Katie's Corner: Do Not Eat
By Katie Rosengren
I had a reputation for being a picky eater as a kid, which I never really understood. I just couldn’t figure out why my aunt insisted on making Tuna Helper on nights I spent at her house, knowing I hated it. The inevitable standoff that would occur when I refused to eat it, the empty threats about starving children in Africa, my willingness to express mail my untouched creamy fish noodles. Wouldn’t it have been easier for everyone involved if she just made something I liked?
I liked to eat as a kid. A lot. I still do. I just have a discerning palate (read: a nicer way to say I’m a little picky.) My husband, Cole, still claims he can’t keep track of all the things I don’t like. As I’ve gotten older, the strict will-not-eat list has turned more into a suggestion of things I would prefer not to have, but will mostly eat if someone else puts them on a plate in front of me. As a grown up and primary grocery shopper and cook in my household, I have a lot of control over what ends up on my plate.
As for those starving kids in Africa I was happy to send my dinner to? I care a lot more about them now, too. And the thousands of food insecure kids in the US. I don’t want to waste food because it is a privilege to be well fed when so many others are not. So I’ve spent most of my adult life as a card carrying member of the clean plate club. I’ve tried to be mindful of what I buy and what ends up in my compost bucket. Though I have lost some leftovers along the way, I’m happy to say most of the food I buy will never make it into the trash.
In May, I will give birth to my first child and I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways my life will change. Basically, in every conceivable way. In ways that I can’t even begin to imagine. I look forward to all of the firsts and exciting moments that I will have with my son, but the thing that I’m most looking forward to is sharing food with him.
I think about what foods we’ll introduce first. I think about the meals we’ll share as a family as he gets older. I think about him on a tiny stool pulled up to the kitchen counter to help me prep our dinner. Then I think about myself as a child, sitting at my aunt’s kitchen table, refusing the meal she made me. I also think about all of the kids I have babysat over the years and the untouched bits and bites left behind on tiny plates decorated with cartoon characters. And I realize that I will have no control over my son. That he may have a discerning palate of his own. That there will be meals that he refuses to eat for his own reasons and I will be left wondering how to get him to care that having enough nourishing food to eat is not something to be taken for granted. How many plates of cold toddler leftovers will Cole and I eat in the name of not wasting it?
I have so many resources at my disposal, not the least of which is my own history with being a little picky. There may be many plates of picked over cold spaghetti in my future, and Cole and I may end up eating that ourselves, lest we guiltily scrap it into our compost bucket. Despite that, I do believe that I will also be able to raise a socially conscience child who understands the value in food. And at the very least, there won’t be any Tuna Helper.