I don’t know about the rest of the world, but in America, we believe there is such a thing as “kid food” and “adult food.”
Kid food is soft, bland, and unchallenging. It may be sweet, but never spicy. Adult food, on the other hand, includes stuff like sushi, bitter vegetables, and anything with pepper.
We even believe that science backs us up on this. Kids have more tastebuds, we are told, so they taste everything more intensely.
In fact, we think it might actually hurt them. Many moms panicked after hearing I used cinnamon in my children’s smoothies, gasping “Is that okay to feed them??”
But here’s my problem with that kind of thinking: kids around the world don’t eat the same way ours do. I’m sure Japanese kids eat sushi, and Scandinavian kids eat herring. I can’t imagine Eskimo babies digging into Mickey Mouse-shaped chicken nuggets before napping in their igloos, yet they survive.
So have we, for many centuries, since long before we could get our hands on boxes of rice cereal and jars of Gerber food.
Having had two babies myself, I’ve seen them go through periods where they will try just about anything…
And I mean ANYTHING. A couple of years ago, my daughter Brontë ate a spider.
We were in the shower together when I noticed a giant spider walking across the bathroom floor. Since we were both soaking wet and had shampoo in our hair, I reached out of the shower to drop a giant bottle of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Wash on the spider, figuring I would flush it once we got out.
Then I hurriedly washed the shampoo out of my hair, closing my eyes as water splashed my face.
When I opened them, not thirty seconds later, the shower door was open and Brontë had crawled out. The bottle of baby wash was laying on its side and spider legs were disappearing into my baby’s mouth as she chewed.
Jumping out, I pulled her mouth open to see if I could fish the spider out.
But it was too late. She had swallowed it and was giggling happily like she hadn’t just eaten an enormous spider.
AHHHHHH! I tried my best to remember what the spider looked like and started googling furiously… it didn’t appear, at least, to be one of the poisonous spiders people commonly find in California. Everything turned out okay.
But it was hardly the last crazy thing my kids tried to eat. I’ve had to pull cat food and hairballs out of their mouths as well as play-dough and loose change.
Yet somewhere around age two and a half, my daughter Brontë started getting pickier and pickier about her food. She eyed dinners with increasing suspicion, nervous about anything I tried putting in front of her. It might look like an innocent sandwich, but she seemed sure I’m trying to slip monkey brains in there somewhere.
It’s gotten really frustrating. How can a kid who once ate a dead spider become so picky?
Lately, she’s been wanting only “white” food. By that, I mean white bread, white pasta, and popcorn. The other day she begged me for Cream of Mushroom soup.
“You want mushroom soup?” I asked, happy that she wasn’t begging for more bread.
“Yes,” she chirped, “It’s white!”
Hmm. I’m not happy with her current level of fussiness, but here’s what I think may be going on…
Kids grow up all around the world, meaning there are different types of food available. If an Eskimo or Scandinavian kid refused to eat fish, for example, they would be in a world of hurt. So they are open to trying whatever’s around.
But there are also lots of poisonous foods in the wild. It’s easy to eat poisoned mushrooms or berries on accident. If a food goes rancid, it could kill you, so maybe there’s a natural aversion to anything green… it could be mold. You never know.
Since trying out brand new food is like playing Russian Roulette in the wild, maybe we evolved to stick to food we’re already familiar with. Thinking anything that looks or smells different is “weird” may have saved our lives, once upon a time.
If this is the case, then the whole “kid” vs “adult” mentality may be backfiring. We end up serving our babies sweet, bland, tasteless food for the first decade or so before suddenly throwing sushi and strong cheeses at them. It’s like going from the merry-go-round to an upside-down roller coaster.
No wonder it freaks them out.
I don’t know… anyone else have kids that would eat pretty much anything until one day, when they suddenly only wanted mac-n-cheese and spaghetti-O’s?