By Chef George Duran
If you know me well, you know that I’m not the most spiritual person in the world. That said, I believe God (or any higher being you choose to believe in) has an awesome sense of humor. Not the “knock knock” type of humor, but more of an ironic and unexpected one. After all, we can’t let our expectations in life lead us to disappointment without a good laugh.
When my son was born over two years ago I was always excited at the idea of cooking for him. I had to patiently wait the obligatory 6-month breast feeding phase before I could start processing some ingredients for him. At first everything felt fine. His first mashed food was avocados and he seemed to devour it. At least for the first couple of days. I began purchasing baby food cookbooks (haven’t we all?) and started spending more hours processing his “gourmet” mashes than my own foods. Little did I know the battle was about to begin.
It didn’t take him long to understand that he had choices and what he didn’t choose was daddy’s food. Fruits, cereal and milk were his favorite. Period. “It’s just a phase” is what I was hearing from other parents, but I was looking at how their own infants were enjoying a simple bowl of spaghetti and meatballs in one sitting while mine stuck his tongue out. I was expecting to find the headlines of a newspaper the next day screaming “ TV Chef’s Son Hates Food!”.
One evening, as my son was barely touching his bowl of fruit, my friend’s same-aged son sat down and began vaporizing an entire watermelon. This kid wasn’t eating little diced pieces of the stuff, he was holding adult-slices of the melon and pounding through it. He was a real-life Very Hungry Caterpillar and I was seething with envy. All things food is who I am and I felt a cruel joke being played on me.
One day, however, I pulled out these awesome mini pots and egg pans made by IMUSA. They’re small enough for him to get a good grip on and quite durable to withstand his mighty beatings. I pulled out an egg, cracked it in a bowl and asked him to place it in the egg pan. It fried perfectly. I flipped it and placed it on a plate. He was mesmerized. I grabbed a piece of buttered toast, dipped it in the cage-free bright yolk and asked him to take a bite. Would he indulge in the breakfast of gods? He bit it and for the first time ever I heard him loud and clear: “Mmmmmmmm!” I could almost hear a choir of angels in the background and began playing this cooking game with him. I let him use a morter and pestle (or molcajete) to make guacamole and he would devour it! He could press on the quesadilla maker and the cheesy triangles (his favorite shape) would get eaten. I felt that I had cracked the code on the picky eater!
It still can be a battle to feed my son at times but I assume I’m not alone. As long as I keep him curiously (and safely) involved in the preparation process (we made meatballs last night!), he seems to enjoy eating some of the recipe. It gives me hope and keeps me praying for a less pickier daughter some day!
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