Last night I took my son out to dinner at an All-You-Can-Eat Chinese food buffet. Generally buffets like this are wasted on me because I just don’t eat enough food to justify the price. However, my 5-year-old Ian is a bottomless pit so buffets are right up his alley! As we perused all the food choices, I piled his plate with Lo Mein noodles, sweet and sour pork spare ribs, and crab wontons. One of the food trays caught my eye and I read the label out loud, “Frog legs.” “Frog legs?” said Ian, “Frog legs! I want frog legs!” Okay, onto the plate went one frog leg. Back at our booth, the frog leg was the first thing in his mouth and he proceeded to eat every little bit and requested more.
As someone who was an extremely particular eater as a child, having a son who will happily eat frog legs is oddly interesting. When I was three years old, I told my mom, “I know I don’t like it because I’ve never had it before.” In elementary school, I would actually turn down dinner invitations to friends’ houses because I was afraid they would serve something I wouldn’t like and then I would get that dreaded label…”picky.” Oh, how I hated that word! I wanted to like everything, to be able to eat whatever crossed my lips without the gag reflex kicking in, without worrying what I was going to eat at a big event, without fear of getting labeled a picky-eater. In my early twenties, I noticed a list tacked to the refrigerator of my boyfriend’s mom. She’d been writing down notes about what foods I didn’t like so that she wouldn’t cook them when I was there for dinner. The list was at least 3 pages long. I was so embarrassed that I became determined to try new things without prejudice, even foods that I’d tried as a kid and disliked. I discovered that there were quite a few things I’d been missing out on, foods that my adult taste buds liked and my childhood taste buds had previously rejected.
Back to Mr. Frog Legs, when Ian was born I was set on having him try foods without the pressure that I’d gotten as a child. I offered him a wide variety of flavors and textures, encouraged him to try new foods, but never pushed the issue if he turned it down. If he didn’t care for something, I’d offer it to him again on another day. I think I just lucked out with a child who is more adventurous than most because it’s obvious that he didn’t inherit his gourmet taste buds from me. When he offered me a bite of his frog leg at dinner last night, I refused with a polite “no thank you!”