Last night I actually made a separate dinner for each member of my family.
Many criticisms can be generated from that sentence.
First of all, many people might criticize my parenting because I make Nathan a totally separate dinner most nights. Most of those people are parents of kids who just happen to be more adventuresome eaters.
Nathan used to be a more adventuresome eater. He used to eat daal makani from Trader Joe's Indian Fare. He used to like black beans. He used to eat chicken in non-nugget form.
I don't know what happened, but now we can't pinpoint one thing that the child will reliably eat. One day he's devouring a peanut butter sandwich and downing a yogurt tube, and the next day he won't touch those items.
People like to offer criticism and/or advice about how to get your kid to eat more. You have to put a food in front of a kid 17 times [or 21 times or 37 times] before he's used to it! Well, in our family we're often putting the same exact food in front of him several times, like if he doesn't eat his sandwich at lunch I'll just put it in a bag and give it to him for dinner, or for the next day's lunch. (I usually stop at 3 outings for a particular food.) You have to tell him the only other choice is starvation! This kid is a limit-pusher, and honestly I think he might actually pick starvation. Don't bribe! Don't force anything! Don't lie about what the food actually is! Whatever.
The fact of the matter is that even if we could nurture our child into having a more adventuresome palate, he still comes by pickiness genetically. My husband is an incredibly picky eater. Which makes it hard because I'm an incredibly sensitive cook.
I myself have my food aversions as well, of course. I don't like red meat, mayonnaise, or anything spicy.
There's very little I can make that Bill and I can both eat, let alone all three of us. And on several occasions I've made a dinner that gets tweaked in various ways for each eater, like a taco bar (Nathan just has a "cheesy roll-up," which he may or may not eat) or pasta with different kinds of sauce. And of course we have separate meals when it's a leftover and/or "scrounge around for what you can find" night.
But last night was the first night I actually prepared three separate entrees. Although, since I'm in the education field, I prefer to think of it as individualized, differentiated dinner curricula.
Many people might say, I would not put up with that! Well, in the case of Nathan, who is still in his formative years, and who I have some responsibility to mold into a decent human, I probably do enable pickiness. But I'm also convinced that everybody falls somewhere on the pickiness continuum naturally, and there's only so much sway a parent has over a child's palate.
In the case of my husband, why would I want to prepare meal after meal that he doesn't like? Especially because, as I said, I'm very sensitive about my cooking, and I get upset if he doesn't like what I make. We have gotten to a point where he is perfectly willing to make his own dinner if he doesn't like what I'm making (and, just so you know, I don't like the one thing he knows how to make, either).
I'm also kind of a control freak about the cleanliness of my kitchen, though, so I don't always like it when Bill gets home from work and makes a big old messy meal in my just-recently-cleaned kitchen.
So I just decided to make separate entrees myself.
(Also Nathan's wasn't really an entree. When he's given free choice of his meal, as in when we aren't forcing him to at least have part of the main dinner entree, he knows he has to choose a protein and a fruit/vegetable. So, he picked carrots and yogurt. As in, not an entree.)
It wasn't a big deal to make the other two entrees because I have two Crock Pots. In Crock Pot #1 I made split pea soup for myself. (Recipe here and photo/description here.) I have decided I could eat split pea soup every single night. (And, fun side story, I actually did bring split pea soup in a thermos every day for lunch in high school. It's a wonder I wasn't more popular.) Bill doesn't like this particular split pea soup recipe, which is vegetarian and contains the dreaded celery.
On the other hand, he loves red beans and rice, which I do not like because they are too spicy. I found the recipe here and set it up in Crock Pot #2.
Yes, it was twice as much work. BUT! Both Crock Pot meals were a huge hit, and we had the leftovers tonight. Which means that while it was twice as much work last night, it also made twice as many meals. (Plus I had some soup for lunch, and there are more beans in the freezer, so I guess it was more like 3 meals, but I'm just gonna say two because it was two dinners.)
I'm not saying I'm going to make separate meals every night. And I'm not saying I'm totally comfortable with my child's pickiness, nor my husband's for that matter. But I'd certainly rather make food that everybody's going to like, and I include myself in everybody, of course. I would not have been happy eating the beans and rice and consuming calories that I didn't even enjoy. Plus, I like to think it's more economical to take one portion to eat and then freeze the rest for later, rather than have to scrape a bunch of food into the trash when people don't eat the stuff on their plates. And hey, at least we actually sat down and ate together, even if we were eating different things. That's what counts, right?