Stop People Pleasing and Just Cook!

So, I spend a ton of time trying to figure out how to feed my family nutritious and exciting meals. Some days, that can be a positive experience, and others it is a major heartache.

First, we have a 10-year-old. Any parents out there know that kids are notoriously frustrating when it comes to food. Some kids go through phases where say they only want to eat certain colors of foods. I’ve heard tales of kids that won’t eat vegetables unless tricked. Luckily, all of my kids have been very good about eating vegetables. Some kids have texture issues. Some adults too, frankly, but I’ve never seen any adult experience it as strongly as children that have them. Our 10-year-old adds to all of that with being raised vegetarian and having extreme reactions to certain words and anything that looks like a sauce, topping, gravy, dressing…you are getting the point I am sure. The word salad (whether it’s pasta, rice, lettuce, or alien-matter-based immediately prompts an absolute refusal to give it a chance. Add to this that her meal schedule is different between two houses and we often get her very shortly before our dinner time, and you have a recipe for total disappointment every time I put dinner on the table.

Then, I have our older girls. The oldest is vegan. I have adapted to that challenge pretty nicely, though my husband still has to remind me on occasion that butter is not vegan. Come on. I grew up in the South, and I love Julia Child… you know I like my butter. The middle child is pretty open about food these days, though she has gone through vegetarian, vegan and pescatarian phases. However, she’s been suffering from a health issue for the last couple of years, so I have to be careful about certain foods, like pork (and you know I love pork) that will irritate her stomach. And if she’s having a particular bad day, I obviously need to consider that in deciding what foods will be gentle on her stomach. Obviously, I do not at all mind accommodating this. If I could come up with the miracle foods she could always eat and feel well after, I’d make that dish every single night she is home. But, it does add another challenge to meal prep.

Finally, add my lovely husband. He’s an omnivore and generally will try almost anything. He does have a few foods he historically loathes, and I’m still holding out hope to get him to try them in new ways and change his mind. I mean, who hates all things squash related? Also, kale. I have tried to convince him there are variations of kale and ways to prepare it. I have yet to be bold enough to put it on the table. And during pandemic, he has been another food challenge. The stress and anxiety sometimes make him not want to eat. When you take my most avid fan and tell me he has no appetite or he only takes 1-2 bites of dinner…crusher.

But I am adapting because that is what you do. This weekend I cooked meals that I wanted, but incorporated some vegetarian because we had the youngest and still tried to incorporate something new into each meal. It turned out great. From the fried chicken legs on Friday served with leftover spinach and tomato pasta and creamed peas to the grilled shrimp and polenta on Saturday with roasted red pepper sauce, I enjoyed every meal. And even better, my husband found new things he like. I’m not talking the shrimp. That man always loves shrimp. But he loved the creamed peas. Apparently, this is not a common dish in Illinois. He chose seconds of the peas over another fried chicken leg. And the kid ate all her pasta and all the peas and asked for seconds on the pasta!

And on Saturday with the polenta and black peas, we had another success. The kid did not try the sauce. I was not surprised. Someday, she’s going to discover what she’s been missing in life when it comes to sauces, and it’s going to be an amazing adventure for her. She also pushed back a little on the black beans basically claiming she likes them soupier. This is funny and obviously her trying to come up with an excuse not the eat them since she eats the black beans but not the broth when we make black bean soup. However, I pushed back and told her she had to eat more than a slice of polenta to get dessert, and she actually at all of the black beans and roasted red pepper along with her polenta. And the husband not only ate two skewers of shrimp, he also had 2 1/2 pieces of the polenta, mainly for the sauce!

So, there is a lesson I think many of us have to keep learning on a regular basis in all of this. Stop trying so hard to make everyone else happy. Make yourself happy first. I cooked things I wanted to eat. We had meat at both meals despite having a vegetarian and without turning it into two separate meals, something I loath. And everyone ate better than they have in the last two weeks, so I left each meal feeling pretty self-satisfied. Now, if I can remember this the next time they don’t eat or just pick at the meal.

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