The Scoop on Food

How I Got My Kids to Eat a "Disgusting" Dinner

picky-kid-dinner

I made dinner last night for the second night in a row. I hope you're giving me a round of applause right now, or at least an inward, You go, girl!, because, you know, it's an accomplishment — even if it was just leftovers.

Tuesday night's slow cooker pulled pork turned into Wednesday night's BBQ pulled pork pizza, and I thought it'd be a hit because, well... pizza.

My 8-year-old asked what we were having for dinner. "BBQ pulled pork pizza!" I said brightly.  His face dropped. I continued. "Do you want cheese on your piece?" I ask this because this is a kid who doesn't eat cheese — unless it's on regular pizza or quesadillas. But not on tacos or nachos, or a grilled cheese sandwich, or, God forbid, macaroni and cheese — because he also won't eat pasta. But I digress.

He slinked away, unhappily, into the bedroom. My 3-year-old, wanting in on the action, walked into the kitchen and loudly proclaimed, "That's DISGUSTING!" So as you can imagine, I was feeling pretty good about the whole family-dinner thing.

With the pizza, three quarters of it covered in shredded mozzarella, in the oven, my husband and I went looking for our oldest.  He was literally hiding behind the bed, face buried in his hands.  "Honey, what's wrong?" I implored. "Is this really about the pizza?" He nodded.

And here's where I happened upon some mom brilliance. (Feel free to borrow it the next time your kid starts wailing about what's for dinner, by the way.) I said, "Sweetie, here's the deal. If I only cooked dinners you like, I'd be depriving you of a key rite of childhood: the Disgusting Dinner. And when you're grown up, you'll be able to entertain your friends with tales of That Disgusting Dinner. And your friends will share their tales. You'll get mileage out of this!"

He was out from behind the bed, paying attention now, so I continued, launching into my own Disgusting Dinner woe. When I was a kid, my dad concocted something called Hamburger Gravy, which I can only describe as a close cousin to chipped beef on toast, with hamburger replacing the chipped beef. It was gray-ish and onion-y and revolting. The thought of it still makes me shudder, but these days I admire the fact that a) my dad cooked on a pretty regular basis, and b) my parents, who both worked fulltime, managed to get a homemade dinner on the table nightly.

I asked my husband to share his Disgusting Dinner story and he started to make a crack about how "Nonnie" never made anything gross — until I shot him a look that said, in no uncertain terms, get with the program. He settled on pot roast.

We all came to the table for dinner that night — a homemade, use-up-the-leftovers dinner that my 3-year-old largely ignored, my 8-year-old picked at, and my husband and I declared delicious. It provided sustenance and amusement, which ultimately didn't seem bad for a Wednesday night. And I just might make it again someday.

This is a guest post from Erika Rasmusson Janes, senior editor at Parents.com and mother of two hungry (but choosy) boys. Follow her on Twitter.

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