Scary stories from a lovely place
Today while Silas was asleep I shared a sneaky bowl of chocolate ice cream with his little brother. My kids rarely sleep at the same time. And so that time when one is out for the count is a good opportunity to do something special with the other one. Needless to say Oisín thoroughly enjoyed it and responded to each tiny mouthful with pleasure showing on his face, in his voice and by his jumpy legs.
I did feel a bit guilty for feeding him ice cream and that got me thinking about kids and food.
My kids have each approached eating very differently. Even now their stomachs seem to have very different needs. Silas was pretty clockwork with the solids. I did it by the book and he followed. Between the ages of 6 months and 1 he ate pretty much the same thing every day. Week bix with his dad for breakfast. Beetroot, tuna, tomatoes and ricotta cheese for lunch. Mixed veg and rice or pasta for dinner. Stewed fruit with quinoa and natural yoghurt with cinnamon for desert. I made it all myself and froze it in little portions. Poor kid hey. No variety. Weird flavours. Boring. Nothing delicious or naughty.
The little guy was a whole different story. I started at the right time but he wasn’t interested. I kept waiting and trying and waiting and trying. He barely ate anything until he was nearly 1 year old and then he discovered tofu. He was mad for it. Raw and sitting in its skin coloured juices, he would eat it by the little fist full. He would shove so much into his toothless mouth that he would gag, bring it all back up and then start again on fresh stuff. Now that he is coming towards two years old he still eats very little.
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t stress me out. Or that I’m not embarrassed by Silas’ constant requests for sausages, and not even nice Vrystater boerwors or anything, just the gross Australian sausages that are mostly flour and salty flavoring. But after much reading and observing my own crazy response to their eating habits I’ve decided the best thing is not to stress about it or make it a fight. Some days they eat like mad, they devour hot salami and raw capsicum. Other days they eat only pasta and baked beans.
But I feel the pressure to raise them into adventurous, healthy little eaters, as if that is the pinnacle of humanity. Kids who choose the healthy, fresh option every time because not only is it actually tasty, it’s just better for them. But I don’t think it’s going to happen.
I really enjoy food, different flavors and from varied places, new tastes and gastronomic experiences. I love the processes of both cooking and eating and I want my kids to as well. But I’m skeptical that they have to be exposed to that stuff from a very early age or they will grow up only wanting to eat chicken kebabs and mashed potato. I was raised on a staple of meatloaf, vegemite toast, pasta and vanilla ice cream. It wasn’t until I was nearly an adult that my family started to experiment with sundried tomatoes, feta cheese and proscuitto. Now I’m keen to try just about everything.
Maybe it’s just being around food that can engender an excitement for the culinary in a growing little mind. I always liked cooking and my parents encouraged me in that, although my tendency to leave the hotplates on caused untold stress. So rather than being annoyed if and when my kids don’t appreciate parsley, marinated octopus or figs I will let them help me with the cooking and give them more and more responsiblity as they grow up and can handle it.
But we will do these cooking sessions when one is asleep, as a twosome. One toddler throwing flour on the ground and wanting to hold the beaters is plenty.