Palate Pleasers

Children who are picky eaters can happen to the best of families. It’s stressful and, at times, heartbreaking for kids and their parents. Maybe that’s why today’s New York Times piece “Scorpions for Breakfast and Snails for Dinner” is so annoying.

It chronicles the adventures of journalist Matthew Forney’s children, ages 9 and 13, who live in Beijing and routinely eat everything from stinky cheeses to Tibetan yak jerky. Their Italian-born mom attributes the kids’ adventurousness to having been breast-fed; the dad to, well, a combination of bribery and not living in the United States. Aside from the article engendering an icky feeling that Forney’s exploiting his kids to sell a story to the Times, it felt light on substance. Kind of like: “Hey, my kids are great eaters; you hide spinach in the brownies to get your kids to eat veggies.”

Larissa Phillips has a bit more perspective on the picky-eating conundrum. She writes the Feeding Your Family blog on Parenthood.com. On her own blog, Mothership Meals, she lambastes Forney for being an “obnoxious show-off.” She points out that, at 9 and 13, his kids are “out of the trenches as far as picky eating is concerned,” and that, living in China,

There are no microwaved pizzas, or cheez snacks. There is a strong food culture not ruled by the whims of children and profit margins of major corporations. Culture is on their side. Culture is certainly a strong force to have on your side.

More helpfully than that Times piece (because we can’t all afford to move to China to get our kids to eat better), running down the side of her blog post, Phillips has a list of 10 concrete suggestions for making dinners with picky eaters a more palatable experience.

Other bloggers, however, are more positive in their responses. Carlos Hernandez applauds Forney’s son, who relishes scorpions: “I can only fantasize about being that cool at age 11. I don’t think I was super-picky, but neither was I the sort of kid who would’ve shrieked — with delight, anyway — at a bowl-full of scorpions for breakfast.” His imagination was also inspired by the notion, articulated in Forney’s piece, that hunger can cure pickiness. “[I]f we’re speaking in terms of a population, less food = less finickiness.”

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