There was a time when baby would happily double fist mounds of delicious homemade food I had made her, shoving it into her mouth. She had no preferences back then, she was just happy to eat food. I’d make her homemade chicken soup with homemade stock, chunks of chicken, bowtie pasta, carrots, peas and onion. Chicken curry with potatoes served over jasmine rice. Homemade meatballs that were simmered in a sauce for hours, served on pasta, and topped with cheese. Homemade mac n cheese with my own béchamel sauce and chunks of poached chicken and broccoli. Grilled salmon marinated with soy. Roast chicken. Home fried potatoes. Rice porridge. Fried rice with egg, chicken, peas and carrots. Scrambled eggs with ham and cheddar cheese. Cinnamon toast. Grilled cheese with tomato soup. Pancakes with blueberries or chocolate chips. Fruit salad with berries. Roasted sweet potato. Roasted spaghetti squash. Homemade meatloaf with mashed potatoes. Scalloped potatoes. Potatoes au gratin.
I thought if I crammed in all those foods while she enjoyed them, then she would continue to enjoy them and not become the typical picky toddler. I thought I figured it all out. It was so easy. I was downright smug, thinking to myself, I bet all these other parents didn’t open their toddlers up to a variety of foods and that’s why they’re such picky eaters, eating only processed chicken nuggets or slices of plain white bread or mashed potatoes every day. Sooooo smug. And I have a food blog, right? Maybe I can create a little foodie that’s open to everything. I can train her. It can work….right?
Since she’s turned one, baby currently eats oatmeal in the morning with some fruit. For lunch she eats a few pieces of grilled cheese and a yogurt. For dinner it’s a lost cause, she eats her tears as she cries and throws a tantrum, shaking her head at every option I offer her. Peas are thrown. Rice is on the floor. Chunks of fruit splattered on the table, on the wall, on my hair, on the cat. After 10-15 minutes of crying she reluctantly obliges and shoves a couple of peas in her mouth, then shakes her head again. She wants nothing to do with my cooking. I am a big fat failure.
Every time she throws my food on the floor, the food I take 30 minutes to an hour preparing, the food that takes me time during the day to plan out, the food I buy at the grocery store, that I pick up at the farmers’ market, I react the same way I always do – as if a judge on Iron Chef just threw my food on the floor, as if it were garbage that wasn’t worthy to be 12 inches from their face. Completely frustrated and hopeless, I end up going on a tangent that usually goes something like this: “Don’t you understand that I worked hard on this? This took me an hour, do you know how long that is? This isn’t Kraft Mac n Cheese! It’s homemade Béchamel sauce with sharp cheddar I shredded myself! I stirred this Béchamel for like 10 minutes! I don’t even know how to pronounce Béchamel but it sounds fancy and you should like it because it’s not processed cheese from a box! I’m making you nice, homemade food, why can’t you appreciate it? I’m not a bad cook!!!!”
Baby usually sits there silent, giving me a puzzled look, eyebrows arched, like what is mommy saying? What do all those words mean? I want my goldfish crackers. Look at the cat! I don’t like mac n cheese. I’ll make a dirty face. Mommy won’t give me what I want. I’ll throw the mac n cheese all over the wall. Now it’s off my tray and on the wall. Problem solved.
At least that’s what I think she’s doing. I don’t know. But usually after one of my long winded rants, I laugh at myself for treating her like she’s a food critic about to write a bad review in the newspaper about me. Or that she’ll write on her blog about how Soupbelly really is a crappy cook. That I’m a sham. And the laughing turns into crying. And baby cries and I cry and Chris comes home from work and sees food splattered all over the dining room and takes her straight to a bath so I can spend the next half hour washing dishes and scrubbing food off the walls, carpet, and highchair. And it’s these precious moments that I really, really hate parenting. If I can’t cook properly, what can I do for her? I can’t sing lullabies to her because it sounds like a cat being strangled. I’m not creative enough at playing games. I try to dance with her with music playing but she wonders why mommy is having a seizure. I can read books to her but she rather just flip the pages than listen to mommy’s monotone voice. Everything I do for her seems so mediocre, the bathing, changing, playing, reading. Cooking seemed like the one thing I might be able to do better. But it isn’t.
So I guess we’ll go through the goldfish cracker, yogurt and oatmeal stage. I don’t know what I’d do if this is a transition to some Kraft Mac n Cheese, Chicken Mcnugget, Chef Boyardee pizza in a box, Mountain Dew stage. Because as we all know, goldfish crackers are the gateway food to Mcnuggets. For now I’ll dance like I’m seizing and read books in my monotone voice and hope it passes soon. Real soon.