When my now four-year old was given her first bite of solid food she scrunched up her face and spit it out. That was the first and last time she did that when new foods were offered to her. She quickly became known as a “good eater,” eating anything and everything placed before her. She went through a period where she ate zucchini by the bowl full. I clearly remember a friend declaring at a party, “Oh, E picked up a piece of raw broccoli from the table, ate it, and then went back for more!” She was 2 1/2 at the time. All those parenting books advising that you might have to offer a new food ten times before your child would eat it did not apply to us.
But then it happened, sometime after she turned three. The words of her wise and experienced teacher her first year in day care came true, “Just wait until she is three or four. She will all of a sudden get pickier and refuse to eat vegetables.” At the time we were told this we thought, “No way, not our child. We grow our own vegetables and eat so well,” privately patting ourselves on the back. We were wrong, so, so wrong.
No matter how many peas she ate straight from the vine or carrots she pulled out of the ground, she began turning her nose to things she ate with abandon only months before. Now, dishes that were once favorites, zucchini, salmon, homemade vegetable soup, get a resounding “Bleck!” when placed before her at the table. We usually respond, practically pleading with her, “You used to love this!” Of course, this is a common challenge for parents. I bet many of you could tell a similar story.
Despite her pickiness, E continues to be an adventurous eater, never turning up her nose at a new food experience. I have taken comfort in the fact that she waits anxiously every spring for the pea pods to fill out, the artichokes to get big enough for harvesting, and always asks for a second helping of asparagus. Upon reflection I remember she is growing up with a garden and is compiling intimate knowledge about the life cycle of a plant, what many vegetables look like while growing, and when to harvest them. I keep planting for myself, my family, for her, to imagine a different food system. Ultimately, this is what really matters to me. The vegetable eating will come with it (eventually…I hope).
Then, the other night, I placed a plate in front of her that included a healthy serving of kale, to which she exclaimed, “Oh, hey, kale! I LOVE kale!” and I see there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe.