To say that Charlotte is a picky eater is an understatement. When I say “picky eater,” I mean that she must not be my child, because she doesn’t seem to have a hunger cue. I am hungry all day. I eat, I wait five minutes, and then I’m all, “man, I’m starving.”
(fun fact: “starvin’ like Marvin” was one of Merrie’s first idioms. She is my child).
I serve one meal to Charlotte, and instead of eating it, she dances in her dining chair. I serve another, and she rolls her head around like the Exorcist child saying “pitittie! pittootie! Ma mae me moe moo!” I give her a snack, and she might go so far as to touch it to her tongue carefully before handing it to the dog. Her method of eating an apple often goes like this:
1. Take bite.
2. Chew for a while.
3. When mom turns her head spit it into your hand and drop on the floor.
Needless to say, she is a waif, and I repeat, I don’t think she is really my child. Mind you, she was the only child born at the hospital the night I gave birth, and in fact was the only birth during my entire hospital stay in July 2006. Still: not hungry? A waif? Seriously, somehow, she must have been switched at birth.
Our pediatrician says she’s just “on her own growth curve,” one that happens to fall below the standard curve for kids that are Charlotte’s age/height. She says it with a shrug, without too much concern, and encourages me to just keep trying. So I sigh whenever I clear yet another untouched plate from the table.
Then, recently, we borrowed this book from the library:
It’s a charming, award-winning, story based on a Russian folktale about a turnip that grows big enough to meet the needs of a family. In this version, Tall Papa Joe, Wide Mama Bess, Strong Brother Abel, and “sweet Little Isabelle” plant a single carrot on their hardscrabble farm, each with different plans for the one vegetable that will grow. Papa wants juice, Mama wants carrot stew, Abel wants carrot relish. Sprite-like Isabelle — a dreaming, dancing Elfin-like creature who reminds me so much of my own Charlotte — hopes for carrot pudding. Isabelle sings and dances for the carrot plant, coaxing its growth with her special brand of magic until it is large enough to meet everyone’s needs.
Charlotte loves the story, and its folksy, colloquial language flat-out charmed me. At the end of the book is a recipe for Sweet Little Isabelle’s Carrot Pudding. And when we saw this, Charlotte said, “maybe we can get some carrots and make this!” So we did, or a variation of it, anyway. And Charlotte, my skeptical-of-all-foods toddler has been noshing happily on it all week. I changed the recipe slightly, and here is my variation – a doubled recipe, with a little less sugar.
Peck herself is an organic gardener and a former cook at a vegetarian restaurant, so she knows her food. She apparently knows something about kids, too. Like, for example, the fact that a book in which a little girl magically sings and dances a giant carrot into being is sometimes all that’s needed to coax even the pickiest eater into trying, and loving, something new.