How My Picky Eater Became a Gastronomic Explorer

Chow on 04.25.11
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Photo credit: Katie Morton

It was easy to slap the label of "Picky Eater" onto my daughter. What six-month-old hates applesauce and bananas? Even the most delicious of applesauces (Trader Joe's with cinnamon, in case you want to know) she whacked to the ground in disgust. Three months and countless taste experiments later, a clearer picture is emerging. My picky eater has morphed into a gastronomic explorer.

The baby formerly known as choosy is now the culinary adventurer who is excited to grip fistfuls of chicken curry and slurp down the savory sauce. Applesauce? It remains pedestrian swill that's relegated to Mommy's plebeian belly.

A Wholly Unexpected Scene

At Easter dinner, my mother suggested I get the wee babe some macaroni and cheese from the kiddy table. I had an inkling that mac-n-cheese wasn't going to fly. Or rather, it would fly, in the projectile sense.

My once-finicky kid sat at the dinner table yesterday with an asparagus spear in one hand and a slice of cantaloupe in the other, gnawing away serenely at the plate I'd assembled for her from the adult buffet. She remained calm and carried on chomping her asparagus, even in the face of an inquisitive two-year-old who patted her face and platinum-strawberry blond hair as if she were an exotic creature in a petting zoo. (That was really weird, by the way. Totally cute, but weird.)

Try, Try Again

Our exploration of food could have gone differently for us, and it almost did. The more foods we saw her snub, the blander I went with flavors. I kept hearing that babies favored a dull palate, even though my husband and I enjoy food that rockets off the flavor scale.

Other advice we got was to serve our child whatever we were eating, but most of what we eat is dutifully bathed in hot sauce. Frankly, I feared for my daughter's tender butt skin. And so I gave her simple foods unadorned with sauces and bereft of spices, and she continued to show me how she felt about it.

Therefore she was branded Picky Eater, which was becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. "She won't like this, so I might as well not even give it to her," I would think almost nightly as I looked at my dinner.

One Fateful Day, Everything Changed

One day, as I was making my coconut-curry-chicken-lentil-stew, I set aside a small cup before I added the final ingredient, a flaming hot chili sauce. Hot sauce or no, I assumed that my daughter would take one whiff of the unusual spices in the curry and the dish would go uneaten.

I couldn't have been more wrong. I'd never seen her so gripped by food before. She savored each bite and then baby-birded for more. I wished I'd set aside a surplus just for her.

Since then, we've realized our daughter has a predilection for tastes similar to my husband's and mine - dominated by zesty and strong flavors. Now I'll let her try just about anything, with no presumptions about whether she'll like it or not. The result is that the more foods she tries, the more she discovers she likes, and thus the more she is willing to try new and different fare.

We're having far more hits than misses these days, and her palate is all over the map. Had I kept her from her bold epicurean tendencies for much longer, it's quite possible I would have unwittingly raised her to be the picky eater she wasn't at all meant to be.

Katie Morton is the founder of The Monarch Company. Get a FREE copy of her eBook, 10 Steps to a Blissful You, to get started on developing extraordinary willpower for life.

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