Dripping with Class

The other day our family was driving home from a few days away when we saw a sign on the highway for one of our favourite cheese producers. My husband pointed it out and our entire van load unanimously agreed to the slight detour. For the next hour we all stood around the cheese sampling table, listening to the cheese makers tell us about the different types of fine cheeses they made. They had long aged cheese, and stinky cheeses, goat cheese and soft, spreadable cheeses. Cheeses that cost $25 for a tiny sliver and strong, clear the room types of cheese.
Other than the extreme deliciousness that came from our time at this cheese establishment, the most memorable and heartwarming event was the way in which my eldest son carefully and meticulously tasted each of the cheeses. There wasn’t a single cheese that the kid didn’t try, smell and savour. He asked questions about the cheeses, commented on the types of foods they would pair nicely with and even suggested we purchase a few smoked meats and interesting chutneys to accompany our cheese purchases.
For years I thought my son was a picky eater. I had been told and I had read extensively that a child will learn to eat and love what they are given. If a family simply feeds the kids what they are to eat from the beginning that the children will learn to enjoy these foods. Pleased with this information my husband and I, when our son was beginning to transition from baby food to ‘real’ food, introduced him to a plethora of tastes and textures. We offered him everything from curry to roast beef, Greek to Italian, North American to Japanese. We tried him with soups, salads and meats of all types, believing faithfully that he would gladly develop a love for the cultural foods that make up our family’s meal repertoire. By age two my doctor recommended that we give up and just ‘feed him whatever he’ll eat that has nutrients’ because our darling toddler didn’t seem to appreciate anything we put in front of him. It was at this point we realized with absolute dismay that the kid was a picky eater! We couldn’t believe it, after we’d tried so hard to introduce new and interesting food, we’d read the books and followed the steps, we’d done all we could and yet the kid wanted pasta, chicken and corn. For years, he ate such a limited and uninteresting diet. It wasn’t that we didn’t offer, or try to coax, encourage, bribe or even reward him while pushing him to try new things, but he didn’t budge.
Our other two followed the way of their parents, reveling in cultural flavours, demolishing plates of a variety of meats, vegetables and grains. But still my oldest held to his bland and uninspired food choices.
This lasted for years, but not, apparently, forever. As I watched my son try each cheese and discuss openly the types of breads he might partake of with each of them, I realized it had been a long time, a very long time since he’d asked for plain pasta or had bland chicken or a ‘whitish’ coloured dinner plate of any kind. In fact, I realized that perhaps my husband and I had completely misinterpreted my son’s eating habits. That there was a chance, as he slipped a sliver of 10 year old cheese, with a dollop of local honey into his mouth, nodding thoughtfully, that in fact, he was just waiting for the chance to demonstrate his desire to eat a more sophisticated and high brow assortment of food. It wasn’t that he didn’t like dairy, he just wouldn’t settle for a five- dollar brick of orange flavoured cheese from a grocery store. It wasn’t that he didn’t like sauces on his meat, it was that he didn’t like store bought, sugar laced sauces, he wanted home made, hand blended, somewhat pricier options. It turns out he loves a nice slice of beef tenderloin (at $24 a pound!), or free- range chicken sausages or butcher sliced peameal bacon. He loves bakery cookies and imported candy and home- made ice cream. He loves freshly picked strawberries and roasted chick peas and dried fruit. Warmed naan bread, smoked pork chops and fresh cannelloni.
Maybe it wasn’t that the kid was picky or didn’t like food, maybe it was that he felt that our family’s plebeian tastes were beneath him. Instead of making blander and less interesting food for him, we’ve now tried to up the anti. We’ve brought in fine olive oil and grow our own fresh herbs, we offer him slivers of the hottest peppers and chocolate epicure mousse and a variety of smoothies, fine breads and farm fresh eggs. With each new introduction the kid is enthralled, eating more and more of the somewhat classier foods we offer him.
Now, with our dedication to buying local and our new- found love of the finer things, our grocery bill is astronomical, but I am so filled with joy as I watch all three of my children, but especially my once ‘picky eater’ engage with their food. That they find meaning in what they are eating, that they ask where it has come from, have expanded their palate and are almost daily trying new things.
Food preparation has become less of a chore and more of a hobby as we each stretch ourselves and bring new tastes into our menu. I can now proudly boast there are no longer any picky eaters in our home, there are things we don’t like, sure, but now that I know I can forever eradicate boxed pasta with neon orange powdered ‘cheese’ from my cupboards, and instead bring in something with a little more ‘class’, and a lot more flavour, I am one very happy momma!

Leave a comment