I have a reluctant eater, the sort who is limited to one glass of milk at dinner so that he does not attempt to swallow whole every undesirable bite on his plate.
Elliott likes fruit. Except for dragon fruit (which we all agreed looks much better than it tastes), my youngest son eats the rainbow in fruit. Strawberries, apples, raspberries, mandarin oranges, nectarines, grapes, peaches, pineapple, bananas, blueberries—he eats with gusto. Broccoli and green beans, under protest. Squash and zucchini, not without fruit to accompany each bite. Cooked carrots, never. As with rice, cooked carrots are “off the menu” for him because the gagging and retching were more than we could bear (the sight of or the anguish they caused our boy).
Elliott’s disinclination for vegetables upsets the careful ratios of “My Plate,” the most recent iteration of the USDA food pyramid, as well as his father, whom I cleverly maneuvered to sit next to Elliott at dinner. Nightly, my sweet husband musters the energy to cajole, encourage, remind, and finally require that Elliott eat the modest serving of sweet potatoes or green peas on his plate.
Regularly, we converse about trying new foods, experimenting with cuisine, and the good news that our palates tend to expand as we grow up. Elliott will tell you, in all earnestness, that he looks forward to liking Thai food and looks wistfully at sticky rice. But for now, he watches his elder brother devour ribs smoked on the Green Egg, mystified. He watches me, in disbelief, choose to have a second serving of roasted butternut squash. These are mysteries Elliott has yet to unravel.
Fortunately, when our extended family gathers together, we have a go-to meal that everyone enjoys: hamburgers, broccoli slaw, Nanaw’s baked beans, and (of course) fruit salad. Elliott really likes hamburgers and rejoices on days when his father grills steak burgers. In my River Valley beef order each fall, I choose to grind the sirloin steaks. They are packaged like my 90% lean ground beef but are clearly labeled for me.
Steak burgers are consistently a win in my house–and for Elliott when they are served solo on a lightly toasted bun. No condiments, pickles on the side, no cheese. Ketchup? Perish the thought. Lettuce, are you serious? Unfailingly, he asks, “Bread and meat only, please.” And what a victory to say, “Sure, Elliott, that sounds fine.”
I also use ground sirloin to roll meatballs for spaghetti night. Except that Elliott already knows about the veggies I have pulsed in my food processor to put in them, I would never admit to it. But that is another story. Suffice it to say, that on spaghetti night, as on hamburger night, we have no dinner-time drama.
And that is a lovely thing.