At the award-winning Dash and Bella, named after her son (7) and daughter (12), Sunset guest blogger Phyllis Grant tells stories about the intersection of cooking and parenting.

 

PART 1: AT THE TABLE

Twelve years and thousands of meals into this relentless parenting gig, I can say with confidence that kids’ taste buds, cravings, and bellies are always evolving and often in overdrive (hormones, hormones, hormones). If your kids are young—and you want dinner to feel a little less loaded and a lot more peaceful—here are some mealtime guidelines I’ve followed for the past decade.

 

Don’t get attached to kids’ likes and dislikes—everything changes.

There is no such thing as kid food—there is only bland food.

Make only one dinner—no special meals.

 

Take asparagus and my son. Not a single complaint for five years, until one day:

It’s green. It’s stringy. It makes my pee stink. It might make me barf.

Let’s consider the parenting paths I could have taken:

  1. Make asparagus magically disappear from his life so there is no more suffering.
  2. Talk about how much I love asparagus and how he should love it too.
  3. Tell him his brain needs asparagus in order to grow and force him to eat a large portion.
  4. Say nothing. Be chill. Trust that things will change.
I guess I would say that I did a modified version of #4.

I didn’t put asparagus away for the entirety of his childhood (along with that crazy dangerous Nerf gun and his neglected Ninjago Legos). I didn’t rhapsodize about the fiber and the calcium in each bite. I didn’t force-feed him like a goose. Instead, I broiled the asparagus with as much flavor (harissa! anchovies!), passion, and fire (I accidentally singed my eyebrows) as possible. I put one spear on his plate and then I inhaled the rest right in front of him. But I didn’t say a thing.

My son kept hating asparagus. I kept serving asparagus. For two years.

Sometimes, he would even help me prepare it for dinner: snapping off the ends, peeling the tough outer skins, tossing them in olive oil and salt, commenting on their beauty. But every single time I asked him to eat some, he would scrunch up his face in disgust.

So last week, when I passed my son a platter of butter-drenched poached asparagus, I prepared myself for the usual drama.

I watched him shove a stalk into his mouth. And another.

Mom, I love asparagus.

I wanted to kiss him all over. I kept my butt in the chair and my mouth sealed shut but a little giggle squeaked out.

Mom, what’s so funny?

Nothing. I just love you.  Pass the asparagus, please.

 

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