Saturday, 8 August 2015

Our fussy eater has a feast

We've had my brother and his family to stay this week; a birthday surprise for my mum. Although it was my mum's special treat, I feel like we got the best present - our usually fussy eater had a food adventure. 

We are very lucky to have an eater, she likes to eat, but she's not very adventurous. Up to the age of two she would eat everything I put in front of her - avocado, blueberries, fish and even peas were her favourite. Then something just changed and she has slowly refused all vegetables except mushrooms and broccoli, most fruits except bananas and grapes, and even her beloved blueberries get the thumbs down.

She still loves pasta, rice, potato, fish, chicken, pork and beef so I'm not too worried, but her menu seems too restrictive to me. I seem to be cooking the same things all the time and hiding vegetables in everything. I put cauliflower in mash potato and rice, grated carrots in omelettes (no darling the orange pieces in your omelette are not carrots, that's cheese of course), tiny amounts of mashed peas in the broccoli, and fried onions in her toothpaste (only joking). I can't get her to eat sausages, homemade pizza, anything with a sauce like spaghetti bolognaise, or even pancakes. In fact anything different to her normal diet, gets a frown.

I make her an amazing savoury cake with all the veg I can think of, and at first I was confident she would love it because all you can taste is the cheese and ham. But she looked at me suspiciously like I was trying to poison her and spat it out. I still make it for her (it really is delicious and I'm persistent) but she just isn't interested, so me and my husband have to finish it off (maybe that's why I'm so persistent - we're greedy).

I decided to make her a batch of breakfast pancakes with blueberries in, just to eat something different. Took me far too long to make because the blueberries were just annoying little buggers, but I slaved away and presented them to her. "No thanks mummy". I cook with her to try and encourage her to eat what we've made. "No thanks mummy". I make a story up about the food and make it special. "No thanks mummy". We sit with her at every meal time and offer her different things. "No thanks mummy". We have always taken her to restaurants from being very small so she can see all sorts of different cuisines but "no thanks mummy". She even refuses to try things that children usually love, like orange juice and fish fingers.

Recently I had a breakthrough when she tried and actually liked linguine. It wasn't the pasta that made me happy because she eats pasta shells anyway, it was the fact she tried something new. So when my brother came to stay there was all sorts of new things to try.

My brother and his girlfriend are both good cooks and, what's better, they like cooking. So food was going to be a big part of their visit. They live in 'up north' and we live 'down south', so it's not very often that we all manage to get together. We went to a restaurant on the first night and my little girl came along too. It's the first time she's been out to a restaurant at night and we didn't know how she was going to hold up. But she did well, and wasn't too tired to enjoy herself. Straight away my brother offered her some of his fish, and because she was excited and he was a shiny new person, she tucked in. She even had some carrot off his plate and told everyone how good she was.

We had a barbecue at the Lower Leas Cliff Park in Folkestone (one of our favourite places in Kent). A lovely family day, where my niece and my little one played together on the tunnel slides and zip wires. Now, sausages have been thrown on the floor before, spat out, cried over, refused outright. But for some reason, maybe because we were all eating them, she ate her sausage without blinking and declared to us all how yummy it was.

We had a day in the garden splashing in the pop-up pool. My brother and his girlfriend made garlic and tomato bruschetta, as well as smoked salmon with dill. Tomatoes were once a firm favourite, but recently they've been called 'yucky' and 'not nice'. But with everyone chatting and laughing, she tucked in; tomato juice running down her chin, salmon covered in dill in her other hand.

We made a buffet of cold meats and cheeses, salami and kabanos sausage - something she wouldn't even look at, never mind try. But she saw us eating kabanos and got stuck in. "I like these" she said smiling from ear to ear.

When we all said our goodbyes I took her home and looked in the fridge. "Would you like some kabanos darling, we've got some left?" I asked, not sure of her response. But she nodded enthusiastically "this is delicious, I like these", she said with her mouth full. I was relieved. It really was a good week for her trying and enjoying new things. Our family get-together seems to have made food fun and something special. Maybe she understood, on some level, how food was bringing us all together - how much we enjoyed it and she wanted to be part of it.

So we will carrying on offering her lots of different food, being persistent and involving her in more family gatherings. So if you are having a family get-together in Canterbury, you might find a three-year-old and her mother sitting on the end of your table, quietly crashing your party. Just ignore us, but offer us some of your food please.

If you have any suggestions, recipes, or new ways to introduce food to a fussy missus, please let me know. I'd love to hear from you and I might share my savoury cake recipe!

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