Simply in Season

News and reflections on all that's good about local food
from the co-author of Simply in Season,
a World Community Cookbook in the spirit of More-with-Less

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Picky eaters

One of the most delicious ironies of authoring a cookbook is that I was THE pickiest eater as a kid. Didn’t like anything good. Not corn-on-the-cob, not fresh strawberries, not peaches. (This last was a texture thing -- I claimed they tasted like frogs.) You can forget about vegetables -- I think potatoes (in various forms), cooked (but not fresh) tomatoes, and fresh (but not cooked) carrots pretty much composed my entire list of edibles. My survival apparently depended on macaroni and cheese and the occasional banana.

My mother thinks it’s quite a hoot to see me now: the most adventuresome eater in the family.

With such a background, I remain quite sympathetic to those with narrow parameters of acceptable foods. I just know that change is possible.

For me, the turning point in my eating habits was when I went to college and started eating in a cafeteria with my peers three times a day. I just got embarrassed by all the things I conspicuously “didn’t like” and started (while drawing as little attention to myself as possible) choking things down, no doubt with big glasses of water. And lo and behold: I found that I was growing to like cucumbers, green peppers, broccoli, grapes, melons, mushrooms -- and yes, corn-on-the-cob, strawberries and peaches.

Once the door was open -- once I learned that I might like different foods -- it was with great delight that I discovered foods I had never been exposed to as a child: asparagus, kale, sweet potatoes (without the marshmallows), rhubarb, butternut squash, parsnips, lima beans! I never could have dreamed how much more rich my eating life would become.

I think Mom did me a service in not making a big fuss about my pickiness as a child; I didn’t build up a lot of resistance that would get in the way later. As I remember it, she did insist that I drink orange juice for breakfast (which I grew to like) and I think we had the “two-bites” rule (eat two bites of everything before filling up on peanut butter), which is a good way to keep kids at least continuing to try healthy foods as they mature and tastes change.

But in general I continue to be all in favor of hiding scary foods. The SIS recipe of the week, Pumpkin Sausage Pasta, is on what I call the Simply in Season “hidden treasures” list: recipes that pack in the nutrition of vegetables but mask their appearance and/or taste.


-- Zucchini Yeast Rolls (you don’t taste the shredded summer squash but it creates pretty flecks of green and gold in these soft rolls)

-- Sweet Potato Soup (people who say they don’t like sweet potatoes enjoy this pureed soup flavored with orange juice and tomatoes)

-- Dilly Mashed Potatoes (people think the golden color of these spuds comes from loads of cheese but it’s actually just a little cheese and plenty of whipped carrots)

-- Slow Cooker Enchiladas (shredded summer squash and carrots cook in a flavorful meat sauce; blindfold your family if you must and they’ll never know the veggies are there)

-- Pumpkin Sausage Pasta (a delectable creamy sauce provides the background for sausage and sage in this elegant dish; tasters can never guess that the base of the sauce is pureed baked winter squash or canned pumpkin)

-- Rhubarb Sorrel Crisp (sorrel -- a leafy green sort of like spinach -- adds wonderful lemon flavor to this dessert but disappears in the cooked rhubarb; the crisp can be made without sorrel but it’s well worth looking for)

-- Zucchini Brownies (moist with plain yogurt; the shredded squash vanishes)

-- Secret Chocolate Cake (moist with yogurt, applesauce, and pureed beets)

-- Green Surprise Dip (people tend to think it’s guacamole -- how easily we are fooled by appearances -- but it’s actually made of steamed chard, kale or spinach pureed with chickpeas)

(Recipe changes weekly. To get on our recipe e-mail list, go to the SIS website and click on "Register.")

On page 110 Simply in Season lists a number of ideas for tempting the taste buds of reluctant eaters and for encouraging children to eat healthy foods. What are some practices that work for your family?


At 7:57 AM, Anonymous jennifer hs said...

Hi Cathleen--

I've been enjoying your thoughtful, well-researched yet down-to-earth columns today. What an encouragement to hear that you were once a picky eater! It is hard to be wholesome--and so tempting to backslide--with a strong kid-lobby in the house. Of course the culture is no help. Thanks for the encouragement and the hope that one day my kids will be enthusiastic about healthy foods too.


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