When the picky eaters get more picky…

I have previously shared some of my picky eater woes with the various members of my crew. Vegan, vegetarian, anti-winter produce, and such are a challenge. But these are no match for my pickiest picker of all. She’s nine. Eleanor is not only picky about what foods she will eat. She’s a vegetarian, but vegetarian recipes are everywhere, so that’s doable. But add to that food texture issues, flavor pallete limitations, and just the whim of the day on how any particular food is prepared, and we have a roller coaster fit for any theme park.

For example, brocolli is its own adventure. She likes the stems the best. This is a challenge as in our current grocery climate, most places trim the stalks almost completely away, and you are left with mostly the florets. She’ll eat the florets, if properly prepared to her exact specifications, but she would prefer the stems. As far as preparation, she mainly prefers it steamed. But, one must be very cautious here. If it’s too soft, she’ll eat a couple of bites and leave most of it on the plate. If it’s “too hard” (her words), she will not get past the first bite, as we learned at our local bar and grill, Rockwell’s, at dinner last night. My favorite preparation is roasted, but again, caution is required. I like it to start getting a little brown on the florets. She picks out the ones that have any brown and says they are too crunchy for her.

Cauliflower has similar limitations. Our favorite method for cooking it is roasting it with onions, garlic, salt and olive oil. With cauliflower, unlike brocoli, we can get a little browning and she’ll still eat it up. However, she is going to side-eye the little brown bits of garlic on the plate. Even though they obviously give the cauliflower itself a delicious flavor, you’ll find those bits have been carefully separated and pushed aside on the plate during the meal.

And nothing mashed will do! I have one of the only kids I have ever met who won’t eat mashed potatoes. Isn’t this a kid staple? I have to create two kinds of mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving for my vegan and non-vegan daughters. Katie, non-vegan, wants cream and butter and sour cream. My Melanie, vegan, still loves mashed potatoes, or potatoes in any form, but obviously isn’t going to eat the creamy, buttery, cow-product filled dish. So, I have another version I make using vegetable broth and vegan buttIer. I could go on at length about my curiousities of vegan butters and cheeses and such, but I’ll leave that alone for now. Anyway, Eleanor won’t even try anything with such a texture.

Tang and heat are also not in her wheelhouse.  And I don’t mean 3-alarm chili style or your local-hot-wings-blow-your-head-off sauces. If she detects even the slightest ting of heat, or sees you put even a dash of black pepper in something, you can expect to throw away a full plate of food. Now, many of the foods I prepare for her do contain some type of pepper, but I am very cautious to make sure it is only as much as absolutely necessary and that there won’t be any “zip.” Sad for the rest of us, but I’ve managed to find ways to replace said heat with things that add a little umami or such. Her reaction to tang is similar. Too much ginger in the stir-fry and again, food just goes to waste.

However, this being a twisted world, she likes more pungent and flavorful cheese. She won’t eat raw cheeses such as cheddar, colby jack or mozzarella. She’ll only eat these kinds of cheese melted in a grilled cheese sandwich, on a pizza, or in macaroni and cheese. However, we visited our local Augusta Food and Wine, which sells a variety of cheeses, small food items, and wine, and she loved some aged white cheddar and even blue-cheese! So, I have hope for her little taste buds. Despite the current limitations, we’ll keep exploring the food world and enjoying the challenges she presents to the dinner table.

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