The Hunger Games : Toddler Edition
The Hunger Games: Toddler Edition
by Alyssa Starr
There are thousands of parenting books that educate you on topics ranging from clipping fingernails to potty training. There are even videos on how to swaddle your baby and timed feeding schedules. If you are like me, you are probably realizing that kids can be remarkably fickle when it comes to eating, so where is the chapter on how to fee a picky toddler?
I have trained professionally for years in the culinary world. Food has been my passion since I was a child and I knew that someday I would cook professionally for a living. I have attained positions from Line Cook to Executive Chef. I was a finalist candidate on Beat Bobby Flay and have won national awards for various recipes. I have fed thousands upon thousands, genuinely crafting dishes from my heart. I just knew that when I had a child, they would have the most diverse palate and would bring complex micro plates to daycare for their lunch.
A hard lesson to learn when feeding your toddler is that they will hate everything tomorrow that they loved today. Let me introduce to you my fiercely independent daughter, River Rae. I would Pin baby food recipes from the time I found out I was pregnant. I was determined to feed her winter squash with lentils, exotic organic pureed fruits, and would spend hours at Whole Foods picking out the perfect vegetables to flash steam and puree. Today, I still spend hours meal planning, flavor profiling, and crafting meals for her, only for her to indulge in ketchup. Ketchup? My daughter eats ketchup and is the ficklest eater on this planet. How is this even possible? I ate every vegetable in the produce aisle while I was pregnant knowing that she was developing her taste buds in the womb. Where in the heck did ketchup ever come into play?
My pediatrician, Dr. Steven Althoff, told me to continue to offer her a variety of foods and not to give in to her favorites. Don’t settle for giving her that quesadilla or Mac-N-Cheese that she is demanding of me. He also told me I am not a short-order cook; I am in charge. I recently instated a three month ban on quesadillas; they are no longer allowed in my house. She can’t live off something that has zero nutritional value.
So the Toddler Food Battle 2018 begins. May the odds be ever in your favor. Last night I made dinner which consisted of meatballs and steamed vegetables with smashed fingerling potatoes. I carefully and nervously walked over to River’s high chair and presented the plate. She sensed the fear in me like a K-9 police dog; she knew I was terrified to give her this dinner. She stared at me stone cold, picked up the meatball, and dropped it on the floor.
She had made the first move.
I could feel my eyes start to burn and my face begin to crack. She was in control. I kept repeating the doctor’s words: I am in charge.
I told her not to throw food on the floor and walked away. I stood around the corner where I could still see her but she couldn’t see me. She examined each piece on her plate and decided it was a no from her. She threw the entire contents of the plate on the floor and demanded cheerios from the box on top of the fridge. Totally heartless!
I felt defeated. The knife went through my heart. I told her, “No,” and put her down on the floor. Dr. Althoff assured me she wouldn’t starve and I was in no way harming her by being firm on my stance. She went to bed fine, clearly not caring about dinner, and I cleaned up the floor.
Nothing in my entire professional career could’ve prepared me for this. It’s a whole new level of education and will require patience and research. I can guarantee my audition for Hell’s Kitchen will be epic after this experience.
So Daughter, I accept your challenge. I may not be your personal short-order cook, but I am your mother, I am competitive, and I am a chef. I will win. (I keep chanting this repeatedly)
Love, Your Salty Mother,
P.S. To Be Continued.