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More Mac & Cheese, and Make It Snappy

April 30th, 2006

When I was a kid, the neighbors next door had a grandkid who used to visit all the time. Let’s call him “Danny” because that was his name. Danny had what nowadays we would call “issues.” Yet my mother, God love her for her patience and endurance, let him come over to play sometimes, fed him snacks, and one fateful year let him go trick or treating with us.

All was well until we knocked on the door of the crotchety old lady down the street.

“TRICK OR TREAT!” we screamed.

“And make it snappy,” Danny added.

“No candy for any of you!” she said, a look of contempt on her face, and slammed the door in our faces, as my mother apologized (and no doubt wanted to call out, “He’s not mine. These are mine — the cute little princess and the cute little witch. The well-behaved ones”).

Mom gritted her teeth, said, “Home. Now!” and that was it for our trick or treat loot. At that moment I swore that when I grew up, I would never have a demon spawn like Danny.

Now come Wacky Girl and Wacky Boy. Not Demon Spawn in any way or shape. However, they do refuse to eat nearly everything. Vegetables (with the exception of french fries which really? Do not count). Fruit (except pears, apples and raspberries — WB and WG — and fruit leather — WB). Meat (except Orange Chicken from Panda Express — WB). No “regular” kid food — hot dogs, hamburgers, ranch dip and chicken nuggets, meatballs, carrots and dip, yadda yadda. I know, hot dogs aren’t good for them anyway. You think I don’t know this? But what the hell’s wrong with an organically-grown turkey dog weiner wrap? My husband is vegetarian; I’m not. So I’ve tried all the meat substitutes — gardenburgers, tempeh, veggie “riblets” and meatballs — no dice.

They have become Prima Donnas.

“I only eat fresh pears,” WG told her pre-k teacher.

“I don’t like any of this,” WB tells me. “You make yucky, yucky food.”

They have become Danny.

Hockey God and I have had much fucking stress over the whole eating thing. As in: Why won’t our kids eat real food? We’ve tried. We cook great homemade meals. We all sit down to eat together, and make civilized conversation. Why, God? Do you hate us, God?

We’re embarrassed to dine at friends’ homes, cuz our kids are freaks and refuse to try anything, ever. (If we threatened to spank them, would they? We don’t spank, so there goes that option. If we stood behind their chairs and physically intimidated them, like I’ve seen some of my family members do? Then they tell me, proudly, “Our kids know better.” Eh. Bullshit to that.)

More stress, as in: I like to eat meat, Hockey God does not, as I’ve mentioned. And I do understand his point. I mean, chicken bones, rib bones, smelly fish and all that are pretty gross. Why should he have to deal with it? So when I do cook meat at home, I try to be considerate, not let sauce from the Shrimp Scampi spill all over the oven, stuff like that. Cuz cheese is not my friend. Oh, cheese wants to be my friend — “Psst, hey you, look at us! Cheese and onion enchiladas… C’mon, you can stop at half a pan…” Or grilled cheese, with onions, mango chutney and tomatoes. Or manicotti, with parmesan, ricotta and a thick, gooey layer of mozzarella on top. Or goat cheese, walnuts and dried cranberries, with an assortment of buttery crackers.

See? Cheese and milk really do suck. Also I am not liking the weight that cheese packs on. But the kids, they love the goddamn mac and cheese. And any variations of it. (Except for the awesome homemade recipe I’ve concocted, with wagon wheel pasta and bread crumbs, toasty and herbed on top. This they will not touch.) They like “Grandma’s Mac and Cheese” (you would think they mean homemade, right? You would be wrong. They mean the frozen orange Stouffer’s crap. They wolf it down.) They like spaghetti with butter and parmesan. Cheesey alfredo with no pesky broc or green beans on the side. Gadawful Kraft. Annie’s bunny pasta. Arthur mac and cheese. You get the idea. Dinner times have been tense and not so fun. WD and I have argued over it — techniques, strategies, TV dinners? Why not? (That was me, sad to say.) Meanwhile, the kids are growing and have lots of energy. But they’re pretty skinny.

“Eat!” (with German accent. I’m like Mrs. Claus on the Christmas special.)

Then I remembered something about some kid, my friend’s cousin? Yeah, it was W’s cousin. Ate nothing nothing I mean nothing but mac and cheese until he was ten years old. They cajoled, they pleaded, they took him to nutritionists and shrinks. (I’m assuming they fed him vitamins, I don’t know.) The family gave him a hard time, many discussions were had, etc. Nothing. But. Mac. And. Cheese. Then, one day, he ate. A Brand New Food/Not Mac and Cheese. Hallelujah!

A few years back W saw the cousin at a family gathering. Cousin, embarrassed by past behavior, says, “Yeah, I was kind of a freak, huh?”

I was glad I remembered this kid. This kid who’s now a regular average Joe eating a salad and whatever else grown-up. It is bullshit, you know this, to give your kids a hard time about food. It leads to huge, fat Americans and funky and sad eating disorders. My job is to fix the food and put it in front of them. Their job is to eat it. The end.

WG this weekend decided she wants to start eating vegetables and fruits.

“I don’t like my vitamins,” she told her dad. “If I eat better stuff, I don’t have to eat my vitamins?”

“Sure,” he said. So far she’s tried a banana (no, my kids won’t even eat bananas. Or strawberries. Or watermelon. What-frickin’-ever. Am refusing to get defensive), green peppers, garbonzo beans and carrot sticks.

It’s a start.


  1. Heather says

    I will never forget when Laura decided she was a vegetarian at age 5. She was eating a cheese burger and asked where it came from. (She probably meant what restaurant, or whatever.) So Prince Charming (ex-hub)told her the whole story about the poor cow, etc. She stopped chewing, spit it out, and was PISSEd that we had ever let her eat the stuff. “And I bet chicken is a CHICKEN, isn’t it?!” she fumed, as though it was all a big conspiracy and we’d plotted against her. And that was it, she has never eaten meat again; though we’d tell her all the vegetables and tofu and beans she’d be required to eat, she never complained. Well almost never–it took me a while to figure out how to cook tofu in a way that she liked, so after a few months she said, “I don’t like toe-food mom. And I don’t think my toes like it either!” Too cute! Oh to have those days back…this too shall pass!

    May 1st, 2006 | #

  2. Wacky Mommy says

    The chicken comment is too funny. “OMG! Honey, it IS a chicken! Who knew?” Whenever I eat chicken Wacky Boy asks, “Does it have feathers on it? Cuz chickens have feathers on them, you know!” Kind of an appetite killer for me.

    May 1st, 2006 | #

  3. Roxie says

    They will eat lots of different (and possibly nutritious) foods as they get older. Trust me on this one. Coming from the mom whose kids won’t eat other people’s food because they don’t “know their food” (which causes me much embarassment because most of my friends kick ass in the kitchen and are marvolous cooks- so the ungratful imps don’t know what kind of good vittles they are missing out on)eventually they will venture out to new taste territory. However, this may take some time.
    Dimples refused to eat food he “didn’t know” until he was nine and is still somewhat cautious. However, now he can be cajoled into giving new things a try. He loves fruit, but is not so crazy about veggies. In time . . .
    Putti still likes the three food groups cereal, candy and EasyMac. Also there is the sub-food-group, meats on sticks. He has brought the art of playing with food to new heights, eating apples with straws, grating cheese then rolling it into little balls and drinking beverages from ketchup bottles, shot glasses and dixie cups. At our house dinner is the show!

    May 2nd, 2006 | #

  4. anne says

    When my daughter was around three, she nearly converted me back to vegetarianism. We were eating chicken and pointing out the various parts–breast, thigh, leg. She asked “So where’s the face?” It was a long time before I ate chicken again.

    May 2nd, 2006 | #

  5. Wacky Mommy says

    Those crazy kids and their crazy eating habits. Sorry I didn’t post recipes yesterday. Painter and carpenter are here, everything’s a mess. But I think this means the project is almost complete. (They’re painting the office and bathroom both, ta-da!!!) I’ll believe it when the toilet no longer is sitting in the middle of my office. They’re planning to have the carpenter do the plumbing. Since I am estrogen-based, not testosterone-based, the crew thinks I Am An Idjit, and won’t notice that the same guy who screwed up the framing in the shower is now in charge of the plumbing.

    They are wrong.

    May 3rd, 2006 | #

  6. beth says

    Don’t worry…they will grow and become less fussy. I find the main challenge in cooking is to find something that ALL 3 KIDS will eat. Whenever I do find something, Hubs complains about it! Oh well. We’ll survive this too.

    May 4th, 2006 | #

  7. Kit says

    I feel for you, my three are also suspicious of new food – my son ate everything as a baby , reached toddlerhood and one by one struck foods off the acceptable list. My theory is that small children really just need carbohydrate to survive, with a little bit of protein and an apple everyday. Rice, bread, pasta (though they’re going off that at the moment, potatoes. If my eight year old goes to a friends after school I pack him sandwiches, otherwise he’s too worried about not liking the lunch to go. I know they do grow out of it, cos my brother only ate baked beans on toast for a long time and now he is the proud owner of a juicer and very healthy eating. Just survive it!

    May 27th, 2006 | #

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