We have some picky eaters in our family! When he was little, Big A would invariably spit out anything that had the least bit of texture; on the other hand, he would scarf down all the chips he could get his hands on!
Big A doesn’t know that in our family also lurks a now-reformed ex-picky eater; Me! I was notorious in my whole extended family as the girl who was all skin and bones because she didn’t eat! Anything green was abhorrent to me; I hated the texture of chicken and meat; and there were very few fruits that I actually liked. If I had my way, I would have gone through my childhood eating only lentils (dal), rice and potatoes.
However, I belonged to a Indian family in India in the ’80s, and there was no question about being able to do any of that! The idea of a child picking and choosing what he or she would eat, and rejecting the rest was tantamount to heresy! Food was put on your plate – food that the whole family was having – and you ate until your plate was spotlessly clean; not a rice grain wasted. Refusing food at another’s house was viewed as the first step before the child turned to drugs and became an elementary school dropout!
I would stretch my limits with my mom; I would plead, I would complain and nag and moan and groan until she was ready to tear her hair out. The outcome was that she would hand over the baton to my dad. This was where I was summarily beaten down. My dad would sit with me at the dining table until I swallowed all that was on my plate. I would whimper, sob, or just eat with tears running down my face, but I could not get up (I could get up to pee!) until I was finished. I was scared of him too at that time; he would discipline with an iron hand, unsheathed from any velvet glove, so I never dared oppose.
I remember once I was almost about to gag over a particularly large piece of spinach. My dad thundered, “If you dare to vomit, I’ll make you eat your vomit!” Of course, that was enough to make me just swallow the rest of my food! If you’re thinking that I was completely turned off spinach and the rest for life, I’m actually an adventurous eater now. I eat everything without fuss, and spinach is something I serve and eat almost every week.
So, coming back to Big A. This weekend, we had tried a different method of cooking eggplant; we cut it into strips and baked them with spices and salts. The outcome was pretty delicious and we served it at lunch. The first thing Big A does when he sees any new food is to screw up his nose and announce that he doesn’t like it. We respond to this by telling him that he must try it before making up his mind.
This time, he bit into a piece and immediately made a retching sound. It’s not that he’s allergic to eggplant, he eats it when it’s mashed, so The Husband got mad. He immediately thundered out that that piece better be finished, or else! We then sat and watched Big A nibbling at the piece with tears running down his face. When he was half-way through in a state of abject misery, The Husband told me quietly in Hindi to remove the rest while he was not looking.
So, The Husband pretended to turn around and look away, and I quickly picked up the offending piece from Big A’s plate and popped it into my mouth! He looked at me with startled, watery eyes, and I winked at him.
We’re never going to make it as Tiger parents.