That little girl is very cute, really…for a bully.
One would never suspect her of having this rather surly tendency because she is otherwise a regular, lovable 9-year-old. She – let’s call her ‘Susie’ – listens to her teachers, cares about her friends, plays nicely with others, and tries her best to learn and get good grades. So what gives?
Well, apparently, it’s a food thing.
Susie has definite opinions about what her fellow schoolmates pack in their lunchboxes and is not remotely shy about sharing them. As she nibbles on her latest package of Lunchables, the Kraft-launched trays of processed finger food products, she issues a myriad of expressively thoughtful judgments the likes of “Yuck!” and “Gross!” and “What’s THAT??”
Since entering into my daughter’s life, Susie has succeeded in persuading her into not eating hard-boiled eggs, Thai chicken and rice soup, couscous, broccoli pasta and pretty much anything else Susie considers foreign, and therefore suspect.
Of course I’m being a bit tongue-in-cheek by calling Susie a bully. I don’t in any way mean to suggest that her actions are on par with the very real and serious bullying that adversely affects over 3 million students each year. I would also add that toughening up a bit by learning to defend your deviled eggs isn’t such a bad life skill for my little one to develop.
Still, where’s the love? Where’s that tolerance for diversity that has become more and more prevalent? At a time when the military is accepting transgender soldiers and the Supreme Court has declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states, you’d think a girl could munch on a stuffed pepper at school without being harassed.
The last straw came, as it always does when trickles of frustration accumulate over time, this past week. My daughter arrived home from school reporting that the chicken cutlet sandwich I had packed for her had been judged, in Susie’s wordly estimation, strange. And to think I had been absolutely convinced it would glide discreetly under the ‘weird food’ radar.
“What do you mean strange?” I asked.
“I don’t know…it just wasn’t something she had seen before, I guess. She looked at it funny.”
“And so she called it strange? Well, that’s better than yucky, I suppose,” I responded philosophically. “Next time just tell her it’s a home-made Chick-fil-A sandwich, and Lord knows there isn’t anything strange about that.”
I do get a wee bit frustrated at times.
Don’t get me wrong. I too resort to feeding my kids by making macaroni and cheese out of a box or by foraging at a fast food restaurant from time to time. Life can get crazy busy and the job sometimes just needs to get done, and fast. I am only suggesting that until we incorporate more cooking into our homes, kids will continue to view homemade, and therefore unfamiliar, foods suspiciously. And they will judge them.
This developed myopic view comes about, I suspect, because some children do not see a lot of food variety in their own homes. That’s why, by the way, British chef and beloved food personality Jamie Oliver went around visiting schools dressed like a pea pod. In part he did so because he realized that many children couldn’t recognize a potato or a beet when they saw one. As a parent, he also understood that if ‘kids don’t know what stuff is, they won’t eat it.’
And if the won’t eat it, they won’t ever have a chance to step away from highly processed, hyper-flavored food products long enough to realize how delicious well-prepared homemade food can be.
A pity, too. A delicious stuffed red pepper, if given a chance, might even pass muster with Susie.
Note: ‘Susie’ does not actually exist, though she represents the accumulation of comments both of my children have received over the years about their packed lunches.
making thai chicken & rice soup
To make this fragrant and exotic-tasting soup (thanks to that silky coconut milk!), procure 1 ½ lbs. of chicken tenders or chicken breasts.
Alternatively, for a vegetarian twist, use 1 425 gr. package of firm tofu.
Using kitchen scissors, remove any sections of fat or thin membranes.
Cut the now trimmed chicken breasts into small, ½- to ¾-inch cubes (if using tofu, cube with a knife).
Slice 3 medium zucchini (approx. 1 lbs) in half lengthwise, and then slice vertically to create half rounds.
Rinse half of a 1-8 oz. container of baby spinach leaves with cold water and allow to drain in a colander.
In medium-sized pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat; add 2 to 3 tablespoons of red curry paste (available in Asian foods section of most supermarkets) and a pinch of salt, stirring, for 2 minutes.
Stir in 1 14-oz. can of coconut milk and 1 cup of chicken stock and bring to boil.
You are now ready to add the sliced zucchini and chicken pieces.
Add them to the pot…
and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary by adding either a little additional salt or maybe some more red curry paste, especially the latter if you like it a bit spicy.
Now add spinach and mix well. The spinach leaves will wilt nicely with the heat but will remain a nice shade of green and retain a pleasant texture to boot.
Place a generous half cup of cooked rice into 4 soup bowls. Ladle the soup on top, adding a spritz of lime juice and a few fresh cilantro leaves. Makes 4 servings.