I was lucky, Tatjana was always pretty willing to try anything as long as it didn’t swim in the sea before landing on her plate. Most children do object to certain things, but as we grow older our taste buds mature.

Tatjana Rhodes in Montawk, 1987

We all have things on our “YUCK” list, but should you listen or should you encourage trying new things? I go by the  situation – if it is a vehement reaction I’ll leave it alone – I’d rather not force feed anyone as my grandmother did me those awful pickled beets I’m still whinging about decades later. They were put in front of me (with nothing else) meal after meal until I finally gagged them down.

All I can think is “yuck, beets!” Now I love them

A polite “no” and I might try to reason that they don’t have to eat it, but just try ONE bite – after all, how do you know you don’t like a fresh roasted beet when all you’ve ever tried are pickled ones from a can?

Normandie Keith trying to reason with Amos Pizzey

Here’s Lane Morris Buckman’s struggle with the finicky eaters in her household, and how she has employed the  Personal Chef Approach™ to help:

Lane Morris Buckman
Lane’s discerning men

One of my earliest memories is of sitting on the floor, under the dining room table at our house in Colorado (which puts me at between 2 and 3-years-old) picking up individual sweet peas I had thrown from the table, thinking my mother was the meanest woman in the world for trying to make me eat them.  I still hate sweet peas and will not eat them.  My husband hates corn, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.  My son, who is five, reviles most vegetables, though he will eat a carrot now and then.  He has this funny, almost phobic reaction to anything green.  Even a flake of parsley is enough to make him recoil in horror.  He gets the drama from his mama, as his daddy just pretends things he dislikes aren’t there.

Hmmmmm, do I detect something green?

I thought I could get tricksy on them, and bought two of those How To Hide Vegetables In Hamburgers recipe books.  I loved the taste of the food with the added veg.  My family?  Well, they thought I was the meanest woman in the world for trying to make them eat something that wasn’t strictly a meat or a starch.

Is there any vegetable lurking in there?

These are my challenges cooking for my family (* = My son won’t eat it   ** = My husband won’t eat it).

  • The husband will not eat any sort of roast or stew meat–hates the texture.
  • He also dislikes ground beef unless it is in hamburger form.
  • None of us like turkey, though I will abide it, and I just tell my son it is chicken and he eats it happily enough.
  • I won’t touch sausage since reading The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair in high school, and I’m weird about shrimp, but I’ll eat them.
  • My husband loves potatoes in most forms, but my son dislikes anything other than mashed potatoes, and ever since I put the Great Northern Bean and Cauliflower puree into a batch of them, distrusts my offerings.
  • Neither of the boys really care for soup.
  • If it comes from a crock pot or slow cooker, forget it.  My husband thinks it’s too mushy.

Basically, I am left with the following options:

  • Chicken breast fillets
  • Some fish (tilapia and salmon, but only restaurant style fillets of salmon)
  • Pork chops
  • Any kind of steak-y beef
  • Ranch style beans (gag!)
  • Asparagus*
  • Peppers*
  • Salads* (my husband loves a good salad)
  • Corn**
  • Carrots**

It gets frustrating, but as my skills as a cook improve, I have been able to get creative.  I might cook a meal of some seasoned chicken and do asparagus, carrots, and beans for sides.  I serve the asparagus and carrots to myself, the asparagus and beans to my husband, and the beans and carrots to my son.  I always try to cook a little extra chicken for those nights when my son looks at the meatballs and says, “Does this have any green in it?  I know you tried to put green in it before.  I’m not actually hungry.”  Seriously, they haven’t forgiven me yet and that was months ago!

The PCA™ keeps everyone happy

One of the bonuses of the Personal Chef Approach™ is that we don’t all have to have the same thing for dinner.  If I want the flank steak, but my husband isn’t feeling that, he can have the Tandoori chicken without any extra effort on my part.  It also means we can mix and match sides as we please.  And, since we instituted the “one bite of everything or you don’t get to play Wii on Saturday” rule, my son is finding out he likes more food than he thought he did.

I’ve got a lot to learn, but I’ve come a long way from the woman who once set her kitchen on fire–we’re talking two foot flames–boiling water.

Jewels with Daisy (today she eats her own vegetables)

Too bad you didn’t have a dog to feed your sweet peas to, Lane. That was my usual trick. My dog was the fastest vegetable disposal in the midwest, and my parents never did catch us. What lengths have you gone to get your picky kids (big and small) to try something new?

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  • July 13, 2011
    11:15 am

    For my husband, who hates all vegetables, I tried hypnosis. Now he even eats brussel sprouts!! Sounds silly, but it worked.

    My daughter, who is 13, she wanted to go on a cruise, so I told her if she tried one new thing to eat a night, I would take her. She came home liking veal, lamb and duck. I cannot complain!! At least it is more than chicken fingers!!

    • July 13, 2011
      11:18 am

      I can’t believe my eyes – my next post is about hypnotism and food. Interesting that he eats all his vegetables now – great comment, and smart daughter!

  • July 13, 2011
    8:13 pm

    I’ve generally been open to trying most foods, but our dinners were pretty basic when I was living at home. When I got out on my own, I got adventurous and tried every type of veg I could find. When my dad & step-mother would visit, I would always try to cook a special meal only to have my step-mother pull every bit of the meal apart, analyse it and tell me that she would never have cooked it that way. Oh well! The only thing I ever cooked properly in her eyes was some fresh green beans. Dad always loved what I cooked and usually had seconds so my meals couldn’t have been that bad. Today, I’m pretty open to eating any veg, all types of salads and some meats. I’m cooking and enjoying it again after far too many years of just grabbing whatever was handy. I’m loving all the new recipes you bring to us Jewels and look forward to making them. I’ve finally learned that I’m worth the effort and deserve to enjoy a good meal even if I am on my own.

    • July 14, 2011
      8:08 am

      Sounds like your step mother’s issues were more of jealousy than food. You enjoy cooking too much not to be fantastic at it Ruthee, and your dad is proof. Funny, I’ve noticed how unadventurous my mother is when it comes to food – I don’t remember her that way when I was a kid, but she is very set in her ways as she has grown older. Hope I remain adventurous like you.

  • July 13, 2011
    6:25 pm

    I *hated* food when I was little, would have examined every morsel under a microscope for “suspicious items” if allowed and refused practically everything. I spent the 80s looking like a starvation victim and can’t bear most of the photos of me back then.

    My aunt found that I’d try new things if I’d helped cook them and been able to learn about and inspect the ingredients before they went into something. My mother – who thinks the proces of cooking was put on this earth to torment her – found a few ways of making my meals fun and working round my needs.

    As soon as I started cooking for myself in my teens and went vegetarian (many of my issues were with meat) I learnt to love food and now I’ll try *anything* so long as it’s veggie and have trouble stopping myself from eating everything in sight.

    At one place where I worked that had a kitchen for staff to make their meals in, my colleagues used to laugh at my food because of how it would look. I have never got over mum’s way of trying to make food *look* decorative/attractive so even if I just make beans on toast it’s my mother’s “baked bean sunshine” version with the toast cut into soldiers round the edge and the beans in the middle. Due to my suspicion of food, I didn’t like the foods being “contaminated” by each other as it meant I could see if there was anything wrong with them, hence mum invented the sunshine so the beans and the toast were kept separate.

    What I’ve really learnt is that my fear of food came from my squeamishness at eating flesh and that my mother was really bad at cooking (poor mum). So if children are brought up with well cooked food and learn about what they’re eating it can only possibly encourage them to try things.

    • July 14, 2011
      7:58 am

      Your Aunt was smart Premierludwig. I think including kids (and picky adults) in the cooking process and educated about the ingredients is a great way to get them to be more willing to try new things.

      BTW, Some people are just natural born vegetarians. My sister would never swallow meat, and her idea of a great snack after school was a cucumber – mine was Twinkies.

      • July 14, 2011
        8:59 am

        That’s interesting about your sister. When I was a child my whole family would *joke* that I’d grtow up to be a vegetarian.

        I used to pass out at the sight of blood, and go light headed at the mention of it, so everyone figured that when I grew up I’d be eating vegetarian food at home or eating out a lot. 😉 My first attempt at cooking meat (braised steak) involved someone else having to touch it for me, barbecue tongs to keep me as far away from the meat as possible during the sealing process and me running to the bathroom to throw up.

        No-one ever tried teaching me again and I used to be excused meat related Home Economics lessons to go research food groups in the library as they were fed up of me becomming ill and having to be sent to matron. On the plus side, I’m very well educated on nutrition and food groups and got to know the school matron very well. 😉

  • July 13, 2011
    6:32 pm

    (to show that I’m really not being hard on mum for her bad cooking I must point out that I refused to eat sausages anywhere besides home because they were “funny coloured”. When mum cooked sausages, they were literally black. Proper charcoal burnt round the edges.

    She was a hard working single mum trying to run the family business while bringing me up so she had no patiance for looming over a pan or round an oven waiting for the moment when the food was ready. Everything was painfully basic and thoroughly burnt.

    If she’d known about how you pre-prepare food in one go she could have had a much better time of it. Most of the things she has me cook for her when I visit are already those where I make a huge amount and then we pack up the “extra” to use for other meals. She only knew about old fashioned British food and you can’t do much pre-preparation of a roast and some boiled veg.

    • July 14, 2011
      8:03 am

      My Hat is off to any single parent struggling to keep a roof over their family’s head, food in their tummies, and still be a parent as well as the breadwinner. It is so hard, and it sounds to me like she did you proud in spite of burnt offerings. Wish I could have been there with the PCA™ sooner to help her.

      • July 14, 2011
        8:52 am

        Your mozarella ciabatta dish is seriously the only food I’ve *ever* seen her get excited about cooking so you’ve done wonders already. It’s her favourite food at present and she feels like a culinary genius for being able to cook something so good.

        I’m going to try her with a few other simple things slowly. If I can get her excited about a few more dishes she might even be ready for me to sign her up with you by Christmas. 😉

        She really was an absoloute wonder when I was growing up. She also managed to cram in some charity work and visit her mother every day. I don’t know how she did it, it’s quite intimidating trying to follow her example as a grown woman now myself. I haven’t her stamina. I’d wake up in the early hours of the morning sometimes as a child and find her still working.

        The least I can do in return is go round and cook her a decent evening meal most nights of the week to relieve her of her most hated task now we live near each other. She’s a social creature so she’s in the kitchen chatting the whole time and doesn’t mind being my sous chef or washing up. It’s just the length of time you have to spend cooking and the having to loom over things watching them that she hates.

  • July 13, 2011
    8:46 pm

    Off topic but I had to share this with you. I know you appreciate beatiful things, art in it’s many forms and food so it’s something you need to see. Taschen are releasing a book called “Menu Design In America, 1850-1985”. The Illustrations look gorgeous.


    (I fell over it drooling over the Valentino and Pucci limited edition books I can’t really afford. *sigh*)

    • July 14, 2011
      8:08 am

      Ooooooooh COOL!

      • July 14, 2011
        8:39 am

        I noticed they have a rather delicious looking book on Street Art too. I’ve added it to my “wish list”.

  • July 14, 2011
    6:23 am

    OH.MY.GOD! You mean I am not the only one with not only picky kids (which is expected) but husband to boot! I can trick my kids into eating their nutrition by following the Sneaky Chef’s recipes for purees and adding them to anything I can and it goes into EVERYONE’S meal if you catch my drift. I blamed my husbands’s picky eating on being British… English to be exact. When his mom visits, it’s even worse as she won’t eat cheese, tomato, most veggies and pasta. Vegetables have to be boiled to hell with NO SEASONING and the ‘best meal’ is from the line of “British fine cuisine” (as in sausage and chips, fish and chips… you get the idea) The kids will try the recipes if they know that Julie Anne supplied them and they love them 9 out of 10 times. Same goes for the husband too so everyone is happy. For kids though, I am a believer in pureeing it and sneaking it in. I make black bean brownies, brownies and chocolate chip cookies with spinach and blueberries and they get eaten! Throw in some flax, bran, etc and as long as there are a few chocolate chips in, they get eaten. HIDE IT ALL LADIES! LOL

    • July 14, 2011
      8:31 am

      Rachel, I feel your pain re the mother in law. My aunt is the same and refers to anything that isn’t plain meat and veg as “foreign muckment” and my nana referred to most vegetable combinations as “hen food”. I *hate* traditional British cooking and I’m British, my menu tends towards Italian or Spanish. The boiling of vegetables til all the colour and flavour disappears is my main issue with it, and I point blank refuse to ruin broccoli like that because it’s so perfect when really green.

      From a strictly British point of view cheese really is right out among the older generation, it’s one of the things that shocks them thoroughly about America, the amount of cheese encountered per trip. Where you’d use cheese mixed into something, try a combination of heated milk and butter instead as it’s more acceptable to the British palate. I think the hatred of cheese comes from the fact we’re near France and most likely to encounter their kind of cheese so most of the older generation think of cheese as something rank smelling and resembling mould. I refused all cheese til I visited Italy the first time and discovered the joy of Italian cheese. Now I put cheese on practically everything.

      I’d suggest doing something more interesting with the beloved potato (potato rosti or maybe bubble&squeak), creaming nice combinations of mashed vegetables together with butter (carrot and turnip should be enthusiastically accepted by the mother in law, you only have to boil them til they’re soft enough to be mashable).

      As for condiments and sauces you are *really* limited. Salt and pepper, dried traditional herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage, etc. Try the mashed vegetables thing with her to gain her approval and then sneak subtle “improvements” in gradually. 😉 😉

      Maybe speak to your husband of his memories of a company called “vesta”. If he’s familiar with that, you may be able to try rice dishes on your mother in law. They did wonders in the 60s introducing beef curry and beef risotto into the British diet. …my nana and aunt were always violently against rice, but my mother became quite international via that early start with the vesta meals. 🙂

    • July 20, 2011
      4:49 pm

      I agree that it is difficult pleasing everyone all the time. I continue to reintroduce foods that my kids have refused in the past, hoping that as their tastes change, they will realize they like it. I love the “one bite or no Wii” rule!

      • July 20, 2011
        4:55 pm

        Hey – nothing wrong with a little bribery now and then, I agree!

  • July 14, 2011
    9:45 am

    Boiled Cabbage Stew or as I would call it “Dead Man’s Food” As a kid I would walk up to my house after playing, before I even opened the door to go in the house, I could smell it. I would then run as fast as I could to a friends and ask to stay at their house for dinner, or fake some illness only to find myself alone on the table two hours later, trying to dispose of this cursed dish in my dinner napkins. She still likes to rib me about this. Especially, since I still cannot stomach the taste or smell of it. It’s very un-germen of me I am told but no cooked cabbage for me. No cabbage rolls, stuffed cabbage, corn beef and cabbage nothing cooked. However, I can stand it in eggrolls and coleslaw but still I find myself picking it out of dishes and spitting it in my napkins. However, for some reason I loves Brussels, which I heard taste like cabbage. I of course disagree. Down with Dead Man’s Food!

    • July 14, 2011
      12:29 pm

      I’m laughing out loud here! German and you don’t like cabbage? I used to feel the same way about it, but now the smell reminds me of my grandmother (also German decent) who was my favorite person on the planet, and I actually like it now. BTW, Brussels sprouts are in the cabbage family.

  • July 14, 2011
    11:39 am

    I couldn’t live without cheese! I keep different kinds in the flat at all times and have to admit to snacking on it daily. I justify my snack as a way to get a little extra calcium. But, it has to be real cheese, not the stuff out of a jar. Had enough of that growing up. When I moved out and to another city, I couldn’t believe the different varieties of cheese and tried a new kind every week or so. I didn’t have a telephone for the first six months on my own, but I did have cheese and a good mix of veg. LOL A gal has to have her priorities. I think you’re right about my step mother, Julie Anne, she always had a way of making me look lacking in all skills including cooking. That’s all in the past and I know now that I can cook. With your recipes I can pull off a killer meal! The lamb chop recipe has me craving it all the time and the tofu in lettuce leaves is comfort food. My friends laugh when they look in the fridge to grab something – they can’t believe the stash of tofu in there. There might not always be cookies in the tin, but there’s going to be other healthier treats to be found.

    • July 14, 2011
      12:30 pm

      Your like me Ruthee – once that culinary curiosity is roused, there’s no stopping us.

  • July 14, 2011
    11:45 am

    Thank you VERY much for the suggestions! I have a year to work it out so wish me luck! My sister in law and her family are over next but they are of the generation that will at least try things so there are fewer restrictions. I come from British ancestry too but I’m not one for much of their cuisine – that’s for sure.

    As for sneaking pureed veggies in, you bet I’m sneaky! Another thing that helps is telling the kids that Freddie (Mercury) wants them to eat it. Thanks to their dad they are huge fans and if Freddie says so, it’s done.

    As for brussel sprouts… have any of you haters of the sprout tried them roasted with olive oil, pepper and salt with a bit of lemon? Totally different taste and texture and SO good.

  • July 14, 2011
    8:11 am

    You sneaky little devil Rachel – although one of my clients would ask for recipes from one of those hide the veg cookbooks, and I have to admit – I really liked some of the combinations. The pureed vegetables added so much moisture and flavor.

  • July 14, 2011
    8:11 am

    PS. Thank your kids and hubby for trusting my recipes – I’m honored!

  • July 14, 2011
    8:43 am

    Ahhh…so nice to know that I’m not alone. My son (age 10, going on 16….) is incredibly picky. Mostly it’s a consistency thing. He can’t stand cooked veggies, but will eat most of them raw (with the exception of broccoli. He won’t eat that cooked or raw…) He loves cheese, except for goat cheese, blue and cream cheese (again, consistency.)
    My daughter (age 7) used to be the adventurous one…her favorite soup? Calamari. Lately though, she’s on a very strict mac-and-cheese only diet. Sigh.
    I keep hoping someday that they’ll both become adventurous eaters (my husband and I certainly are!). Until then, we’ll continue the “try one bite” rule and hope for the best!

    • July 14, 2011
      11:53 am

      Ginny – wow, raw vegetables are the very best for you! That is actually great he likes them raw, but it also tells me he likes robust flavor – so if you do serve him a cooked veg, try something roasted or sauteed with some herbs or spices instead of just plain steamed or boiled.

      Don’t worry about your daughter – kids taste buds change, and she sounds quite normal – she’ll come back around as long as you don’t turn it into a huge issue. Inviting her to cook with you might help.

  • July 14, 2011
    8:57 am

    I have foods i detest (I eat meat occassionally and salmon is the devil) However, put nearly any vegetable in front of me and i am more than happy to wolf it down. I get the whole not liking fish and funky texture and flavor things. I still don’t understand people who don’t like any vegetables at all and won’t eat even one. How does one survive healthily on a diet of absolutely no vegetables??? Are they part lion???
    I had a friend visit from wales once… he ate nothing but pancakes (no syrup only lemon juice on them) deep fried cheese sticks and mashed potatoes. What is that???

    • July 14, 2011
      9:05 am

      I’m with you on vegetables (apart from sprouts, they’re evil). I love it when someone cooks a full spread of loads of things and lets me just pile my plate high with the veg.

      My aunt hates all veg apart from peas, or mixed carrot and turnips. She seems to survive on a diet of meat and cream cakes. Bizarrely she’s the healthiest person in the family which irritates the rest of us no end. 🙁

      Oooohhh, deep fried cheese sticks. My guilty pleasure. I got into those while dating an American musician who survived mainly on post-gig take out food. You can never get decent cheese sticks in the UK. 🙁

      • July 14, 2011
        12:34 pm

        It would be so much fun to cook with the two of you (probably somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic since we are in three different countries), but you two are so creative in the kitchen! LOVE bubble and squeak, BTW.

  • July 14, 2011
    9:12 am

    I also love mashed potato and lemon & sugar pancakes. Must be a British thing.

    …it weirds us out when visiting the US that syrup goes on so many things. Especially breakfast food. I could never get over the fact there’d be savory food on the plate like hash browns and then someone would put pancakes with syrup on the same plate, It used to put me off my meal.

    I think your friend from wales was just going for whatever food he could find that was familiar to him. I’m the other way round. When in the UK and feeling bad I go for American comfort food in places like the Hard Rock Cafe. If your friend visits again, introduce him to American desserts. 😉 Mmmm, Cinnabon.

  • July 14, 2011
    12:38 pm

    Can not agree with you more on the sprouts! I just made this http://personalchefapproach.com/recipe/maple-glazed-brussels-sprouts-vegan-bacon-hash for mom two nights ago and she loved it!

    The Freddie Mercury story is hilarious – Tatjana used to be totally hung up on Jim Morrison when she was little. She could barely speak, but she could sing “Come on baby light my fire..” as she would listen to the Doors all day long.

  • July 14, 2011
    7:57 pm

    Jim Morrison! Now that’s a girl after my own heart! They don’t know Freddie is no longer with us but I plan on telling them at the same time I dispel the Santa and Easter Bunny myth because compared to Freddie, they won’t mind at all.

  • July 14, 2011
    8:03 pm

    I was so mad at Nick when he told her – she kept making me listen to her walkman, saying “mommy, it’s not Jim singing – daddy said he is dead” and I would have to reassure her she was listening to Jim (she was only 4 years old). I remember thinking there were little people singing from inside my parents car radio – so I understood her grief.

  • July 16, 2011
    5:05 am

    oh no way!It’s such a difficult concept to explain let along understand. I hope Mr Nick was in the dog house for a while over that one! That’s seriously heartbreaking. All I know is, *I* won’t be the one telling them. Things will continue as they are until they are much older… I’ll keep mailing invitations to their birthday parties to Freddie and explaining he’s busy and can’t attend and the like until MUCH later (they are 4 and 5 now).