Every family is a team, working together to get through days and weeks and years of family life: housework and homework, nights in and trips abroad. It doesn’t work without a sense of shared purpose, an understanding that everybody can’t get exactly what they want all the time. Family is where we learn what camaraderie means and where kids learn how to contribute to something larger than themselves.
On the other hand, though, they love being brutally honest. The same process of development that will eventually make our kids into independent, giving adults first makes them into little opinion machines, eager to participate in family life by expressing their opinions on everything that goes on in the home. Often, the first place that decorum and generosity disappear is the dinner table.
We put out the call for the most devastating reviews that parents’ cooking has received from their children, and your mini food critics did not disappoint. When we think of all of the requests we make of our kids: “Get dressed,” “Finish your homework,” “Clean your room,” there are none that we make quite as often or quite as insistently as “Sit down and eat this plate of food.” So it’s bound to be a battleground, as developing palettes and high-strung personalities clash against the best efforts of harried, non-professional chefs.
First, the bad news. A lot of what we’re putting on the table is not up to snuff! Kids are not shy about objecting to food that they find lacking, and given the fact that they enjoy a relatively narrow range of foods and flavors, it’s easy to earn demerits for just about any dish. “Your food smells so bad it’s making my eyes drown,” is a sentiment that one Mom shared, and the others were only more pointed and creative. “It smells like steak but tastes like garbage,” one youngster opined. Comparisons to garbage were common, and a few even less flattering similes were shared. It’s easy to imagine that in a world where you’re smaller than everyone around you and lack any real freedom or agency, it’s important to register your objections in the starkest terms possible.
There’s another story in the responses, though: one about kids who, even when they can’t stand to take a single bite, are looking for diplomatic ways to express their dismay. Kids put a lot of creativity into the ways they tell you that, while they won’t be eating any dinner tonight, they appreciate the effort. “It tasted really good until I put it in my mouth,” one five-year-old said. “I kinda like it but I mostly don’t,” is another one’s attempt to save some face for Mom. Some kids are even open with their pity, pushing their dinner aside but sending along a hug: “It’s okay Mama- you’ll do better next time,” or “You’re the goodest chef.” It’s heartening to see that, even when they can’t manage a single bite, they feel the bonds of family and see the work that you’re putting in.
Through all the feedback, from negative to mostly negative and sometimes, in those moments that we treasure, stretching all the way to true enthusiastic enjoyment, we endeavor to find healthy, hearty meals that will engage our kids. We do this not only to take care of their nutrition, but also because they’re beginning a culinary journey that will hopefully open them up to a whole world of culinary possibilities. That journey starts in our very own kitchens, where we fight day after day to show our kids the possibilities of fresh, delicious meals. More often that not, that involves family classics like pasta and the best ingredients we can find, like RAGÚ® Old World Style® Traditional Sauce. And it will take more than a few harsh reviews to keep us from providing for our kids.