An open letter to any relative who plans to invite my family to Thanksgiving dinner:
In the spirit of the season, I want to thank you and yours for inviting my family and our little picky eater to your traditional Thanksgiving celebration. I should warn you that my sweet 3-year-old isn’t always the most adventurous eater and may turn up her nose at the traditional holiday fare, but I have a few helpful tips for you here:
If you give my picky eater some turkey, she’s going to ask for a hot dog. When you give her the hot dog, she’ll probably ask you for ketchup. Then, she’ll ask for more ketchup. And then, she’ll refuse the hot dog, because it’s “cold”. It’s a cold dog. So she’ll just eat the ketchup.
If you give my picky eater green bean casserole, she’ll panic. She only eats foods that are easily identified. Green bean casserole is not easily identified. But, if you put ketchup on it, it’s fine. I’ve brought her favorite brand of ketchup, which you have to serve in the original plastic bottle so she can see you squirting it onto her plate. Don’t ever remove the bottle from your lavishly-set table. She’s needs to see it at all times.
If you give my picky eater cranberry sauce from a can, she’ll ask: “How did it get in the can?” along with 100 gazillion other questions. “Why does it jiggle? What are those lumps? Cranberries? What are cranberries? It looks like red vomit.” Now, no one at the Thanksgiving table will eat the canned cranberry sauce…even with ketchup. I’m very sorry for that. That’s why I brought you this very expensive bottle of wine. I suggest you open it now.
If you give my picky eater the platter of candied yams and suggest she helps sprinkle on the mini-marshmallows, she’ll stick out her tongue, but then join in. As she places the last tiny marshmallows on the layer of yams, she’ll ask why the marshmallows stick to yams. You’ll probably tell her “It’s the sticky syrup on the yams.” She’ll reply “Oh, I thought it was because I licked each one.” You’ll have another glass of wine.
If you give my picky eater some mashed potatoes, she’ll gag. “But, they taste just like French fries!” you’ll exclaim. She’ll gag again and run from the table. While having a complete Thanksgiving meltdown, she’ll scream “I want French fries!!!” and you’ll make an immediate mental search of what fast food drive-thrus are open on Thanksgiving. You’ll send you husband out to find French fries and he’ll happily agree to leave.
If you give my picky eater some stuffing, she’ll stare at it. You’ll tell her it’s chopped-up chicken nuggets that your husband bought while he bought her French fries at the drive-thru. She’ll pause…she’ll ponder…she’ll ask: “Where’s the toy?” You’ll grab three mini-marshmallows, smoosh them together and tell her it came with a toy “Olaf” from Frozen.
If you give my picky eater some gravy, she’ll ask: “What is this?” So you’ll lie and say “It’s brown ketchup.” She’ll stare at the brown ketchup and ask “If I eat it, do I get dessert?”
Upon the suggestion of dessert, you’ll give my picky eater a slice of pumpkin pie. After all, pumpkin’s a vegetable, right? She’ll ask for some whipped cream to go with it. But not the homemade kind: She only eats the kind in the can. “Not like the can that had cranberry sauce,” she’ll explain. “Only the ‘squirty’ kind of can.” She’ll eat all the whipped cream off the top of her pie, completely missing any remnant of “vegetable” you hoped she would consume. That is, unless she detects any kind of lump…like those lumpy cranberries…which are red. The red will remind her of her favorite food: ketchup. So, she’ll ask for some ketchup. And chances are if she asks for ketchup, she’ll want some turkey to go with it.
(Many thanks to Laura Numeroff, author of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, which was the inspiration for this piece.)
Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP, treats children birth to teens who have difficulty eating. She is the author of Happy Mealtimes with Happy Kids and the producer of the award-winning kids’ CD Dancing in the Kitchen: Songs that Celebrate the Joy of Food! Melanie’s two-day course on pediatric feeding is offered for ASHA CEUs and includes both her book and CD for each attendee. She can be reached at Melanie@mymunchbug.com.