Daddy Talk: Yucky Food
By Tim Krason
The following conversation happened with my six-year old this week. Me: “What did you eat in the cafeteria for lunch today?” (I had already learned that “fish nuggets” were on the menu.) Tanner: “I don’t know. It looked kinda like chicken nuggets, but it wasn’t chicken.” Me: “Were they fish nuggets?” Tanner: “Maybe.” Me: “What did they taste like?” Tanner: “Chicken.” Tanner is definitely our most entertaining kid when it comes to eating.
One time, the Clinton Public School District held a summer taste-testing session for their new cafeteria items, and my two boys and I volunteered as taste-testers. We were given score cards and pencils as the cafeteria workers marched out and formally presented dish after dish for our honest feedback. Every time a new item appeared in front of Tanner, he would look at it closely and then rate its appearance on the scorecard: “Yucky.” Every sample received that rating no matter how good it looked. At first, I felt bad that the school district had invited this abuse upon itself by calling for kindergarten-aged taste-testers, but then I glanced over at Isaac, our older son, who was assigning every dish the best possible rating, regardless of how it ended up tasting. I hope the district was using some system of averages in its final assessment.
Isaac has always been more of a food adventurer. As a baby, he went through one phase where his favorite dish was black beans and cumin. A few years later, he became a vocal advocate for roasted Brussels sprouts. Just this week, he came with me to the school where I work, and even though we brought sack lunches to eat, he argued for ten minutes with me that we should go to my school’s cafeteria instead because he remembered how good it was last time he ate there — about four years ago. I informed him that many of our students actually complain about the cafeteria food. He found that sentiment ridiculous and countered by noting that my school has a dessert bar, which is much more than can be said for the third-grade cafeteria. And even the third-grade cafeteria, he admits, isn’t bad at all.
Our four-year old, Lydia, is still too much under the influence of her brothers to have a credible opinion of her own about food. She is generally a picky eater but in a normal kid kind of way. A month or so ago, my wife tried making “overnight oatmeal” in mason jars. This stuff was all the rage on Instagram. We started off with some flavors we knew the kids would like — mixtures that had chocolate and sugar in them — and Lydia was the first one who tasted the new concoction. She stepped up to the table, noticed the chocolate chips in the jar, and took a big bite. “Mmmmm!” she said. “Success!” we thought.
But then Tanner approached his jar suspiciously, made a grumpy face, and took a bite so small that he couldn’t possibly have noted that there was anything in his mouth at all. “Ewwww, yucky!” he exclaimed, storming off. Lydia refused to eat any more of hers because it was “yucky.” And that was the last our refrigerator saw of the overnight oatmeal. As he got out of the car for school this morning, I glanced down at his healthy, yet uneaten, breakfast and muttered a prayer of thanks for cafeteria fish nuggets.