Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. Not only does it occur during the same month as my birthday, but a holiday devoted entirely to relaxing with family while enjoying delicious carb-laden foods is right up my alley.
When I was growing up in California, my family usually celebrated Thanksgiving at our house, with friends joining us on occasion. Though it’s been over a decade since we were all together for the holiday, both my nose and my tastebuds can still recall those days in vivid detail: waking up to the scent of onions and butter sizzling on the stove; taking my first bite of tart cranberry sauce; filling my belly with a second or third helping of stuffing, which was always my favorite. When it came to preparing the feast, my dad typically ran the show, which meant the meal involved at least eight sticks of butter, and giblets were always, always mixed into the stuffing. Yes, I know giblets make some people cringe, but the point is, I loved it all.
Naturally, I assumed my enthusiasm for Thanksgiving fare would carry over to my two children. I was wrong.
Enter my daughters, who at the tender ages of seven and five years, have already distinguished themselves as two of the most finicky eaters in our entire extended family.
Though my husband and I have continually encouraged our daughters to try different foods, their tolerance for cuisine other than plain noodles and carrot sticks is alarmingly limited. One child refuses cheese in all forms (Hello? We live in Wisconsin, so yes, I know this is criminal.). The other will eat cheese, but only if it’s not melted, so mac n’ cheese is a no-go in our house. Both prefer their “pizza” served to them as a naked crust void of ingredients (may as well just call it toast at that point). And sadly, neither has developed an affinity for any of the Thanksgiving dishes I’ve loved for so long: turkey, stuffing (oh, the stuffing!!), mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie.
At last year’s holiday, faced with a delightful spread of traditional dishes that no sane person could refuse, my daughters turned up their noses and decided to subsist on rolls, a few slivers of lettuce from the salad, and the chicken nuggets we hastily heated up for them.
Our family is hosting Thanksgiving this year, and while I’m very excited about getting everyone together, I’m also dreading the fact that I will once again have to contend with my daughters’ stubborn palates.
So after some hand-wringing on this issue, I’ve decided to do things a bit differently this time around. I’m hoping the following guidelines will preserve my sanity:
First, my kids are in charge of choosing which foods go onto their plates.
I’ll encourage my daughters to serve themselves from the variety of dishes I’m planning on preparing. What specific foods they choose to eat, and how much they consume, is up to them. If they want to eat four dinner rolls and a few bites of green beans instead of a more balanced meal that contains actual protein—while this makes me cringe—that’s their decision.
Second, if they want something other than what we’ve prepared for the meal, they have to make it themselves.
So you refuse turkey and want peanut butter on plain bread? Go for it, kiddo! You know where the supplies are. Oh, and you want plain toast instead of stuffing? Splendid. There’s the toaster right over there; you know how to use it.
Third, I’ll remind myself that, while food is a key part of the holiday and I’d love my daughters to expand their palates and enjoy this tradition as much as I do, the most important aspect of Thanksgiving is spending time with each other.
It’s true: no matter what my daughters eat (or don’t!), the holiday will be special, simply because our family is together.
Plus, assuming my kids don’t eat any stuffing, that just means I can have extra helpings later.