Monday, November 21, 2011

What I'm Not Thankful For

It's the week of Thanksgiving, and I have so many things to be thankful for! God has blessed me in too many ways to count. Out of all these blessings, I'm especially thankful for my wonderful husband and kids. What I'm not especially thankful for are their limited palates.

I'm contributing a salad to this year's Thanksgiving dinner. A salad that I know my children won't touch and my husband will only make a halfhearted effort to try, just because he knows I made it.  My salad will contain raisins, a food that's on my family's Do Not Serve list.  But because I am bringing it to an extended family celebration, I'm free to make it. If I were serving it only to my immediate family and I expected them to eat it, my salad would not only have to exclude raisins; it would have to contain hot dogs, Kraft macaroni and cheese, or Lucky Charms.

I like to cook; in fact, I love it.  And it's a relatively new endeavor for me.  I really didn't cook at all until I met my husband, someone I actually wanted to cook for. I loved showing my affection for him by making something so personal as a meal. But then I was confronted with the long list of things my husband (who was then my boyfriend) refused to eat: Rice. Pie. Nuts. Raisins. Tomatoes. Olives. Coconut. And most offensive to me as a half-Mexican woman...beans. Pinto beans, either cooked or refried, made up about half my diet. Now I'm cooking for a man who won't eat them? I nearly ended our relationship right there.

There is nothing that I won't eat, and I credit that to my mother, who was, to put it delicately, an unenthusiastic cook. Because I was forced to eat Mom's creamed beef, I can now eat any food that's put in front of me with a smile on my face, knowing that no matter how bad it is, it will be a vast improvement over what I found on my plate growing up.  When I was young, there were no dinner "options", either. If I didn't eat that goulash, then I didn't eat, period. I believe it's now a federal offense to only offer one meal option to your children.  Which is why my kids may never expand their tastes to include anything more exotic than fish sticks.

In order to try to satisfy the finicky members of my family on our one-income budget, I probably spend as much time on meal planning and grocery shopping as General Schwarzkopf did planning Operation Desert Storm. Ideally, I should buy what's cheap, yet healthy, yet palatable to my husband and kids. But I can't, because there is no meal in the world that meets those requirements. So I have to settle for what's cheap, palatable to at least one of them, and has some semblance of nutrition. Two of them like salad; one doesn't. Two like turkey sloppy joes; one doesn't. Two of them love lasagna; one won't eat it. And that's today. On the rare occasion (and I'm talking Halley's-Comet-rare) that I make something all three of them are satisfied with, and I think I finally have a go-to meal for my family, it's guaranteed that one of them will turn his nose up at it the next time I make it.  It's enough to bring me to tears. Or at least enough to bring me to start throwing food.

Because our children have one parent who's particular about food and one who's not, I thought they'd at least have a shot at being open to wide varieties of food. But they aren't. How did they become so picky?  I have a picture of my son when he was little, eating a box of raisins. Suddenly, he stopped eating them a couple of years ago.  My daughter used to like tomatoes, but not anymore. Coincidence?  I don't think so.  I think when my husband takes our kids on bike rides without me, he uses the opportunity to explain to them his disdain for certain foods. I can just seem him now:  "I know you kids like pie, but I don't know how you can eat it!  That crust is so...yucky."  Bam! No more pie for my kids.

I can't remember the last time I sat down to eat dinner with my family and I was able to actually eat.  Almost every night I'm up cooking another "choice" for the one or two or all of them who don't like the enchiladas I made because they're "too spicy" or "too oniony" or just "don't taste good." But I'll keep trying to make meals that my family enjoys, because I love them, I'm thankful for them, and I want to cook for them. Twice each night.

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