The Game Changer

December 6th, 2011 · 68 Comments · Picky Eating, Pork and Beef

The pork loin I braised in red wine last Tuesday night was pretty freaking delicious. I can say this because most of the credit goes to my coworker — remember the one who was plotting her own pork and lentil stew in the slow-cooker while I was plotting drumsticks? After she told me that one, it was on the brain for 24 hours and I knew the only way to get it off the brain would be to try out a version of the pork stew for myself. The problem? I didn’t own a slow cooker. (Well, not true. I own one, but it is in a box deep in the bowels of our basement, and last time I remember using it, I think it was missing a crucial piece, like a lid.) I was working from home the day I decided to tackle the recipe in my Dutch Oven and began cooking just as the girls were scattering their math workbooks on the kitchen table to start homework.

What’s for dinner? asked Abby as soon as she heard the loin hit in the oil.

This can be such a loaded question. When I’m making something new for the girls — which is fairly often — and there’s a good chance that the unfamiliar name of this dinner will set off some whining, sometimes I just lie and say I don’t know yet. But other times, when dinner is simmering away on the stovetop, and an oniony aroma is in the air, I opt for the truth.

Some sort of pork with beans…and maybe kale, I told her.

I don’t like beans! And then, for the next two hours, it was all Do we have to have pork with beans? and Can’t you make those chicken wings again? and Can you make me something else if I don’t like it?

I hate this scenario. The whole point of dinner — the whole point of this site actually — is to get people excited about sitting down to eat. And what killed me is that I knew Abby would love this meal if she had the right attitude. But she couldn’t picture it, so it scared her. I get it  – for the longest time, that’s exactly how I felt about J.Lo on American Idol.

I needed a game changer. I needed Tater Tots.

Abby had hand-selected a bag of them from Whole Foods a few weekends earlier and hardly a day had gone by when she hadn’t begged to have them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It was just the psychological latch she needed on the plate to adjust the way she was approaching the table. I piled a mountain of them next to her pork, which she ate absent-mindedly, and which, when deconstructed and cut into pieces, was not all that much different looking than the Pork braised in Pomegranate Juice and Marcella’s Milk-braised Pork she’s had (and loved) a hundred times before.

And I know this is not exactly breaking news, but Holy Christ Tater Tots taste good! The rest of us were pretty excited about dinner that night, too.

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Something New

June 22nd, 2011 · 26 Comments · Picky Eating, Posts by Andy, Rituals, Uncategorized

Here’s a question: how do you get your kids to try something new? We’ve deployed various methods over the years, including but not limited to: bribery (eat this, get that), blackmail (you don’t eat this, you don’t get that), begging (dear god, I am begging you, just one bite), guilt (but poor mommy spent twenty minutes making these fava beans for you!), rebranding (well, yes, if you want to get all technical about it: white broccoli is cauliflower, happy now?), and camouflaging (what? the pancakes taste weird today? Hmmm. I’m sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the flax seed we put in the batter). Each of these techniques has its place, depending on your level of existential dread and desperation, but each always tends to leave us feeling a little cheap or duplicitious (but only for a second). Which is why, these days, we’ve been so into the idea of getting the kids to invest in their own food, and their own choices: if you involve them in what they eat from the beginning, they’re a lot more willing — excited, even – to give it a shot. I think there’s a basic management principle in here somewhere, which I could articulate if I knew anything about basic management. My best attempt: if you give your li’l employees a seat at the table, they’re a lot more likely to care. (more…)

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