I am slowly coming to the conclusion that children are genetically disposed to hate vegetables.
I never thought I would be the mother who said that. I was certain that our great love of food would pass cleanly into our offspring's DNA, and if we presented our children with a variety of vegetables from birth, surely they would grow up preaching to their little preschool friends about the wonders of kale and broccoli.
This is, at least thus far, not the truth at all. I remember watching our daughter and older son slurp up their squash, much as our little guy does now, and proudly determine that we were raising uncomplaining vegetable-eaters. A few years later, I think it will come down to complete deprivation of any other food except vegetables to make them eat anything but peas.
And oh, how we have tried to make vegetables exciting. We cook every kind imaginable, especially considering our community-sponsored agriculture share this summer, as well as the friendly staples of corn and carrots. We (and when I say we, I mean me and Chef Matt) eat a lot of asparagus, green beans and peppers, and we have a newfound love of turnips, beets and kohlrabi, and in many cases, we make every attempt to hide the "vegetable-ness" of these delicious foods so they will actually get past our kids' mouths and into their stomachs.
My first tries were amateur. Butter and garlic, butter and garlic, butter and garlic. But when that failed to entice them, I tried cheese, heavy cream, lemon juice, and bread crumbs. When that did not work, I pureed carrots and layered them in lasagna, and I hid finely chopped Brussels sprouts in pasta. Finally, I pulled out the big guns and cooked gratins and fritters and even disguised various root vegetables as French fries.
It was during the kohlrabi-as-French-fries episode that I found victory in its most unsophisticated form: ketchup. If I allow the kids to douse their vegetables in ketchup, they will almost always try whatever is on their plate. They might try one, kind of swallow, and not eat any more, but maybe the veggies' close proximity to their faces emits enough nutrients to actually get in their resistant little selves. Last night, I hit a new low when I gave in and allowed our son to use ketchup on his salad.
Someday, the lightbulb might go off and they will suddenly decide that they just cannot get enough spinach. I take heart in the fact that they are fruit-lovers, so vegetables cannot be far behind. If all our efforts fail, and they grow up to be adults who eat ketchup on their salads, I guess I can take solace in the fact that in their formative years, the fumes of all kinds of vegetables (if not the veggies themselves) were ever-present in the house and they caught at least passing whiffs of nutritious leafy greens.