Green Yogurt

A mother sees reflections of herself in her son’s food fetishes

| September-October 2006

  • waffles

    Image by Flickr user: bcmom / Creative Commons

  • waffles

Recently I made spaghetti for dinner. My husband and I had conventionally laden plates. My daughters, 3-year-old Lily and 2-year-old Camille, ate buttered spaghetti with meatballs on the side. My 3-year-old son, Jonah—well, Jonah did not.

Jonah ate two cream cheese and strawberry jam sandwiches on whole wheat bread. Rather than ingest them in the usual way, he peeled apart the halves and ate the open slices—two coated with cream cheese, the others coated with jam. He nibbled through the middle of each until he was left with C-shaped crusts. These he placed in neat stacks on the table.

Jonah wandered off to play with his train set wearing the satisfied expression of someone who has just consumed a 10-course meal at a four-star restaurant.

Toddlers are idiosyncratic by nature, and no aspect of their lives expresses their idiosyncrasies better than their food preferences. Their meals are as motley as their wardrobes. Just as I have taken my children to the post office wearing pajamas, cowboy boots, and a fleece scarf and hat (in August), so have I served them, at their insistence, meals consisting of cold baked beans, uncooked oatmeal, and a raw carrot.

I don’t police my children’s diets, beyond the most minimal nudges toward nutrition. This works perfectly with Lily, whose natural choices result in a balanced diet. She’ll belly up to the dinner table and gobble a portion of spinach and feta pie or a bean and rice burrito. She prizes the crunch of raw cauliflower and the sweet drip of watermelon.

Jonah’s tastes are different, though, more difficult to support. His idea of the perfect meal is a cream cheese and jam sandwich, some Ritz crackers, and a few slices of cheddar cheese. Other times he requests a cup of lime-flavored Yoplait yogurt with a glass of milk to wash it down. Balance is not a word in Jonah’s vocabulary. He fixates on a certain food and eats it ad nauseam. With the pitiful, infrequent exceptions of broccoli quiche and pumpkin bread, no vegetable has passed his lips for nearly two years.