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Sympathy for the Picky Eater

I wasn’t really a picky eater growing up, but there was one meal I refused to even look at: meatloaf. I hated meatloaf. My grandmother was famous for her meatloaf and everyone else in the family loved it, but the smell and sight of it was enough to make me sick.

And for the record, I still hate meatloaf. And yes, I’ve tried everybody’s. That’s the thing; I actually try to eat meatloaf! I want to love meatloaf because it’s such a classic, all-American dish, but I can’t. I just can’t. I’m sure your meatloaf is fantastic, but I’m sorry, I’m not going to like it.

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You know that saying that goes around Facebook or Twitter or on cute little wooden signs from Target: “If mom cooks it, you’ll eat it”? That was not the case at my grandmother’s. When we were with her, we were never forced to eat anything we didn’t want. Didn’t like peas? Fine, she’d make you something else. Refused to touch your salad? Don’t worry about it, she’s got mashed potatoes for you instead. My grandmother hated to prepare anything we wouldn’t like, but more than that, she hated the idea of someone going hungry.

So when I was a kid, every time she made meatloaf for the family, she would drive 20 minutes to the nearest McDonald’s and buy me a pack of chicken nuggets to eat with the mashed potatoes and peas.

I know, right? Grandmother of the Year.

The funny thing is now that I’m a parent, I can’t imagine driving 20 minutes out of my way to feed my kid something other than what I cooked. In our house, if you don’t eat your supper, you’ll go to bed hungry. End of story.

Until my kids ratted me out to my granny.

She pushed her plate away, asked for an extra cup of milk and went to bed without a fuss.

One of our favorite meals in this house is a chicken pot pie casserole. It’s made with pancake mix, so the crust is super sweet and fluffy, but the inside is full of diced chicken and veggies in a creamy sauce. One of the included veggies? Broccoli. And my stepdaughter Chloe does not eat broccoli.

I have tried everything. I’ve cut it up into super small pieces, I’ve doused it in cheese sauce, I’ve baked it and even blended it up for cream of broccoli soup, but it’s a no go. She really does not like the taste of broccoli and refuses to eat it. She doesn’t whine or cry about it (a sure sign in this house that she just doesn’t “feel” like eating it), she just won’t eat it. I try not to serve it when she’s here with us because I like for her to, you know, eat, but I do include it in stir-fry and our chicken pot pie casserole because she can easily pick it out.

Hilarious, right? Of course she still won’t eat a dish if it includes broccoli. She says it makes everything taste like broccoli.

So my husband and I laid down the law. She didn’t have to eat the broccoli, but she did have to eat the rest of the dish. If she didn’t, there would be no snacks or dessert for the rest of the day.

I’ve got to hand it to her, she was pretty determined to stand her ground. She pushed her plate away, asked for an extra cup of milk and went to bed without a fuss.

And then she relayed the story to granny.

“Granny Jo, last night, I had to go to bed without supper,” she told her the next afternoon.

“Why? Were you hungry? Why didn’t you eat supper?” granny asked. She shot me, her favorite grandchild, a very evil look.

“Because daddy and Sammy told me I HAD to eat it and I didn’t like it. It had BROCCOLI in it,” Chloe told her, her confidence building every second as granny got more and more defensive.

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“Well, Sam! Why did you fix something with broccoli in it if Chloe doesn’t like it!?”

“Granny, I told her she could pick around it. She just had to eat the rest of the dish. I’m not making a whole new casserole without broccoli so Chloe will eat it,” I said, firm in my resolution.

Granny, who was bent down to Chloe’s level, stood up, took one look at me and said “MEATLOAF, Sam. Do you remember the MEATLOAF?"

Point taken, granny. Point taken.

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