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The Skilled Art of Secret Grilled Cheese Making

2010/06/22

NEWSFLASH: Kids are picky eaters. No really, I’m serious. This is a solid, academically researched fact. A mere three percent of children between the ages 2-7 will eat 10% of the food they are given only 27% of the time. In non-academic terms this simply means that kids are a pain in the ass when it comes to mealtimes.

I wonder if children somehow have the innate ability to pull nutrients out of the Elements in their environment like the ancient aesthetics who meditated in caves for decades, sustaining themselves on a drop of water and a single grain of rice, or less, per day.

Chinese Take-out

Take-out only. Or else.

I hate feeding my kids. Fortunately for them, it is required of me as a  responsible and loving parent. But their ridiculous aversion to anything I make them tortures me. My 3-year-old daughter refuses anything with the repeated phrase “I want something else,” but without ever saying what she wants instead. Sometimes reverse psychology works on her: “Well, I’m NOT going to make spaghetti,” and this instantly makes her want it, so that’s what she gets, what I originally made that she initially refused.

Let’s review the popular kid-approved dietary standards. It’s a short list: chicken in finger or nugget form, pizza, grilled cheese, some types of pasta especially mac and cheese, waffles and pancakes, Cheerios, only some brands of yogurt. Am I missing anything? No, those are the basics. Oh yeah, Chinese food, with the specific requirement that it comes from the restaurant. Lighting the fire under my own wok is forbidden. I tried it once. Only once. If I ever try that again, I’ll need to buy those little white boxes, but even then I doubt I’d be able to fool those kids. They’re way smarter than I am.

To an extent. In the last six years, I have developed a necessary skill or two in the art of deception when it comes to my kids. All parents do this, so I don’t feel the least bit guilty in deceiving them. Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Black Dragon That Eats Children Who Don’t Go To Bed When Their Parents Tell Them To – all deceptions designed to makes parents’ lives easier. Because Santa is watching you, so you better be good (why don’t we use this all year, not just between Thanksgiving and Christmas?). I try not to outright lie to my kids, that’s not good. Twisting ideas and words and disguising the truth isn’t lying, is it? Whatever, as long as they don’t figure it all out.

And so, I have found it necessary to deceive my daughters when it comes to food. Even with the above list of dietary standards, my kids have issues. For instance, my 6-year-old told me she didn’t want a grilled cheese sandwich because she doesn’t like cheese. I made the initial mistake of trying to reason with her – “But you eat all kinds of other foods that have cheese in them.” This was not a good direction to take, as she asked me what other food, exactly? Shit, I thought, if I tell her, that will greatly shorten her list of acceptable foods, including cheese ravioli and pizza. I changed the subject, “How about chicken fingers for dinner tonight?”

Grilled cheese

Made with love. And butter.

My other daughter, however, loves grilled cheese. She gobbled up two in a row today. But she is not without her issues with that staple. She doesn’t like butter. Or she says she doesn’t, or thinks she doesn’t, whatever. An essential part of making a grilled cheese, and she doesn’t want me to use it. She has caught me on numerous  occasions buttering the two slices of bread before placing them on the skillet, cheese between. “I don’t like butter, Dad! No butter!” she screams. So I have now perfected the skill of hiding the grilled cheese making by moving to the corner of the kitchen with my back towards her, and if she comes near, I shove the butter dish away and drop the knife until she moves on, and only when the coast is clear do I toss the buttered slices of bread onto the skillet. Avoiding the wrath of a tyrannical three-year-old is a more important survival skill than knowing how to find fresh water in a desert.

I long to keep the peace any way possible. I just wish they would eat something.

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