Thursday, October 18, 2007

An Itsy Bitsy Vegetable Challenge

Several weeks ago, I started reading The Great Big Vegetable Challenge, and the first thought that went through my head was: girlfriend is nuts. I do not actually know the blog author. We are not, actually, friends, nor have we ever met, so, really, I shouldn't be calling her girlfriend. Still, that's what I thought. Little has changed my opinion in the last several weeks, but her dedication to serving up a vegetable several times over the course of a week in different guises is impossible not to admire (but... still a little crazy). I even started to think: maybe I’ll try that.

Then I put down the wine bottle and came to my senses.
It was not so long ago that my boy ate almost only goldfish crackers and milk. When we went to other people's homes, I tried to explain that they shouldn’t make anything special for him, because he was ridiculously picky. And they smiled at me sweetly (because, you know, clearly I didn’t try hard enough and he hadn’t had their special mac and cheese that even picky eaters loved), tried to make him something... that he would politely push around on his plate until courtesy finally allowed me to fish around in my bag for our very own personal badge of shame, the plastic container of goldfish that I brought everywhere. And I would studiously ignore the accusing "why didn't you tell me he was so picky" look being sent my way.

Still, there was some part of the whole vegetable challenge that remained alluring (besides reading about it, which is interesting, entertaining and generally fun)— inspiring, even— particularly serving a single type of vegetable several times, in several different ways, over the course of the week to a vegetable-resistant child. Why? I don’t know. Uphill battles appeal to me? The sunnily insane optimism of the whole thing is irresistible? Anyway. Obviously, potato week would be the most popular week (ev-ah) in my house. But I decided to branch out from The Vegetable My Kids Eat Happily (note the singular) and try something for a couple of nights. I decided on carrots, since they're pretty benign. Usually, when we have family dinner, I put a token serving of vegetable or salad on their plate, and insist they have that, but don’t push them to have more. They’re required to be polite, even if they don’t like it. But I don't usually make vegetables specifically for the kids to try out.

This time, however, I am on a mini-carrot assault. It does not compare to the multi-day Battle of Gettysburg complexity (in which different days have different battles, some futile but weirdly chivalrous in their doomed bravery, like Pickett’s Charge, and some days providing a stirring victory for steadfast Maine-ahs, like Little Round Top, but in which the casualties still mount with horrific speed) of The Great Big Vegetable Challenge’s recent pea deployment, but we’ve had carrots for two nights in a row, with a final (somewhat weak) assault planned for tomorrow. And a possible carrot cake ambush this weekend. First up were carrots braised with butter and parmesan (because, really, most vegetables, even unpopular ones, go down better with butter and cheese). Curly took a hesitant bite and devoured the rest of hers. My boy… dawdled. I think he hoped that if he prolonged the battle without actually fussing, he would cause enough attrition to my willpower that I would eventually surrender. However, I was fortified with wine (the wine itself was, uh, not fortified), antibiotics (a regular fall and winter fortifier for me) and a book (The Places in Between, featuring another crazy but fascinating project). He ate them and admitted that they weren’t horrible.

From him, I took it as a compliment.

Today, somehow, uphill battles appealed more than ever. So I accompanied the second grade to the zoo. In 48 degree pelting rain. In which virtually every single child whined, bratted and misbehaved (and be honest: wouldn’t you, if you were marching through drenching rain for several hours in bone-chilling weather and being expected to better yourself with education?) and generally made me think that in order to like children, I would have to take up drinking in earnest. Preferably right then. That not being adequately character-building (why? I don't know. perhaps my recent scalding has affected my thinking), on the way home, I picked up more carrots to have with dinner. I roasted a chicken for all of us to have together, and tossed peeled and chopped carrots with some olive oil and salt before chucking them into the bottom of the roasting pan, where they roasted in pan drippings. Mmmm. Again, Curly took one bite and made a face that said: who the hell told me vegetables suck (that would be your brother, kiddo.)? And devoured hers. My boy? Well, he took so long that I made up alternate verses to the Titanic song about a boy who missed dessert (complete with the whole: it was sad! So sad! thing) and the raspberry ice cream that went and melted and never more would be. Carrots? Clearly, still not that popular with him. Tomorrow I shall cave to his stated carrot preference and serve them raw, with ranch dressing (which means that my boy will consume large quantities of ranch dressing and a few carrots). However, I have, at least, brainwashed them into preferring home-made ranch dressing.


Great Big Vegetable Challenge said...

"It does not compare to the multi-day Battle of Gettysburg complexity (in which different days have different battles, some futile but weirdly chivalrous in their doomed bravery..."
You can call me girlfriend any day. This made me laugh for a long time and that was before a glass of wine.
You are right. It has been a completely insane project, and I am an optimist. And as you say I must be crazy or nuts or bonkers or all three.
But it has been great fun and we don't take it too seriously. Freddie forgives his eccentric mum for a whole load of things!
Do keep visiting us!
Charlotte of the Great Big Vegetable Challenge

Meg said...

I think one of the best things about your project is that you seem to be having fun with it. I really enjoy reading your blog; I'm glad I made you laugh.