Many of you might think that my kids eat everything and anything put in front of them. Not so. Each of our four children has his or her idiosyncrasies, things that are loved or loathed. My oldest loves most food, but he hates legumes of any kind — except for roasted peanuts, perhaps. He just can’t stand the texture and now the taste. My older daughter doesn’t like seafood or red meat. My younger son doesn’t like cooked fruit, except for applesauce. My younger daughter doesn’t like bananas or fresh peaches or pineapple. Only one of the kids will eat raw tomatoes and none of them like cilantro. I sometimes stress out, as my (unrealistic) expectations are that they should like everything. Yes, that’s a completely ludicrous position, and I’m coming to grips with it.
I recently visited Vin Rouge in Durham, taking my younger two children (they’re 9 and 11). I’ve known chef Matt Kelly before he started there, but I’ve only eaten his cooking a couple of times. Vin Rouge has become the place where other chefs eat, primarily because of Kelly’s dedication to the craft of cooking. He’s one hell of a cook, and if you ever visit on a Sunday night, you’ll find a handful of local chefs eating there on their night off.
Anyhow, shortly after we sat down, a huge charcuterie plate landed on our table, featuring 5 different kinds of pate’, a pork rillette (or was it rabbit?), plus some bacon confiture, salami and other goodies. The kids tried some of the items on the plate, liking some and saying, “That’s different” with others. My son later tried and liked my sweetbreads. The kids ordered hanger steak — rare (although they were torn between that and the mussels). For dessert they had chocolate mousse and creme brulee. It was a pretty safe meal, except for the pate’ and the sweetbreads.
Last night I attended a potluck where a number of chefs were in attendance, including Matt Kelly. I thanked him again for the charcuterie plate and told him that my kids had fun with it. He responded, “It’s great to serve normal food to kids, as it’s so rare for that to happen. I get all kinds of crazy requests to accommodate kids.” I thought about that for a moment, and then realized that Matt’s statement might be the highest complement he could have paid me as a food-loving father. Suddenly, images of my kids’ food adventures started running through my head. I took those same two children to Publican in Chicago last month, where they sampled lamb neck, sturgeon, octopus and pork rinds. They loved the frites with fried eggs on top (someone needs to do that dish around here — are you listening, Ashley Christensen?). They didn’t think the food was weird at all.
And so, after all these years, I think that I’m finally able to handle the kids’ dislikes. They’re by no means picky eaters, and I realize that. They may never have a passion for food the way that I do, but they’ll always understand its importance. Yup, I’m damn lucky indeed.