Ten years and three kids later, I finally learned something useful. It’s probably too late for us. Maybe some other parents can make use of this lesson.
Why will some kids eat a variety of foods while others get lockjaw when you try to feed them anything not a nugget made from, or at least named after, chicken?
You’re probably thinking: “I know this one. It’s because some kids are nice and some are little devil bastards.”
While that may be true, I’ve discovered a correlation between how my kids sense food and their willingness to eat it.
Case Study #1: The Good Eater
I was cooking Italian sausage for our spaghetti. Big Man followed his nose into the kitchen. “Are you making my favorite chicken?” he asked.
“I’m making sausage”
He’s not tall enough to see the stovetop. “Pick me up so I can see it,” he said. I lifted him. His eyes confirmed what his nose had already told him. “Yup. That’s my favorite chicken! Can I have some?”
Big Man initially senses food with his nose. He cares less for its appearance, or for what odd name this particular variety of chicken is given. If it smells good, he wants some. When offered something new, his response is, “Let me smell it.”
This is how he discovered he liked sautéed asparagus. His brothers will suffer a week of nightmares if a single asparagus stalk touches their plates.
Case Study #2: The Not Good Eater
On Buster’s short list of edible foods is teriyaki chicken from a particular restaurant. We could frequent this restaurant, on our way to the poor house, or we can make teriyaki chicken at home.
My teriyaki chicken isn’t five star restaurant quality, but it’s good. It’s good unless you are a six-year-old who first senses food visually. Buster took one look at my teriyaki chicken and it fused his lips together. It didn’t look exactly like the chicken he was used to; therefore it was not fit for consumption.
Case #3: The Recovering Not Good Eater
Big Brother was once like Buster, but he’s gotten old enough to not want to miss out on something good. He too was suspicious of my teriyaki chicken, but he was wise enough to note the similarities to the coveted restaurant version. It was worth a taste, and that’s all our chicken needed to win him.
Based upon this anecdotal study with a sample size of three, I consider the science settled. Children who experience new foods with their noses become good eaters. Children who use their eyes don’t. Picky eaters will grow to be less infuriatingly selective once they realize they are missing out.
I’m mostly happy to finally be raising a good eater. Mostly, except on the days when I come home to find the little delicacy I was saving for myself gone and an empty container on the counter. It must have smelled good.