Just to be clear: My children have no genetic predisposition toward neatness or
finickiness. They also do not have any modeling at home for being sticklers or,
for that matter, even remotely tidy or noticing minutia. You could say we live
in the macro, not the micro. So you can imagine my bewilderment at the acute
attention to detail that both of my children display when it comes to anything
that mars the aesthetic perfection of their food.
My children both hold the integrity of their food up to the highest possible
standard. As an example, a Trader Joe’s soy corn dog that has imperceptibly
separated from its stick requires a dissertation-like analysis from me to my
daughter as to how it tastes the same and has to be separated from its stick in
order to eat it anyway. My son, noting that lima beans were replaced by edamame
in a favorite recipe, will sulk until my evil eye threatens him to take at least
a few grudging bites.
Again, these are the very same children who have no problem holding a chewed
piece of gum in their hand until they remember to hand it to me to be discarded,
have no qualms about going through the day with pizza sauce stuck to their chin,
or lick melted chocolate from a crumpled wrapper. But when it comes to the
tiniest imperfection in their food, all bets are off.
A recent example involves my son taking great offense at the presence of a tiny
white speck in the paella his father just spent two hours making (from a recipe
in the NY Times, no less). Although my son had just enjoyed two helpings of the
paella, the third serving revealed a less-than-pureed something-or-other. “What
is this white thing?” he asked, motioning to a tiny whitish seed-shaped item in
his paella. After spending several minutes explaining the intricacies of a
paella recipe and the sophisticated flavor that results from many disparate
ingredients mingling together, I say in my most neutral voice, “It must be an
almond” (which I knew from first-hand experience because my role in the
paella-making was to puree almonds, spinach and garlic). “But I don’t like
nuts,” my son pointed out, carefully avoiding the offensive speck while
finishing his third helping.
Earlier in the weekend, my daughter, who ritualistically eats Honey Nut Cheerios
in a yellow bowl, on a white tray, with a spoon and 2% milk, shrieked in horror
while having breakfast. Conjuring up images of fingertips being found in
fast-food chili, or the horrors of the egg farms, I took a deep breath and
inquired as to the reason for her distress. “LOOK!” she screamed, pointing to a
tiny brown fleck on an “O” of her Cheerios, “TAKE IT OFF!!.” Try explaining at
6:45 in the morning to a 4-year-old that the speck of faux-honey-nuttish-oat on
the Cheerio is just an extra dose of the faux-honey-nuttish-oatiness that she
professes to love. While it is a part of my motherly duty to educate my children
to the random unpredictability of life, it also is not beyond the job
description to give up and pour a new bowl of Cheerios.