Lord knows I was a fussy eater as a child.
And on top of this I had the misfortune to be born to parents who valued highly the nutritional and flavoursome attributes of cabbage. I kid you not. We got it on average three times a week though sometimes the cabbage marathon was spiced up with a hefty dose of cauliflower.
I loathed it. The cauli I could just about cope with but the cabbage made me gag. It was too stalky. And even the fleshy parts were like biting into small tiles of semi opaque plastic. Gravy did not help. In fact gravy – of the granulated kind – made it worse. Now the cabbage was coated with a grainy liquid that made it catch on the back of your throat whenever you tried to swallow it.
I inevitably left as much as I could on the side of my plate. In fact I became very cunning at disguising the sheer amount of cabbage that I could leave at one sitting. I devised a technique whereby an entire quarter of cabbage could be hidden beneath a single leaf which in turn was partially hidden by a carefully arranged knife and fork.
Alas, it fooled nobody and I was regularly nagged by my parents to eat it – you’ll never grow big and strong (they were right), starving people in Africa would count themselves lucky to have such food put in front of them (they’re welcome to it) and – from my granddad – it’ll put hairs on your chest (puberty did that anyway).
Now as an adult, whilst not inclined to jump for joy when faced with a portion of cabbage, I am able to eat it and even half enjoy it. I made my peace with cauliflower long ago and now rather like it. I’ve even been known to welcome a floret or two of broccoli.
You see, taste changes with age.
At least that’s what I’m hoping.
Our eldest, Ben, is giving us cause for concern at the moment as he is barely eating anything. Getting any kind of veg inside him is a labour of Hercules. Even the veg that I loved as a fussy kid – peas, sweet corn and carrots – he turns his nose up at. Now this in itself is normal. Kids traditionally do not like vegetables and, as recounted above, my own Cabbage Wars, have impressed themselves indelibly onto my memory.
But that didn’t mean I didn’t have a good appetite as a kid. Shove a plate of egg and chips in front of me and I’d wolf the lot down in a split second. Even a huge Sunday lunch found itself thrown down the back of my throat (except for the cabbage) and dropped into a bottomless pit once a week. My appetite was good; I was just fussy about the type of food I ate.
Ben is different. His appetite is worryingly small sometimes. Not just with vegetables but even with food he professes to like. Pizza and garlic bread picked at like it’s diseased. Spag bol – his one time favourite and one time guarantor of a cleaned plate – is now out of favour. Even food that all kids traditionally love – egg, chips, fish fingers, sausages, etc – are all sneered at and only eaten under duress.
Yesterday he hardly ate anything at all in terms of proper food. Nutrition bars and crisps – no problem. Sandwiches for lunch and pizza for tea barely touched.
“Tin ribs” hardly covers it. Literally.
So what to do?
Persist with the nagging? I know for a fact my parents eventually gave up and just lived with the abandoned cabbage mountains that regularly propped up my knife and fork.
Starve him until he’s so hungry that he’ll eat anything and be grateful for it? A friend of ours did that and it worked. But only for a while.
Give in and just let him eat gack until his taste buds finally mature? Plainly this is not a sensible option.
Serve him cabbage daily so he can see how much worse it could be and how lucky he actually is?