I've always believed that, like wild animals, small children can smell fear from a mile away. And I'm not talking about the fear of flying or clowns or being terrified that I'll have a muffin top when I wear my favorite jeans. I'm talking about the fear that the kids won't eat what I make for dinner.
And the more I fear, the less they eat. It's like they can smell my desperation, my insane desire for them to enjoy whatever I've been slaving over in the kitchen. That they'll say "Yummy Mommy!" rather than "Eww, this tastes like poo poo!"
I never questioned my cooking skills before I inadvertently became a contestant on Top Chef: Mommy Edition. In fact, the Italian in me could be quite cocky when it came my abilities in the kitchen. But when my kids turned three and became mini food critics, I began to wonder if I had what it takes to please their picky palettes.
That's why, in a moment of desperation, I purchased Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld (Jerry's wife) last week. Lured in by the promise of happy mealtimes, I bought into the theory that pureeing veggies and hiding them in a bowl of pasta or grilled cheese was the way to go. That if I forced encouraged my five-year-old to help prepare the meals she might be more likely to eat them.
And, being the Type A'er I am, I threw myself into Project "Eat your damn food!" with abandon. Jessica was kind enough to let me know all of the kitchen items I was missing and gently scolded me in her book for not using whole wheat flour and breadcrumbs. And after a very expensive trip to Whole Foods, I too was ready to grind every vegetable in the house into oblivion. It was so easy! she declared. She and Jerry puree very Sunday evening after they put their perfect children to bed while watching Seinfeld reruns! Okay, maybe not the last part.
But after spending THREE hours in the kitchen pureeing my ass off, I started to think Jessica had misled me a bit. That maybe she didn't realize that I'd be working in a small galley kitchen with a old cuisinart rather than a ginormous space filled with Viking appliances, sub-zero refrigeration and a Magic Bullet. Or that I'd actually be the one doing it. (C'mon, does this beyotch really want me to believe she doesn't have even a part-time chef?)
But I was determined. And after bagging and marking and dating each and every bag, I was ready to conquer my kid's eating habits. Because if Jessica Seinfeld could get her kids to eat tofu nuggets with broccoli puree secretly hidden in it, then DAMNIT, so could I!
But as tasty as those tofu nuggets sounded(not!), I decided to start with the tortilla cigars. Because anything with cream cheese and cheddar cheese in a tortilla couldn't be that bad, right? Even WITH the yellow squash and carrot puree hidden deep within.
I was giddy with anticipation (or maybe just delirious from working in a hot kitchen for three hours) when I took the cigars out of the oven. I had tasted them and they were damn good- you would never know that there was secret nutritional value lurking inside. And after initially turning their noses up at something new like they usually do, I was able to threaten them with time out lovingly convince them to take a bite.
And guess what? I didn't hear the word "disgusting" uttered the entire meal. Although my five-year-old did declare halfway through that she didn't like them as much as she originally thought. But I didn't care. I decided then and there that it had all been worth it. That it really didn't matter if Jessica and Jerry Seinfeld had never pureed a sweet potato in their life or if they had a housekeeper that cleaned up the ridiculous mess that pureeing made. Because my children ate something new and liked it.
And I believe that my daughter was more willing to try it because she had helped in the kitchen. Like she finally knew what it felt like to work your ass off only to have your children do their best Gordan Ramsey impersonation.
So one small victory for mom. I'm moving on to butter noodles with yellow squash and chicken soup with cauliflower next. From now on, instead of smelling fear, my little animals with breathe in my deceptively delicious creations. And whether Jessica sits on the couch reading US Weekly while her housekeeper slaves away or if she has a date each Sunday night with her Magic Bullet, it doesn't really matter. Because for one night, I was Top Chef of my own kitchen again.