How to cook for small children: a case study


The first meal I made for the kids was smothered pork chops. I coated lean pork chops in flour, seasoned with Cajun seasoning, salt, pepper, and sage. Then I browned them in butter on both sides, moved them to a plate, made gravy in the pan I took them from, and then slid the pork into the gravy once it thickened. They loved it–I remember the six year old saying: “Jenn, I love your chicken!” I started to say: “That’s por–” Then Henry cut me off. “Say it’s chicken,” he said under his breath. From that day forward, I learned that feeding these kids involves a lot of fibbing.

Once I got confident in feeding them meals they’d actually eat, I’d start hearing: Well, Mommy cooks it this way…or Grandma does this…and then all of my new found confidence would disappear, leaving me like a deflated balloon. But I kept trying. For six months, I made them a different kind of muffin each week for breakfast. Cherry walnut, peach pie chia muffins–you name it, I tried it. And when I got home from work each day, I’d walk into the kitchen, where they ate, and step on the dried fruit and nuts they picked out of their muffins.

I learned that these kids will put away a dozen scrambled eggs like it’s no one’s business. I also learned that they would rather have plain pancakes, which they will eat by the stuffed mouthful, instead of whole wheat with blueberries.

I have learned that something they loved last month will be rejected this month. I learned that I can mature their palates by slowing introducing strange ingredients into their normal favorites. I learned that I can say: Eat it anyway.

I learned that half of their meal will inevitably end up on the floor or smeared into the seat cushions of their chairs. I have learned that if Daddy eats it, so will the three year old. i have learned that I have to give Daddy “the look” so that he takes some salad and eats it with forced cheerfulness. I have seen these kids inhale cornbread dripping with butter and honey–and feign interest in the chili just so that they get another piece of cornbread.


Pizza at Northfork Brewery

As I have learned to feed them, I have grown into this stepmommy role–and my confidence no longer hinges on whether or not they eat my dinner. Although some nights, when they turn up their noses at something EVERY OTHER PERSON IN THE WORLD WOULD EAT, I am tempted to open them up a can of dog food and go cry in my room. But that’s completely normal, right?



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