Ever since Jessica Seinfeld’s book “Deceptively Delicious” was a hit last year, I’ve been contemplating why people feel the need to hide vegetables in their children's meals. I need to say up front that the idea of hiding vegetables in food has always made me cringe. Although I would like to think my dislike for being "deceptive" is due to my belief that parents should always be honest with their children, I must admit my sensibility as a true vegetable lover is offended as well.
I am also confused as to why this book was such a big hit. I realize that the author is Jerry Seinfeld's wife, and that the exposure she received from her publisher is pretty impressive, but is there more to the story (other than another cookbook author suing both Seinfelds for plagiarism)? My question is: why has the vegetable become persona non grata at the family dinner table?
I can think of many reasons why parents should avoid hiding vegetables in their kids' food. For one thing, if the veggies are hidden, kids have no idea they’re actually eating them. Although this may seem to be the point of masquerading them in the first place, it sets up a scenario where children grow up thinking they can live vegetable-free lives. Okay, maybe not vegetable free entirely, but if vegetables aren't a part of a child's regular daily food consumption, she (or he) won't acquire a taste for them and so won't necessarily want to eat them as an adult. Stealth recipes, as Ms. Seinfeld calls them, can eventually backfire. The trick of pureeing and chopping up vegetables so children don't notice them will only work for so long. At some point, those little smarties will figure it out and when they do, they'll get the message that vegetables are "gross" and inedible, worthy only of being smashed to bits and hidden in meat, pasta or cheese. I realize that many parents themselves aren't vegetables lovers, but instead of throwing in the towel and passing on an aversion to an essential food group, I suggest exploring new and different ways of eating and preparing vegetables with the kids.
With this in mind, here are some suggestions for serving vegetables in an open and honest way with your family. They may not all work for you, but the chances that one or two of these suggestions could make even a small impact is worth a try.