My 10 year old son is famous in our family for his finicky palate. He came into the world a picky eater, which is not always easy when you are born into a family of adventurous eaters.
“A bowl of plain pasta, butter and cheese on the side. No sauce. ”
That was our standard order for about five yrs, at every single restaurant from here to the middle east. Plain pasta. We should have had a photo of it printed on a laminated card so we could just hold it up and order in any language. Maybe a picture of sauce on the side with a big red circle and bar through the middle. NO SAUCE.
“Just make him try it,” my friends and family advised at every group meal. They pitied and scoffed at his special meals. I was clearly just being a weak parent.
“Listen, here’s what you do… He has to try one bite, and if he doesn’t like it, fine.”
I smiled and nodded politely, knowing they did not have a truly picky child. The “try it” approach worked great for my other “normal” eater kids, when I was getting them to try a new food they were resisting. But not for the picky eater. The picky eater had a hair trigger gag reflex. Just one bite… and dinner was about to be over. For everyone.
Not worth it.
So we let it go and made sure there were healthy quick options that he liked on hand at all times. At camp he lived on peanut butter sandwiches. At home he went through buckets of strawberries and edamame beans. Whatever worked.
Then we went to New Orleans. I wasn’t too worried about our family eating in New Orleans. There’s pasta everywhere and besides, some of the exotic treats have a relatively low barrier to entry. We made the requisite stop at Cafe Du Monde. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t like beignet. Even my “picky” son.
He dug right in and had to be dusted off afterwards.
But we weren’t prepared for what happened next, during our dinner at Vacherie
“How’s the alligator?” he asked a waiter. And then he proceeded to polish off an entire plate of fried alligator bites.
“Delicious!” he announced.
The next night, our picky son and his little brother ordered the turtle soup at Galatoire’s. Their only complaint? The serving size. They wanted more.
The foodie heavens parted and chubby angels wearing chef’s hats sang a happy chorus. While in Louisiana we ate crawfish and oysters, shrimp and grits and even more turtle soup. The turtle soup was definitely a hit.
I’m not sure what voodoo turned my picky eater into a food adventurer overnight in New Orleans. Maybe it was just a recessive culinary gene finally kicking in. Maybe he was sick of being teased about the pasta.
I just know one thing. Once your kid has polished off a plate of alligator and a bowl of turtle soup? You can’t call him a picky eater any more.
Must have been the magical beignet.