Thursday, September 13, 2007

Baggage - labels

The mental & emotional kind, not the kind that gets x-rayed at airport security.

I have baggage. Everyone I know has baggage of some sort. Among my friends it is religious or cultural mostly, but educational, athletic and economic bags also sit on the luggage cart was well. We all have things that our family made us do, or wouldn't let us do, or were inflicted upon us by our peers. We swear these things will not happen to our children. We will do it differently. We will do it right .

My baggage is food related (with a carry on of organized sports issues). There was little variety in the meals in our house. I was labeled a picky eater at an early age, but never really encouraged to try new things. No one in my family ate new things either, at least not in front of me. I assume when my parents were in Japan and the Philippines my dad, at least, tried new foods. My mom I know existed on Mc D's french fries & milkshakes. It was a case of the pot calling the kettle black. But as a child I could not see that. I now realize that the limited variety of foods in my house was due to my parents own baggage. Dad had issues with things he would not eat from his poor childhood. Mom just lacks a desire to try new foods. So we were left with what what my dad was willing to eat of what my mom was willing to eat. Ground beef, pork chops, ham steak & the occasional grilled steak. Chicken was expensive when I was child, so we had something called 'city chicken', which was breaded pork kabobs. There was also spaghetti, lasagna & tuna noodle casserole. Vegetables were canned green beans, canned corn, canned succotash, frozen broccoli & cauliflower, both smothered in a cheese sauce. There may have been carrots, but I think not. My dad doesn't like peas. There were no other vegetables in my world, apart from iceberg lettuce

So really, looking back it is not surprising I was a reluctant eater. I can't stand canned green beans. Loathe them, always have, but as they were the veg of choice they were on offer 2 or 3 times a week. Limiting my already limited menu caused me to be labeled a picky eater. I never turned my nose up at zucchini or kohlrabi or asparagus. I was never offered them. Maybe I might have liked them. Maybe if I had seen my parents trying new foods from time to time I would have as well. Maybe not. Maybe the list of foods I refused to eat would have gotten longer. But I know now I was not and am not a picky eater. I like different things than my parents do.

Even knowing this on an intellectual level, I still carry this big bag labeled picky eater with me into every kitchen, grocery store, market & restaurant. "What's that thing?" a suspicious child's voice in mind wonders looking at a star fruit. "Eww, that's yuck." the voice says looking at the okra. "Are there onion chunks in that?" it ponders, looking closely at the stir fry on the plate. "You haven't even tried it yet."the adult me asserts. "Give it a chance." I seem to spend as much time trying to convince myself to try things as I do trying to convince my children. I succeed with myself only because the guilt of being a good example tends to overcome the reluctance. I have lived outside my parent's home for 22 years. I have made my own food choices for longer than I had to live with theirs. But the early training is still there. The reluctance to step outside the known, the encouragement to stick with the familiar. "What if is is yucky?" is the question in my mind.

I don't want that for my children. I want them to look at new foods and ask "What if it is wonderful?" So I eat the slimy okra & find other ways of preparing it. I eat the starfruit and the stir fry. I try my best to range outside my own food comfort zone & provide them with variety. And when people say my child is a picky eater I say "He isn't picky. He just doesn't like everything we do and that is ok."

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