Sunday, 7 August 2011

The Kids Are Revolting

The little girl was hungry. She was sure she hadn’t eaten for days and there was no sign of a loved-one offering nourishment. She heard a familiar creaking sound and turned. In the distance, the lid of the dustbin had been lifted. Confident she could see something glistening inside, the toddler padded towards the bin as fast as she could, hoisted herself up on her tip-toes and reached into the depths below. As she withdrew her miniature hand, she was rewarded with a crust of bread sprinkled with a delicious layer of strawberry jam. She shovelled it into her mouth as fast as she could. Heaven.

“Ergh! That’s disgusting!” cried my husband, “Did you see what your daughter just did?”

“She’s just being resourceful,” I reassured, “luckily, I emptied the bin after I poured in the contents of the hoover.”

So there you have it. My 16 month old daughter eats out of the kitchen bin. It’s probably not the most hygienic source of food, but in her defence, she’s just copying her mother. Not that I feed myself out of the bin, what do you take me for?! No, that’s just how I’ve been known to feed my children.

Before you call Social Services, let me explain.

My children fall into the rather irritating category of ‘fussy eaters.’ They reject food with the same disdain that Simon Cowell rejects X Factor candidates (only the deflated teenagers pick themselves up off the floor). Despite asking my three year old son six times before I make his breakfast, that he definitely, without doubt, 100 per cent wants jam on toast, it’s not unusual for him to turn his nose up at the toast before I’ve even finished spreading the jam. “Toast?!” he’ll wail, “But I wanted jam sandwiches!”

My daughter, upon seeing the toast, may think about eating it, but should she see a punnet of grapes lying on the side, she will hurl the toast at the nearest kitchen appliance and scream for fruit.

So that is why, after only eating grapes for breakfast, half an hour later, my daughter will beg me for toast. Which is when I realise I used the last of the bread, making jam sandwiches.

But there’s toast in the bin! How bad can it be? After all, this is the child that will drop a raison on the pavement and put it straight back in her mouth – whether it is actually the raison or not; the girl who after eating Play Doh by mistake, will return for another mouthful, the toddler who won’t eat a potato but will quite happily chew on shoes. So bin food, in comparison, is relatively clean, right?

It wasn’t meant to be like this.

Three years ago, when I discovered that I wasn’t able to breastfeed my son, I promised myself I would try and make up for my incompetent milk supply, by only giving him homemade, organic, nutritious food. Forget five-a-day - my son would eat ten a day, never dream of snacking between meals and his only reference to McDonalds would be a song about an old man with a noisy farm.

I had it all worked out. I had my baby food cookbook, 75 varieties of feeding spoon and enough ice cube trays to freeze all the puree in North London. When it was time to wean, I threw the contents of Sainsbury’s organic fruit and veg department into my car and set off home to cook. And cook. And cook.

I’m not surprised jar baby food is a multi-million pound industry. I had no idea how mind-numbingly, boringly long it would take to peel, de-stone, chop and steam, blend, distribute and label. And in order to introduce my son to every food type under the sun, I found myself making new batches of slop on a nightly basis. The irony is, that after I’d spent two hours, trying and failing to de-skin a tomato, the last thing I’d feel like doing was cooking me and my husband dinner. So I didn’t. Our local Chinese/Indian/Italian supplied that.

So it’s mildly frustrating, when the next day you warm up your lovingly made ‘broccoli trio’, sit opposite your little darling in his highchair and gently guide the first spoonful into his mouth, only for him to spit it in your face, burst into tears and chuck the entire pot on the floor.

By the time my son turned one, the legendary baby food wizard that is Annabel Karmel, began to take on a familiar, bearded rival - Captain Birds Eye. I was starting to ask myself why I was dipping a cod fillet in crushed cornflakes, only to then be forced to chase my son around the kitchen with a forkful, when I could just pop a couple of fish fingers in the oven and be done with it? So I did. And he liked them. And there was a lot less washing up.

When my daughter came along, I would have loved to have followed the baby guru’s advice of making one gorgeous family meal, liquidising it for the baby, chopping it up for the toddler and eating the rest ourselves. But, if all your son eats is fish fingers, boiled eggs and pasta, you’re going to be serving up some very odd baby mush. Equally, I didn’t feel right pureeing two onion bhajis, a chicken dhansak and a garlic naan.

I’ve tried all the tricks with my son – removing the food and letting him go hungry (he’s not bothered), putting things on my plate so he’ll get curious (he doesn’t), bribing him with a treat (no treat is worth eating greens for), but all to no avail. His sister actually thinks his name is ‘EAT!’ as she hears me yell this at him so frequently.

I’d think there was something medically wrong with my little boy, seeing as how he manages to survive on so little food, but having seen him at birthday parties, I know there is nothing abnormal about this child’s appetite. The quantity of cake my son can consume is astonishing. You know when people say, they can always fit in a pudding after a meal because they have a separate dessert stomach? I’ve finally concluded that my son only has a dessert stomach.

My daughter, has not yet been introduced to cake. Grapes are to her, what chocolate fudge cake is to her brother. I treasure this time, because I know that when she discovers that the bad stuff, is the good stuff, there won’t be anyone rifling through the bin for toast, when there’s cake in the cupboard…


  1. i wish i could offer words of advice, but i can't as i have the same probs with my eldest, he's 5. He would eat cake and baked beans all the time if i let him..

  2. Ah, bin food. I know it well. But there is hope - I promise. My (now) 14yo was a terrible eater as a baby and I'd regularly end up hurling the third thing I'd made for any particular meal, across the kitchen. One day, she started getting curious about things and will now eat anything. My 9yo is still a fussy eater - with a huge capacity to shovel biscuits, cake and crisps into his mouth. But when it comes to mealtimes (even if he hasn't had any of the afore-mentioned food all day), he'll suddenly need to go to the toilet, develop an ulcer/cough/sore throat/etc. This can go on for an hour. But....lately, he has started to improve. Slightly. And we've discovered he loves sushi!!! Go figure. Xxx

  3. Www.musingsfromamum.com8 August 2011 at 16:42

    I have had many an Annabel Karmel concoction hurled at me across table. My son begs me for 'real' Chinese which means the bought one not mine! It drives me a bit demented but I also know they will eat when hungry and when they are flinging food at each other and me it's prob because I haven't starved them enough beforehand (they are biscuit fiends...)

  4. I love this! I have fussy eaters too! My son is lactose intolerant and has reflux, for which reason we were told to wean early. He has since developed reactions to certain foods and I think he associates eating with pain at times :( He is therefore a very fussy eater and his big sister has decided she will copy! They both drive me mad but we have learnt to stay calm. My daughter frustrates me more as she used to be such a good eater. I once caught her eating spag bol leftovers from the bin (see, they ALL do it, right?!) thats how much she loved to eat!!

  5. Frankie P - oooh cake and baked beans. Well that's one of his five-a-day sorted!

    Elaine - I can't wait for the 'eat anything' stage!That's amazing about the sushi - very healthy!

    musingsfromamum - yeah, 'real' chinese is pretty good! i don't know about your kids, but i find the only way to starve my kids before meals, is to keep them really distracted, which is a feat in itself!

    ghostwritermummy - phew! so it's not just my daughter that eats out of the bin! that made me laugh about the spag bol! I hope your son finds some more food he enjoys and your daughter gets bored of copying him!

    everyone - thanks for reading my blog! xx

  6. Oh so familiar! Mine favours congealing 2 day old (conservative estimate - could be anything up to a week or two in reality) bits of previous meals that he's hidden under the sofa for a later date. Yes I let my son eat on the sofa. Yes I swore that I would never let him do anything like that when he was first born. I've just added it to the ever growing list of things that make me a disgraceful parent.

  7. Lise - haha! oh good, somebody else with a sofa full of food! as I was reading your comment, my son was spilling raisons all over the sofa, which my daughter will probably hoover up tomorrow! Oh well, at least our kids won't go hungry.. Thanks for reading my blog! x

  8. Oh how this has stirred a bang of nostalgia. Without wishing to sound smug, my first son ate anything and everything - and in good quantities, too. Oh how I worshiped at the alter of Ms Karmel. But what a shock I got when son number 2 came along. Having only pureed organic fruit and veg and free-range organic meat, the guilt at opening pots of goo for him was almost too much! But it's less heart-breaking throwing away a half-eaten jar of stuff, then the food I'd lovingly spent hours preparing for him! LOVE the blog! x