Like most people my age, I learned to read so I could read Dr. Seuss’ books including “Green Eggs and Ham” a classic, though not my favorite which is “If I Ran the Circus”. Green Eggs seems to have been written for picky eaters, to cajole them into trying something that just seems too yucky to eat. Because I imagine you have read the story I will spare you my retelling it. But Sam is persistent, and he and his green eggs eventually wear down, and win over his reluctant friend, who finally has to admit he does indeed like green eggs and ham!
I know so many parents who say their kids are picky eaters, or won’t try new things. I recall the frustration I went through with my daughter who was most decidedly not a picky eater, though she was a capricious one. On Tuesday she would enjoy some cut up avocado and banana, and Wednesday she would notify me that there was no way she was going to eat avocado; she didn’t like it. “But you liked it yesterday” I likely whined… “Nope” her reply. This did not rule out the real possibility that Friday she would
request demand avocado again. Food is one of those areas where the ideas we have about nature and nurture are constantly being challenged. Are picky eaters made or born?
Was I lucky that my child wasn’t a picky eater, or did something in my parenting influence that? She was exposed to all kinds of foods and flavors and textures, but so were my nieces, one of them a most particular eater, with very definite tastes. We want our kids to be happy, to eat and grow, and develop, so we feed them what they like, what they will eat, and try to make sure some of that is nutritious and healthy, and sometimes you have a kid who will only eat grilled cheese, made with white not yellow cheese. Are we giving up too easily? Do we need to take a lesson from Sam I Am, and keep at it until they try just a little of that dreaded green egg if only to make us go away?
Young children have very little control over their lives. We dress them, decide where they will spend their time, when they wake up, sleep, play… By the time they are about two they have figured out that they can decide what does or doesn’t go in their mouth. I think sometimes the power of refusing something is greater than hunger, especially when we’re talking about avocado, or chicken, or green beans. All of this for me is purely speculative, and I never got to test my theories on an actual child. Is it better to enable your child’s food preferences, or to offer no alternative? Are they more likely to eventually eat what is offered rather than remain hungry, or to remain steadfast in their refusal?
Each of us has different thresholds for all kinds of tests. Some people are strong-willed and stubborn, and will dig their teeny, tiny heels in if they feel any pressure to obey, while others are more likely to take the path of least resistance, and go along with the program, and between those extremes lies a broad range of obedience and defiance, often within the same individual. There is a new commercial on for Silk Almond milk, an animated almond is reasoning with an actual human to try to get him to taste the almond milk, and the man doesn’t want to try it because he doesn’t know how it will taste. Naturally the animated almond prevails, and (spoiler alert) the man likes it.
Most of us have have some degree of squeamishness about certain foods, organ meats come to mind, but plenty of people are wary about anything new no matter how mainstream it seems to us. We find the things we like, and we stick with them. I knew a guy who had sweet and sour chicken whenever he ate Chinese food. When I asked him why he only ate that, he said he didn’t like Chinese food even though he had never eaten anything but sweet and sour chicken, which he liked. For some food is an adventure, for others a land mine filled with potentially yucky stuff, I wish for all of us a friend as persistent as Sam who will get us to enjoy more of what life and the world of food has to offer.
Happy 110th Birthday to Theodor Seuss Geisel!!
March 2, 1904- September 24, 1991