Jessica and I are thrilled to have food+travel blogger Tracey Ceuvels here with us today. Tracey is the creator of the dinner-planning+foodie blog The Busy Hedonist and the shopping app NYC iFoodShop. She’s also mom to an almost-five-year-old daughter who, Tracey says, hates mashed potatoes but loves chicken satay and pappadum. When she’s not blogging, Tracey writes about food and travel for The Boston Globe, The New York Daily News, Time Out, Relish and many other publications.
Norine: So, Tracey, according to our highly scientific Stomach Compartmentalization Theorem, even though two bites of dinner fills a child up so completely that they cannot possibly eat another morsel, there is always room for dessert, preferably — at least in our house — chocolate. That never happens with your daughter, right?
Tracey (laughing): My daughter just “proved this theory” last week, after I took her to see Annie on Broadway. “I’m full,” she told me, after downing half a bowl of pasta. But when the waiter plopped down the slice of red-velvet cake in front of her, her eyes widened and she nearly ate the whole thing. We were “sharing,” and I had to quickly take a few bites because she was eating it like she hadn’t eaten since the day before. Ah, this child of mine! Just today at Whole Foods, she nibbled a few broccoli flowers (yes, the teeny flowers), took two bites of chicken and a few spoonfuls of rice, then declared herself full. Why do I bother filling up her compostable box with food she claims to like and promises to eat, when she eats like a bird?
Norine: Yep, in our house, we have a constant negotiation for how little dinner my son must actually consume in order to qualify for dessert. He routinely will take two bites of fish and eat three green beans, then pronounce himself full. “I can’t eat any-y-y-y-m-o-o-o-o-re, Mommy!” he’ll whine. Then in the very next breath he’ll say, “But can I have a brownie now?” That’s why I’m convinced there’s a separate secret dessert compartment in the stomach. Maybe that’s why there’s always room for Jell-O.
Jessica: At least your kid sits down. My son is a wanderer. I know that all of the research says that we should sit down together as a family for dinner. But it just doesn’t happen. Holden likes to start at 6 PM. He eats for 15 minutes, then gets up. Then he comes back at 7:30 to finish so that he can have dessert by 8. And then five minutes before bed at 8:25 PM, he INSISTS that he is starving and needs to eat something. Usually something that requires me to get up off the couch. Does he not know I’ve hung up my “off-duty” sign for the night? Drives me nuts.
Norine: Oh, the dining process moves painfully slowly at our table too. I think all I ever say to my kid is “FINISH YOUR DINNER!” Unless it’s “FINISH YOUR BREAKFAST!” Essentially, the message I’m trying to convey is that the kid should finish eating. Seriously. My kid dawdles like it’s his job. In the time it takes him to wrap up a meal, you could finish War & Peace — twice.
Tracey: My daughter is so similar to your son, Jessica. She’ll take a bite, then want to run off. She’ll come back for another morsel, then tell me her belly is full. Then when I’m doing the dishes, she’s suddenly hungry! It’s maddening. I tell her to sit and eat when it’s “dinner time,” but her stomach seems to be on its own schedule. I tell her that once I clear the plate there’s nothing else for dinner. But I guess I haven’t drilled that concept into her as well as I could, because later when she’s finally hungry, her shrieks are enough to make me want to get on the phone and order her a pizza. I’ve started just leaving her plate on the table when she says she’s finished. She ends up eating cold food now and then, but I simply can’t get her to eat when dinner has been served. I guess she hasn’t changed much since she was an infant. Starting at three months old, every night around 9 PM, she’d gobble up “dinner” then sleep all night. It seems that her internal clock for dinner is later than other kids’. Maybe she should live in Rome where dinner starts at 10 PM!
Norine: Now there’s a thought. I could live in Rome.
Jessica: My son’s plate is out for hours each night. Last night I insisted that he eat the delicious roasted cauliflower I had made before he could have dessert. He tried, he really did, but stone-cold roast cauliflower just isn’t the same. He grimaced and gagged, eyes watering as he tried to force it down. I gave in before he threw up all over the table. So many of the foods my son hates — mashed potatoes, oatmeal, eggs — are absolutely disgusting if you try to eat them cold. But I think he hates them because he doesn’t eat them until they’re cold. But he doesn’t eat anything till it’s cold. I’m hoping that eventually he will figure out the glory of hot food, and then an entirely new culinary world will be opened up to him. Until then we’re looking at a lot of sushi birthday dinners. Could be worse!
Norine: Let’s hope we find sushi in Rome!