GUEST POST: Reality Bites

As RouxBarb’s first guest poster, I am so excited to tell you about the meal I cooked for my family last night. They LOVED it, as they always do when I make this particular feast. They all come to the table with great enthusiasm and dig in, and thank me profusely afterwards.

Ready? You might want to write this down, because it’s a little complicated.

  • Pasta (corkscrew shape only).
  • One jar pasta sauce (“meat-flavored,” see below).
  • Steam-in-bag broccoli.
  • One loaf frozen garlic bread.

Sigh.

So I moved to Georgia last summer to be with my then-boyfriend, now-husband. He has two daughters from a previous marriage, ages ten and twelve. Prior to meeting them in the fall of 2008, I had basically zero experience with children, of any age. And I had such big plans. I was going to be the Best Stepmother Ever, you see. I was going to put Carol Brady (well, actually, Alice) to shame. I was going to whip up all the casseroles and comfort foods I remembered fondly from my childhood…I was going to wake up in the mornings and scramble eggs for everyone while whistling cheerfully in my apron…

I was in for a rude awakening when faced with Reality. While Reality presented me with one stepdaughter who will try virtually anything (and thank god for her), Reality also served me up another, more cautious stepdaughter, whose food aversions include:

  • eggs (which puts a dent in my happy breakfast fantasy)
  • any food that touches or threatens to touch another food (which effectively rules out casseroles)
  • visibly detectable spices of any kind
  • food with an excess of flavor and/or texture
  • foods of the non-chicken-finger or macaroni-and-cheese food groups

[Please see Appendix A for complete list of unacceptable foods, including pasta shapes deemed inedible]

This was tough. I may not be a gourmet chef by any stretch of the imagination, but I adore food. I figure there are some people (like RouxBarb) put on this earth to produce wonderful edible creations and some people (like me) put on this earth to appreciate them. Who would the RouxBarbs of the world feed, otherwise?? So I was inspired to cook for my new family, to introduce them to the foods I loved, to help them grow into healthy eaters and cultured foodies who would linger with me over complicated home-cooked meals.

Instead, I argue in the Publix-brand pasta sauce aisle about whether the “Marinara” variety is too fancy. My family prefers the “Meat-flavored” version. Meat-flavored. What does this even mean? Not a specific type of meat, mind you. And presumably not real meat at all. Ick.

And thus, food is becoming the medium for me to learn the lesson that I suppose all parents, all married people, all adults have to learn at some point in their lives. And I shall share it with you free of charge:

People are not always going to conform to your expectations of them, no matter how hard you try or how often you attempt to sneak cumin into your chicken dishes. And in order to retain your sanity, you have to let those expectations go.

We have reached some good compromises, my new family and I. Sometimes the beef stew or the lasagna or the quesadillas get consumed with minimal complaints/dissection/discussion. And the other day when John mentioned cooking (which in his case could more accurately be called “microwaving” or “dialing pizza place”), the older stepdaughter called him on it, much to my amusement.

“You don’t cook, Daddy. You don’t put things in pans and sizzle them like Carrie does.”

I plan to keep sizzling until we all figure each other out.

And in the meantime, PLEASE send kid-friendly recipes.

(RouxBarb/Editor’s Note:  This first ever “Guest Post” brought to you by the recently wed and always inspiring Carrie C. , who was introduced to readers way back in the inaugural issue of RouxBarb.)

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27 responses to “GUEST POST: Reality Bites

  1. What a great way to start guest posts! Great job, Carrie 🙂

  2. Oh my! When someone asks me for “kid-friendly” recipes, I usually rattle off a list the includes “Pasta & Broccoli with Parsley Pumpkin Seed Pesto” and “Taco Salad.” I am stumped. I love your attitude of letting go of expectations though . . . I really needed to read this yesterday when I was in cake preparation hell with my 7 year-old.

  3. Carrie, Why not enroll your stepdaughter in a cooking class and let her make suggestions or even cook a meal once a week. This gives her some of the control she is seeking. On the other days you should make all those wonderful dishes you had originally planned to share with your new family. When my boys did not like what was on the menu I told them they could always eat yogurt and a banana.

  4. Lori, great idea! And yogurt/banana sounds much more nutritious than Spaghettios (hmmm, basically pasta with meat-flavored sauce), which is the usual choice when she doesn’t like what we’re eating.

    Angela, forget kid-friendly, *I* want the recipe for parsley-pumpkin-seed-pesto!

  5. HaHa!! I love it! My 5-yr old daughter’s own food aversion list is remarkably similar, except that she loves eggs, hates chicken nuggets and is the only kid I know that doesn’t like pizza. I do have hope, as she likes to cook, and spent her own money on a pint sized chef set for when she helps me in the kitchen. For some reason, she’ll eat anything she helps make while wearing that pink hat and apron. My husband is pickier than she is, and would be happy if I rotated pork chops, chicken and roast beef with Minute Rice and steamed broccoli for the rest of our lives. I’ve been failing at dinner for 5 years now, but along the way have had some simple successes I’d be happy to share. And ask RouxBarb for the chicken and noodles recipe from her Mom. 🙂

  6. Have you tried make your own pizza? Then she can have cheese or whatever is acceptable and you & John can go all foodie?!

    I make a lot of sautéed chicken breast served with pasta and then Scott and I have the mediterranean sauce or str fry or whatever with it. Then you are not *really* cooking two meals.

    Also? My kids will eat anything in muffin form!

  7. I remember when I was a kid making my own mini pizza by rolling out biscuits and putting sauce and cheese on it. My boys make there own with tortilla shells, sauce, cheese, and oregano on top. You can broil them and they are done in about 4 minutes

    One more thing, try just egg whites when making eggs. Some kids don’t like the yolk.

  8. Carrie – the parsley pumpkin seed pesto should be here: https://acrobat.com/#d=0cS7EXnNMfjsfTznd*FgVA

    Season the pesto well. I use spicy tamari pumpkin seeds and omit the red pepper flakes. Everyone in our house loves this – including a 7 year-old and picky 2 year-old. I hope the link works.

    • Your house is NOT normal, Angela! Not normal in a wonderful, miraculous way. Please know how incredibly fortunate you are. (I have to say this so that Carrie does not feel like a failure if all three other members of her household reject parsley pumpkin seed pesto. Angela is a SPECTACULAR, fancy-pants cook since way before I ever juiced a lemon. It’s all her kids have ever known.)

  9. Oh no, Angela, the link does NOT work! And I have high hopes for this one – I did roast pumpkin seeds at Halloween and had a 100% approval rate.

  10. Barb . . . you are too kind. And, yes, those poor children have had curries and roasted cauliflower and cabbage served to them from the beginning . . . almost the beginning in Alia’s case. And, the result has generally been good. Although now the 7 year-old has become quite the connoisseur. He was not shy about telling one of my best friends that the cake she made for her daughter’s birthday was too dense. I sort of wanted to hide under the table at that moment.

  11. Carrie, try the chicken and dumplings recipe from my blog. It’s super simple and delish!

  12. We don’t have kids ~ just cats (who rarely eat what we’re serving, anyway!) But I do have a wonderful DH who tends to eat exactly the opposite food that I eat, so that can be a challenge. (For example, I don’t eat rice or pasta or most breads, and he loves all of them. I eat a lot of veggies and maybe the occasional apple, and he eats every kind of fruit known to man, and some veggies. And I love fish (preferably raw) … whereas he is willing to eat tuna sandwiches about once a month. He’s also a big fan of American and Monterey Jack and Meunster cheese … and I pretty much want extra sharp Colton or Stilton or blue …. or why bother!? And my cheese can NEVER be melted, and my broccoli MUST be raw, but my spinach MUST be cooked.

    heh heh heh …. thanks for the blog entry, it made me smile.

    • I completely understand! It seems that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in terms of picky eaters, if ya know what I mean. But at least John and I have some compatible likes/dislikes…he will always eat my pickle or the baby corn out of my chinese food, and I always get his mushrooms! Cooperation.

  13. Hi! Great post, Carrie!
    And isn’t there a full serving of veggies in every can of spaghetti-os? ha ha.
    I want the chicken and dumplings recipe, but I’m not sure whose blog I should be checking for that. Can someone post a link, pretty please?

  14. I was that kid that couldn’t have my food touch, only accepted certain shapes of pasta, had to have strawberry jelly on a PBJ, and refused to eat burnt (ie grilled) meat.

    Now I love Indian, Thai, Korean, tapas, duck, lamb, etc. I still won’t eat cooked broccoli or seafood, but my taste buds are much more open than they used to be. Still have a texture issue, but I’m doing better 🙂

  15. A friend of mine pointed me to this blog 🙂

    The best tip/recipe I have for parents who want to feed their kids well is to roast their vegetables. A bit of oil (make in Canola) and salt (make it kosher) and roast until veggies are slightly charred and just-tender. Even toddlers will eat asparagus done this way, and no cheese sauce required 🙂

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