Golden Raisins—and Other Foods My Kid Can’t Even Look At

EatingWell - - FRESH -

My son is deeply mis­trust­ful of golden raisins. He dis­cov­ered one in a hand­ful of trail mix the other day and re­flex­ively flicked it onto the counter, as if he’d just found a bee­tle crawl­ing on his palm. “Mom, what is that?” he asked with a small, in­vol­un­tary shud­der. “Um, it’s a raisin, dude. You’ve eaten tons of them in your life, just not this kind,” I said. “But it’s yel­low and squishy and wei­i­i­i­i­ird!” he shot back. This is par for the course with Jack­son. It’s not that he’s a picky eater. He’ll hap­pily scarf down things a lot of kids wouldn’t touch—like broc­coli (a fa­vorite, ac­tu­ally), tofu and pretty much any­thing on a Thai or In­dian menu, no mat­ter how spicy or fla­vor-ad­vanced. His is a tex­ture thing. And when he dis­likes some­thing, it’s a vi­o­lent dis­like. Full-body dry heaves might bet­ter de­scribe it. There was the time when he was 5, for ex­am­ple, that my hus­band and I made fried chicken for the kids as a treat. Jack­son took one bite of his drum­stick, opened his mouth and just let the en­tire chicken leg roll straight out and—thunk—onto his plate. Bones. He’d never had chicken with bones in it be­fore—just skin­less breasts that, to a kid, don’t ac­tu­ally come from a chicken. They come from a su­per­mar­ket, dummy. And he was pretty sure that what he was eat­ing was still some­how alive. Ther­apy, he in­sisted, was im­mi­nent. And you know those lit­tle wooden spoons that come with Ital­ian ice? Yeah, you might as well be hand­ing him a splin­tered two-by-four to eat his dessert with. I won’t even tell you what he thinks about the tex­ture of zuc­chini, ex­cept to say that the mouth­feel, to him, is not un­like plung­ing your hand into the guts of a just-carved Hal­loween pump­kin. Since both of my kids were lit­tle (he’s now 15, she’s 12), I’ve cooked for them ac­cord­ing to two rules: 1. I am not a short-or­der cook and you will eat what I’m mak­ing. No sub­sti­tu­tions. No side-eye. And 2. You must try at least one bite of ev­ery­thing. Af­ter that, you are free to ban­ish what­ever it is you don’t like to the cold, lonely edges of plate Siberia. Prob­a­bly also cover it with a nap­kin. This, as you can imag­ine, has made for some de­light­ful din­ners. By which I mean epic bat­tles over a bite of grape tomato, a pool of po­lenta or a seared scal­lop. And meals where the only food he re­ally ate was beige: bread, pasta, rice—you know, the nu­tri­tional pil­lars that any well-bal­anced, carb-itar­ian diet is based on. So I’ve had to get crafty. What if I ce­viched the scal­lops? (Then they’d be firm, rather than, “Oddly slip­pery. Like the in­side of one of those bad white gum­drops no­body likes.” End quote.) What if I made a br­uschetta top­ping with the toma­toes? (Less squish fac­tor.) And what if I did a salad with raw coins of as­para­gus, in­stead of roast­ing them un­til ten­der (read: wob­bly and stringy and blech)? Don’t get any ideas. This wasn’t a sin­gle epiphany that Changed Meal­time For­ever. It was many trial-an­der­ror at­tempts over, oh, half a decade. But by the time I in­tro­duced spi­ral­ized zuc­chini this year, Jack­son asked for sec­onds of the “noo­dles.” (Zuc­chini! The ul­ti­mate win! Is there some sort of medal?) It’s not that I was try­ing to dupe my child into eat­ing foods he’d nor­mally kick to the curb. My idea was that if I could get him to tol­er­ate them in one form, then over time he might learn to like them in any form. (Plus, I’d been told by a re­searcher who stud­ies these things that it takes some­thing like 30 ex­po­sures for kids to ac­cept a food they don’t like, and I held out hope.) It took pa­tience. It took mar­ti­nis. So many mar­ti­nis. But, for the most part, it’s worked; there are very few Siberian foods left. Just don’t try to give him one of those wooden spoons. And def­i­nitely no golden raisins.

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