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Carrots, Again?


For me, it was carrots. Carrots were right up there at the top of the list. Close behind were turnips, and then came liver ... and then peas ... squishy green peas ... I don't think there were a lot more foods on my 'hate' list, but these four certainly came around often enough to cause plenty of heartache.

Looking back now, I can't imagine what all the fuss was about, but at the time the dislikes were certainly real enough. I knew that if I put that fork full of carrots in my mouth ... chewed until the 'carrotness' filled all my senses ... and then swallowed ... I knew it would come straight back up again! It was an absolutely physical dislike. My body and carrots just were not made for each other. But of course, in my mother's eyes, the situation was just as clear-cut; I was simply being obstinate.

How does that song go ... "You can't have your pudding if you don't eat your meat!"? How many times did my brother and I play in that scene at the dinner table! I don't mean to imply that my mother was some kind of heartless monster. She was just behaving as her particular cultural upbringing dictated; kids did what they were told. Parental authority was absolute. Any conflict on such matters as food dislikes could have only one possible resolution ... No matter how long it might take ... that plate had to be emptied.

I wasn't laughing at the time, but I can certainly laugh now at some of the memories: of hiding peas one by one atop the wooden support bars under the table top (where I suppose she found them later, as I am sure we would never remember to come back at a safe moment to hide the 'evidence'); of taking a mouth full of the hated food and then trying to be 'excused' to the bathroom where it could be disposed of quietly (although this strategy could only be used once in any particular meal ...); or resorting to the 'tiny slice of liver washed down by a large gulp of the drink' technique ...

Talking with her recently about those days, she told me of one evening when all these strategies had failed to clear my brother's plate, and the stand-off between two stubborn people only came to an end when his head dipped to the tabletop in sleep ...

But now, one generation later, with me taking the 'mother's' part in this age old family drama, has the script changed? I am sure you can guess. It has now become easy for me to see clearly exactly what the problem really is: selfish, ungrateful, inconsistent children! I'm not going to make you laugh by trotting out that old chestnut "I've been slaving over a hot stove all day ...", because that doesn't exactly describe what I do to prepare our meals, but it certainly is frustrating to find that foods that were perfectly acceptable last week, are rejected today by my daughters. My childhood dislikes were at least consistent, weren't they? I always hated carrots ... and liver ... and ... But my two girls seem to change from day to day. So although I thought that I had a good solution to this problem ... just avoid serving food they don't like ... it has turned out to be not so simple.

Nutrition, I think, is not really much of a factor here. The variety of foods they do eat is certainly wide enough to supply their bodies with the necessary 'ingredients' for normal growth. It is that I am torn between two conflicting desires; to avoid conflict in our home, and yet not to bring up 'spoiled' selfish children, who simply take what they want from life, and leave the rest ... So, how are we making out? Do my kids hide peas under the table top? No, I have to admit that they don't have to do things like that. One way I avoid the problem is by serving all food in the centre of the table rather than loading up the plates in the kitchen. Each person only takes what they want. Fumi-chan is currently avoiding all contact with onions, and Himi-chan with minced meat. Although I suppose my mother thinks that my kids are 'getting away with murder', I don't insist that they eat everything I cook. If there is a lot left over, into the fridge it goes, to make another appearance later. Of course, they don't eat it then either, but I like my cooking, so it doesn't get wasted!

Am I making a mistake by not 'training' my kids to do things they don't like? Maybe. Will they have a lack of ability to 'bite the bullet' when it is necessary, later in life? I don't know. I really have no way to answer those questions. Perhaps my decision to 'take the easy road' now will hurt them later. But somehow, I just can't see the dinner table as a suitable place for such training. For me it is more important to try and have a peaceful time together, and to try and avoid conflict wherever possible. I am sure that there will be many other 'opportunities' for us to fight with each other during their teen years.

Besides, I'm just too amazed at watching them shovel all those carrots into their mouths!