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SALT LAKE CITY — Have you ever made a meal that all of your children eat willingly?
And no, ice cream sundaes for dinner don't count. Dessert is not an official meal (at least that's what I tell my children).
I kid you not, I will slave over a meal complete with all the fixings — even add options for variety— and at least one child will refuse to eat a single item I place before them.
And refusal is one thing.
Daily, it seems, I have at least one child I have to count every bite of food with because I coerced him by saying, "You only have to eat 10 bites." Still, those 10 bites are mite-sized and eaten with pinched lips so most of the food ends up on his chin.
My time spent ensuring children eat only ensures that I eat my meal cold.
If you know, you know.
And then there's the child who hides food in her cheek for later. And when I say later, I mean it is for that mid-dinner run to the restroom.
I know what she's doing because I did it when I was her age and have the memory of being forced to locate the hunk of meat in the garbage (should have flushed it down the toilet) and then surrender my cookie that I had apparently had "not earned." It was a fortune cookie, and I recall clenching that cookie tightly in my hands and crumbling it to bits — if I couldn't have my cookie, nobody could.
As the mother in what I know is merely payback for my own picky childhood, I have found myself turning into Beast mode, yelling "Well, go ahead and starve!" at the top of my lungs as I threaten said starvation punishment until the next meal.
It's not that I'm a bad cook — at least that's what I have to tell myself if I am to continue on in this suffering. After all, my on-the-job training consisted of a handful of cooking shows in my early mom days (when I had time for that sort of thing). But mostly, it has been trial and error, with many errors within those trials.
Despite the many food flops, I have had my triumphs.
I've learned that thin spaghetti is the perfect balance between spaghetti and angel hair pasta. And if I mix the sauce in the noodles beforehand, rather than taking the sauce-on-top approach, more of the meal will be consumed. That is except for that one child who prefers to control her sauce distribution; she gets her own plate of noodles and "side sauce."
I've learned that lasagna is far inferior to spaghetti, and tacos will get the least number of complaints. Chill is good, but don't make it fancy — only beans, meat and keep the peppers, onions and tomatoes chopped and cooked down so you can't see or taste them.
Sandwiches are fine, but only when they're grilled — except when they're overgrilled or undergrilled, or when I mess up the cheese-bread ratio. Pancakes taste better with chocolate chips, and apparently smiley faces on non-chocolate chip pancakes also have a more desired flavor.
With my many errors, I have one major #momwin to share with y'all, and it's this: If I cut things including apples, carrots, pizza, chicken tenders, sandwiches and quesadillas into little bite-sized portions, they get eaten no matter what. I'm not sure the science behind it — I'm pretty sure it's all mental — but I'm glad I at least got something right.
Because, if I am to continue on as master chef to nine children with a potential posterity that could fill Yankee Stadium before I leave this earth, I'd better darn well have some tricks up my sleeve.
And that begs the question: What are your tricks for getting kids to eat? Or, like me, do you experience daily mealtime critics? Please let us all know in the comment section.