The Picky Years

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You wouldn't know it now, but as a kid, I was SUCH a picky eater. I hated almost everything except grilled cheese sandwiches. In fact, by age eight, I OD'd on grilled cheese sandwiches with what I considered disastrous consequences. I won't go into detail, so I'll just say that I learned the hard way what happens when you have too much cheese and not enough fruit, and I was so traumatized by this that I avoided grilled cheese (or any other kind of cheese) for a very long time.

Anyway, my mother had a tough time feeding me, because I retched loudly at the sight of most cooked vegetables, grains, and casseroles. There were even a few meats I didn't get along with. It wasn't just me, either -- my older sister was just as picky. My parents finally had to institute a "Three more bites and you're done" rule. Basically, after sitting at the dinner table long after my parents had finished eating and cleared everything else away, they would get tired of trying to get us to finish what was on our plates and tell us, "Okay, just eat three more bites and you can be excused." They knew that we kids had the stamina to outlast their patience. We would have sat at that table until we left for college rather than finish our dinner. The Three More Bites rule was often accompanied by dramatic gagging and face-making as we used our water to treat the three bites like medication that had to be washed down. That way we didn't have to chew anything, and if we didn't have to chew anything, it meant we didn't have to taste anything. My dad used to lecture us that sloshing down our food that way meant that we weren't going to get the nutrition from the food.

Okay, number one, kids don't care about nutrition, so using that as an argument isn't going to get you very far. And number two, it's false. As I've come to learn in my adulthood, as long as the food hits your stomach, it's going to get dissolved into your bloodstream -- chewed up or not. How else do you explain oysters? However, there were times when even the Three More Bites rule was too much for us. We concocted some elaborate and spectacularly faulty schemes for getting rid of our food without ever actually putting it in our mouths.

First, there were our three cats who always hung around under the table at meal time, rubbing up against our legs suggestively. Their overly-friendly behavior might have had something to do with the fact that my sister and I would carefully slide bits of food off our plates and oh-so-casually drop our hand down to release it to the cats. We had this one cat, Feisty, who would eat everything -- peas, meat, succotash, whatever. Another cat, Pooter, was a little too predatory in his methods of dealing with table scraps and nearly gave us away a few times. Pooter was an incredibly sweet and docile cat who had the unfortunate habit of growling whenever he chewed. My sister and I would bang our feet, clatter our silverware, or start talking at the tops of our voices to cover up what was going on under the table. Once, my mother got really suspicious and looked under the table to see Pooter wrestling with a particularly large piece of Shake 'n' Baked pork.

That was another mistake we learned not to repeat. You couldn't give the cats more food than they could handle in one bite, or you ran the risk of discovery.


Stay tuned to find out how books, Dixie cups, and plastic centerpieces all conspired to make sure we didn't eat our victuals.