Intersections – Picky Eaters
By Nicki Salcedo
I’m allergic to beef. This is something new to me. I’ve eaten beef my whole life until I had kids. During my first pregnancy, I only ate beef. It had to be ground beef. That was my “Zoolander” pregnancy. I was sick and could only stomach four things to eat: ground beef, corn, cheddar cheese, and cherry tomatoes. That’s it. It was horrible. It’s no surprise that my first child is my pickiest eater.
The other pregnancies were no better. With child number two, I only ate Indian food. Specifically palak paneer which is a spicy spinach curry with cheese cubes. That child is my most adventurous eater. With the boy, I ate sushi for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He loves the water, and he eats like a whale. My last pregnancy was spinach smoothies. She eats, no lie, a pack of seaweed every day for breakfast.
Sometimes I feel like I’m to blame for their picky habits. Dinner time is a Shakespearean tragedy with one child wailing and another child giving a monologue on why she should not be forced to drink apple juice.
That’s right apple juice.
My kids had the freshly pressed apple juice at my sister’s house a while ago. They all seemed to enjoy it. I decided to buy some as an upgrade from the typical clear apple juice, but when I served it with dinner the gnashing of the teeth started.
“It tastes funny,” one said before she ever let it pass her lips.
“It looks weird,” another said with tears streaming down her face.
What was happening? This was the “good” apple juice. “Doesn’t our regular apple juice look like pee?” I asked.
“No!” they shouted, and then they looked at the regular apple juice. Upon realizing it does look like pee the crying got louder.
“There’s stuff in it,” the third one said.
“It’s apples. The stuff is apples. You eat apples every day,” I said. Actually, I shouted this. Because I hadn’t served them human heads. It was apple juice.
So I told them the horrible truth.
I told my second child she once picked up and almost ate a Palmetto bug. If you are from the North, you might not realize that “water bug” or “Palmetto bug” are fancy ways of saying cockroach. My daughter was about two when this happened. She picked up a dead bug and almost put it in her mouth, but I did a dive, tuck, and roll to knock it out of her hand.
“You almost ate a cockroach,” I said. “Think about that.”
She stopped crying.
The boy almost ate a dead field mouse. Back in the days when I only had three kids, I would set them loose in the backyard while I mowed the lawn. He was probably also two at the time. Kids at age two will eat anything. I remembered thinking how sweet he looked sitting in the grass on the far side of the lawn. Then he lifted something from the ground. By. Its. Tail. He raised it into the air and opened his mouth like an alligator. I screamed so loud he tossed the carcass away and started crying. Upon hearing this story, his tears over the apple juice stopped.
“You almost ate a rotting mouse,” I said. I smiled at the fresh pressed apple cider.
My oldest, the pickiest eater, looked at me with nervous eyes. She is picky about food and picky about medicine. I can only count twice in her life we’ve ever been able to pry medicine down her throat.
“I’d rather have the fever,” she told me once when I offered her baby Tylenol.
I shook my head at my firstborn. She tends to be sweet natured, but her unbuttered bread and unsalted baked potatoes and unflavored diet often gets on my nerves. In her perfect world, she would eat edamame and rice every meal.
“You ate a small tube of Monistat,” I said. Just the thought of that day makes me want to cry. She was probably also two. She liked to pull out the shampoo and soap from under the bathroom cabinet. She’d entertain herself for hours putting our house into disarray. Then it got quiet. Quiet is bad.
My daughter was sucking on a 1 ounce tube of Monistat. I started crying, grabbed her, and called poison control. I still feel the leaden beating of my heart as I waited from someone to answer.
I explained what she ate. I told them I lived near enough the children’s hospital and the general hospital. I said I would hang up and call an ambulance. I thought about them pumping her stomach. My first-aid training came back to me. I remember that some poisons should not be regurgitated.
“You don’t need to do anything,” the lady at poison control said. “It’s totally fine to eat Monistat even in larger quantities.”
“I should take her to the pediatrician then?” I asked. My tears were replaced by utter shock and confusion.
“No. She’ll be fine.”
Even though she was fine, I was shaken for weeks. All of our medicines and cleaning supplies were locked up or stored in high cabinets. The only open cabinet was for our shampoo, soap, toilet paper, and Monistat.
“What’s Monistat?” my now-10-year-old asked me.
“Not food. Something that made me call poison control. I can’t imagine it tasted good, but you ate that,” I told her. “Surely, the good apple juice can’t be worse than Monistat.”
So they tasted the pressed apple juice while holding their noses. Then they explained that their tears were because my sister had a different brand. I won’t tell you what happen the night we sautéed spinach. These kids have that tale of woe thing down to a science. Shakespeare would certainly be proud and hungry.
Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.