The Mikey Pollan
Ideal meal: Heritage chicken stir-fry with kohlrabi, heirloom bell peppers, and buckwheat soba noodles.
Overheard at family table: “Mom, this kale is a little more delicate than I’m used to — are you sure it isn’t Tuscan kale?”
Overheard at playdate with less food-aware friend: “No, thanks. My mom says real Parmesan doesn’t come in green cans.”
Life’s ambition: The purposeful beard.
In 10 years, will be: A junior at Oberlin.
Ideal meal: Whatever you’re not serving.
Modus Operandi: Unswerving, knee-jerk dismissal of everything set before him. Feigned inability to reason.
Calling card: The untouched plate.
Defining characteristics: Second child. Dearth of pity.
Admission, made in a rare moment of weakness: Seriously, other than this whole “food thing,” I’m a total puppy dog.
Means of survival: Snacks. The refusenik is relentlessly hungry, except when it’s time to actually, you know, eat.
Ideal Meal: Double Stuffed Oreos, the promise of which is the only reason he eats anything else.
Overheard at lunchtime: “What’ll you give me if I eat this?”
Overheard at bedtime: “I thought you said there was no story tonight.”
In ten years, will be: Lead interrogator for the Mossad, or high-value detainee being interrogated by the lead interrogator for the Mossad.
The Pint-Sized Paggro
Ideal meal: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but only after having refused the breaded chicken cutlets she asked you to make, followed by the bowl of pasta she then told you she’d rather have instead, but only after you’d rinsed off the cheese she asked you to put on it.
Modus operandi: I am open to life and all its possibilities…if you really insist.
Official motto: “I changed my mind.”
Despondent dad to despondent mom, after Pint-Sized Paggro has finally surrendered to sleep: “I don’t get it. He ate everything as a baby.”
What despondent dad does not realize: The battle has already been lost.
The Starch King of Starchy McCarbLand
Ideal meal: Bowl of rigatoni with butter, garlic salt, and some melted, mild, extremely white cheese; a slab of white bread; a side of mashed potatoes; a non-alcoholic hefeweizen (no lemon).
At night, dreams of: Baby unicorns, soccer field heroics, and the lusty crunch of a good, artisanal sourdough.
In twenty years, will be: Bestselling author of The White Diet or a clog-wearing assistant brewmaster at The Hoppy Tippler in Madison, Wisconsin.
Ideal meal: English muffin pizza made with ketchup. (Real pizza, for some reason, has oregano.)
Core belief: That life can be controlled.
In ten years, will be: That kid who shows up at college, picks the parsley off his chicken cordon bleu, and pretends to suppress a gag reflex every time he sees you eat a spear of asparagus.
In twenty years, will be: Begging his own picky children to please, for God sakes, have one bite of broccoli while never owning up to the fact that he never touched the stuff until he was 27 years old.
The L’il Gourmand
Ideal meal: Nobu’s miso-glazed black cod in the summer; Mario Batali’s beef-cheek ravioli in the winter.
Overheard in bed, at story time: “Dad, that pumpkin risotto was amazing. Was there sage in that?”
Defining beliefs: That iodized salt is not salt at all; that chocolate should always be at least 68% cacao; and that honey mustard is well and good, if you’re the kind of person — no offense — for whom “well and good” is enough.
Party trick: Telling nonplussed friends of her parents the difference between a bernaise and a hollandaise.
Favorite after-school activity: Listening to podcast of The Splendid Table while snacking on marcona almonds; playing darts with her Rachael Ray dart board.
In ten years, will be: Majoring in feminist food theory at Brown.
Modus operandi: Will not even sit down at the table if the potatoes are touching the broccoli.
Last question before bed: “Dad, is the DustBuster charging?”
Thing that keeps him up at night: Sauce.
In twenty years, will be: Licking lightbulbs, making and remaking bed, touching doorknobs six times before entering the room, running the world.
The Chronic Pleaser
Ideal Meal: Spinach with liverwurst and a side of mushy brussels sprouts.
Defining Characteristics: First child. Perpetual milk mustache.
How to spot her in school: Raising hand politely, recycling her tissues, resisting urge to laugh at Tommy, the kind of charming, roguish troublemaker who she convinces herself she doesn’t like.
Favorite expression: “Mommy, watch!”
In ten years, will be: Still calling home four times a week to check in, even though she was just home — for the fifth time this semester — last weekend. (College is only twenty minutes away; she got into Pomona, but thought she’d be way too homesick to go.)
The Ketchup Junkie
Ideal meal: French fries with ketchup, chicken with ketchup, flounder with ketchup, pasta with ketchup, steak with ketchup, ketchup with ketchup. Ketchup.
Last thought before bed: Ketchup!
First thought upon waking: “Only four more hours till ketchup.”
Overheard at TumbleBugs party: “Come on, it’s ketchup time somewhere in the world.”
In twenty years, will be: A normal, healthy eater. Just like the rest of these characters.