As a caring mother, I’m a sucker for books with titles like, How to Get Your Picky Child to Eat Vegetables, even though I would probably get equally good results from a tome entitled Teach a Raccoon to Crochet. Currently my son’s diet consists of 1) Peanut Butter Sandwiches, 2) Jelly Sandwiches and 3) Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches.
According to the newest books, you can actually puree vegetables and mix them into kid favorites such as macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, and chili, and they’ll never know the difference, assuming the end result is then pureed again and injected directly into the child’s bloodstream. While I did have some success mixing two tablespoons of yam puree with an old kid favorite (a quart of pancake syrup), on the whole, I have found these new books about as useful as the previous ones I’ve tried. My shelves are full of whimsical volumes that exhort mothers to call broccoli florets “little trees,” (as though the prospect of eating a bush is going to be any more appetizing) or cut up a hot dog to look like a happy octopus (an ingredient which, after all, would be more nutritious than hot dogs) or serve “ants on a log,” raisins on a peanut butter-filled celery stick. Apparently there is a strong feeling among cookbook authors that kids will eat anything disguised as a tree, even a dead one infested with insects.
I’m currently testing out a theory that my son is somehow synthesizing his own nutrients from the atmosphere or the sun, like some large, two-legged jelly-smeared plant. The theory has merit. Each morning my son gets up and drinks a small cup of juice, spiked liberally with vitamin drops by his desperate mother, and then bounces around the house for about 4 to 5 hours, in a manner not unlike the balls of goo invented by Fred MacMurray in “The Absent-Minded Professor.” Around 1:00 in the afternoon I will realize that so far, he has eaten absolutely nothing, and at my prompting, he will request one of his three favorite foods (see above options.) The sandwich in question must then be cut into the shape of an animal (preferably a dinosaur). When I check twenty minutes later I’ll find that the creature’s extremities are missing, presumably eaten. Each week I perform the ritual sacrifice of dozens of animal torsos, watching them disappear down the disposal to join their previously departed brethren, who I like to think are all now frolicking (okay, limping) beneath little broccoli trees in that Great Crisper in the Sky.
I will now conclude my piece on the nutritional vagaries of my son and hope it finds appreciative readers. If it doesn’t, no matter—I’m working on a new cookbook which tells moms how to vaporize yam puree into a gas, so that their kids can inhale nutrients and never know the difference. Until, of course, they develop serious respiratory symptoms.