peanut butter but not the jelly. She'll eat the ketchup but not the burger. And a hot dog is only as good as the bun. Kraft singles? Won't touch the stuff. Although last week she discovered a taste for the Italian Prosecco-washed goat's milk cheese that her foodie grandfather set out as an appetizer.

Her behavior is downright unamerican. Next thing you know she'll be thumbing her nose at baseball and telling me that when we travel to other countries that we should bother to learn the language.

What confounds me most is that Thalia won't even try the spectacularly delicious neon orange goop over overcooked elbow macaroni that passes for dinner in millions of households with children. Thalia's prefered pasta preparation is a liberal dousing of virgin olive oil, a sprinkling of pignoli nuts, cracked pepper, and sea salt, and then a good amount of "yummy cheese"--or fresh Reggiano-Parmigiano ($12 a pound!) grated tableside as if she's some European VIP at da Silvano. Yes, she actually insists on the tableside service. I'm surprised she doesn't demand that we move her highchair a little further away from the kitchen, maybe something near the window, and hey, is that Drew Barrymore over there?

Please Thalia, please, just once, be like the other kids. Eat something fried and crappy. Eat something totally devoid of nutrition and steeped in transfats.

Eat something on a kids' menu. Please.

You're starting to worry me.


Find Mom101 cross-posted at Time Out NY Kids every Monday, along with great NYC-area stuff to do with your family. Including restaurants with kids' menus, although don't count on finding us at any of them.


Blogger Dawn said...

Ah Liz, my love. This means that Sage will ONLY eat this food once she comes of age and she and Thalia will wrastle over Who gets to choose the restaurant.

I fed Emily all organic, homemade food until she was 2 and all her allergies tested out as fine. Then she discovered hot dogs...not the soy dogs I had been passing off, but the full on nitrate ridden hot dogs...and the dominos tumbled....

I am happy to report, however, that at nine, she has been spotted eating salad (!!!) and her tastes have somewhat returned to her nutritional roots.

But the best? And I totally see this happening to you - a waitress was recently telling Em the days specials. She stops and begins to explain something about a dish and Emily calmly says "I know what that is" as the waitress stared at her dumbfounded.

6/24/07, 8:50 PM  
Blogger Wendy said...

At least all that is better than what my son just ate: KITTY LITTER. *sigh*

My son eats nothing unless it came from the wheat family. My daughter would eat anything, so I just assumed if I put it in front of a toddler they would eat. Oh, I was so wrong.

I wouldnt worry, just carry some pasta and pesto in the diaper bag at all times.

6/24/07, 8:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We were lucky -- my son goes both ways --loves nuggets and fries but his favorite "real" food is salmon, cooked or raw.

Just find a couple of appetizers she likes and screw the kid's menu.

6/24/07, 9:42 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

She eats bread? Damn, woman, quit yer bitchin'!

Seriously, The Poo eats three main entrees: homemade mac and cheese, grilled cheese and fries.

Other than that she consumes cereal bars, frozen waffles, and snack foods.

She won't even LOOK at bread or plain noodles or peanut butter.


6/24/07, 9:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This made me laugh...I have a 5 year old son who adores imported prosciutto (only $24/lb) and Buon Gusto salami. He's got to be the only kid who takes two slices of hard salami cut into chunks in his lunch box EVERY SINGLE DAY, don't forget, Mom! He didn't eat a hot dog until he was 4 and then only because I bribed him. All he wanted to eat at a birthday party was the cake and I told him he had to eat something else first and the only other thing the hostess served was hot dogs...he ate one, looked at me, and said "this is really good, Mom!" as though I'd been trying to feed him donkey toes the past two years. But he still won't touch a burger, dislikes cheese almost all of the time (occasionally he'll deign to eat it) and really can't stand it if anything on his plate is touching, thus refusing to eat it. Aren't kids fun?

6/24/07, 10:05 PM  
Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said...

You are beyond lucky with Thalia which means that,yes, Sage will only eat chicken nuggets and fries.

I love the image of Nate standing next to her booster seat grating fresh cheese over her pasta, cooked al dente I'm sure.

I just made pesto tonight and Jilly ate so much of it, I thought she'd turn green. Thalia will fit in just fine here.

6/24/07, 10:10 PM  
Blogger S said...

Ah, yes, I'm here to tell tales of sibling influence over food preference. Jack used to eat anything and everything -- at two, he devoured broccoli, scrambled eggs, salmon, you name it.

Then he got old enough to listen to Ben, and Ben said, "What is that disgustingness that you're eating?"

And that was The End.

6/24/07, 10:21 PM  
Blogger Overwhelmed! said...

Oh, I can so relate to this! Snuggle Bug will eat hot dogs, but not the bun. He won't eat breaded foods, but he will eat french fries. He'll have nothing to do with pasta (mac & cheese he snubs) unless it has his daddy's Italian marinara sauce on it. He won't eat a single veggie at the moment.

Since he started daycare 2 weeks ago, I worry that he'll slowly starve to death because he hates most of what they serve. I have to feed him when he gets home. ((sigh))

Oh, by the way, thanks for your comment on my most recent adoption post. Yes, it is rather amazing what we have to go through to become licensed to adopt, but I'm sure it'll all be worth it in the end!

Take care!

6/24/07, 10:43 PM  
Blogger Julie Marsh said...

The only reason I can stand to serve the neon orange crap is that fruits and veg are so happily consumed alongside it.

6/24/07, 10:46 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

My daughter, who is almost 15 (years) is the same way. She will not eat hot dogs, hamburgers, most meat, no fish other than salmon, and now only PLAIN chicken. No sauce, no seasoning. PLAIN. She will eat Annies mac and cheese but not Kraft Dinner. She will eat sushi until it pours out of her ears, but only the vegetable and salmon rolls. Nothing else. She likes avocado sandwiches, but will not eat anything with ketchup, mustard or mayonaise.

Yeah. She's a real joy to cook for. But I know what she'll eat and it's pretty easy to work around it most of the time. Fortunately she loves salads, veggies, and especially fruit.

It can be trying!

6/24/07, 11:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

be happy. we tease my daughter that she will be soon waking up with pointed ears and curling toes turning in "Elf" since she only eats his diet... candy & syrup.
my son begs for licorice or fruit snacks before I've opened my eyes.
And I think how lucky you are to go to normal restaurants. We can't pick a place unless they serve nuggets & fries, or plain noodles.
p.s. LOVE your blog & congrats on the new bambino!

6/24/07, 11:40 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I won't eat that fried, processed, dyed crap either, so I can hardly blame her. My son won't touch it either. Once, when we were in the US visiting, he was served a "kid's" cheese sandwich. He pulled it apart, lifted up the slice of processed cheese and said, "Dis not cheese." No one could argue with him.

6/25/07, 2:05 AM  
Blogger mo-wo said...

I believe couscous is, in fact, quite high in iron? Correct me if I am wrong. At nearly 3 I did crack the weiner thing a couple months ago.

Love Mother of the girl who would like soba please not spaghetti

ps.. You have completely destroyed Tony's macho-blog-image with that domesticity lead-in. Was he ok with that?

6/25/07, 2:23 AM  
Blogger Allysha said...

Maybe she's French? (not a bad thing...)

6/25/07, 7:17 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

When my son was Thalia's age he consisted on a steady diet of Cheerios, grapes, and yogurt. And that was it. Now he'll at least try everything I put on his plate. Of course he'd prefer spaghetti with butter at every meal, but he'll still eat the asparagus if I put it there.

6/25/07, 8:01 AM  
Blogger jeanie said...

I too have a daughter who intensely dislikes plastic cheese - not quite as gourmet as your child, though!

You inspired me to write a post to day with this, so I have linked...

6/25/07, 8:25 AM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

And here I am wondering what your secret to getting Thalia eat these foods is. I just made pesto the other night and you would have thought I just put down a half of a dead frog in from of Chicky.

Come to think of it, Thalia probably would have eaten the frog's legs, wouldn't she?

6/25/07, 9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'm surprised she doesn't demand that we move her highchair a little further away from the kitchen...."


6/25/07, 9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know that boat you're in? I'm in it with you.

6/25/07, 9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My oldest would live on beans and cereal if we let her. When we go out, we always know we'll have Mexican. At least it's simple. And cheap.

6/25/07, 9:48 AM  
Blogger BOSSY said...

Bossy has lost years off her life arguing over restaurant menus with her two finicky eaters. Who can she see about getting that time back?

6/25/07, 12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd rather my kid be picky, but healthy eater. Unhealthy and indiscriminate does not pay off in the long run. =\

6/25/07, 12:55 PM  
Blogger AndreAnna said...

It seems like you've hit home with a lot of people. My 13-month old daughter is also picky as hell and her new thing is taking her first bite of food, chewing it a bit, then spitting it out, examining it, then eating it. It's really gross. Thalia would never dine with such a neanderthal. LOL.

6/25/07, 1:46 PM  
Blogger Phoenix said...

You named her after a greek god and you didn't expect her to act like it?

I think it's funny that her favorite food is couscous. I think most toddlers are picky, they just have different ideas about what they like. Next time you go to McCraps or whatever, try chicken nuggets with dipping sause. Some kids *cough, me* wouldn't eat it without BBQ sause. Good luck.

6/25/07, 2:13 PM  
Blogger Phoenix said...

Oh and my niece's favorite foods are grilled salmon, zuchinni, Gnocci with pesto sause and any kind of seafood. But she's two. Her sister who's five used to be like that and then she went to preschool. It was all over after that. Somehow I think she'll get back to the good stuff one day.

6/25/07, 2:16 PM  
Blogger Donna said...

Oh, how I long for your daughter's culinary box! My 11-year-old is very gradually emerging from the chicken fingers kids menu thing, but it's painfully slow.

6/25/07, 3:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My son isn't as picky as Thalia. Thank goodness. But the food he perfers at restaurants comes from daddy's plate. It doesn't matter where Daddy sits, D can reach his plate and eat off of it.

Once we were at a steak house and D dunked his yummy roll into Daddy's sweet tea. And another time he picked up some salad from Daddy's plate, licked the dressing off and put it back. Both times thoroughly grossed Daddy out.

You'll notice, it's only ever off Daddy's plate that he eats like that. I make him say please if he wants to try my food. Luckily, he always wants to try EVERYTHING.

6/25/07, 3:13 PM  
Blogger J said...

Hey, it's better this way. Can you share what you're eating when you go out? I long ago taught Maya the trick to ordering at fancy restaurants...if nothing appeals to you, ask what kind of soup they have. Soup and bread can hold you over until you can get home to your couscous. ;)

The thing she LOOKS for, though? Anything goat cheese or mango. Yeah, she's 11.

6/25/07, 3:23 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

That's great! I actually hope my son has the same sort of gourmet taste buds when he starts eating more grown-up food. Although we live in good ol' bland-gravy-on-everything-remotely-edible-and-lots-of-beige-food-while-you're-at-it PA Dutch country...so who knows?

Love your blog by the way!

6/25/07, 3:58 PM  
Blogger Tuesday Girl said...

My twins are the same way, they never have liked chicken nuggets and do not like french fries, things I don't really want them to like but are at least acsessible at parties, the highway, or anywhere.
They like guacamole, sushi, apples dipped in peanut butter and mango salsa.

6/25/07, 4:38 PM  
Blogger Jaelithe said...

Hey, at least she eats pasta. My kid still doesn't. (He does like parmesan, though, but, by itself, in a bowl separate from all other foods on his plate, thank you very much).

Have you tried telling her she CAN'T have the chicken nuggets because they are too good and you are going to eat them all?

6/25/07, 5:13 PM  
Blogger jane maynard said...

that is TOTALLY my cate...she won't even eat the french fries anymore! for the love! crazy kids.

6/25/07, 5:25 PM  
Blogger Gray Matter Matters said...

Oh Lord, when I hear people talk about what bad eaters their kids are I want to throttle them. "My son will only eat salmon, grilled chicken, and green beans." Then I respond with "Yeah, well my kid only eats bacon and pepperoni." Which in inevitably leads to the "well have you tried this?" or "What about blank or blank or blank? NO, NO, NO! He doesn't. And no, if I starve him he still won't eat chicken nuggets or other "kid friendly food." Peer pressure and threats have not worked. I just assume, like potty training, he will not go to college eating soley nitrates.

6/25/07, 5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hailey's the same way. Try some steamed pork dumplings. It's the only really fatty crap she'll eat.

6/25/07, 8:26 PM  
Blogger PunditMom said...

Oh, Thalia and PunditGirl would definitely get along in the pasta category -- with the olive oil,and yummy cheese. Plus you've got to have the fresh bread basket and oilive oil on the table to dip it in ... salt and pepper added to the olive oil "like in Italy, mama!"

Fish sticks? NE-vuh! Maybe they should start their own restaurant??

6/25/07, 9:43 PM  
Blogger MrsFortune said...

You're kidding, right?

I mean, this post is a joke, no?

Chicken nuggets are the ONLY thing my kid will eat. What I wouldn't give for him to eat ANYTHING else.

6/25/07, 10:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with ya! I am so sick of trying to get my son to eat chicken nuggets and my daughter to watch tv so I can have a break. Geez, kids today!

6/26/07, 10:16 AM  
Blogger yoo hoo said...

Ah the sound of an expanding palate at a very early age...that's awesome. I figured out the other day my husband I don't have a ghost of a chance of eating a nutritionaly sound meal. Our mothers were both horrid cooks and we are of the age when it was the dawning of the age of shake-n-bake, TV dinners and Chef Boy R dee. We go out of our way to eat real meals... I applaud Thalia

6/26/07, 11:03 AM  
Blogger Maewen Archer said...

I think if she's dissing the McNuggets, she'll be ok. Actually sounds to me like she might turn out to be quite the adventurous eater.

6/26/07, 11:12 AM  
Blogger Lawyer Mama said...

My two year old demands gouda. It's his favorite cheese. He loves salmon and pesto. And while he will eat chicken nuggest & all that stuff, he refuses Kraft Mac n cheese. He will *only* eat the homemade baked mac n cheese that I stupidly made for him as a "gourmet" toddler treat.

Maybe T will turn out to be a food critic for the NY Times and go on a quest to eliminate the chicken nugget from American kitchens!

6/26/07, 12:51 PM  
Blogger jen lemen said...

oh, watch that sushi thing. by three my now nine year old could really run the bill up on sushi. we had no idea what we were getting into.

all of our "she's not normal" in the food category were completely forgotten when we had kid number two. a happy, jolly completely laid back kid who would walk five miles for a donut and happily refuse to eat at all until they brought out the dessert menu.

it all evens out.

6/27/07, 9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sense that in 20 years she'll have her own show on the Food Network, she'll be the next Giada DeLaurentiis.

6/27/07, 10:37 AM  
Blogger Renée said...

and you're complaining why?!

6/27/07, 12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I fell into the homemade macaroni cheese thing too. Only if it is made by Mummy, with mushrooms and ham in it then spud will eat it. But only if I call it cheesypasta. :-)

His eating is steadily improving, he was great when weaning, anything and everything, hit two and the brakes. He only wanted fish nuggets and smiley faces.

Now we are, finally, getting onto spaghetti bolognase, tuna bake, etc. I think nursery and our perseverance will pay off in the long run, but it has been a long, long year. Oh well, such are the joys....

10/3/08, 7:54 AM  

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