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Great Canadian Novel

1 cup wind

1/2 cup dust

2 cups loneliness

1/3 cup family

2 tbsp immigrant experience

1/4 tsp nameless narrator

1/4 cup social climbing/heartless success/ poor-city-kid-makes good story

1/3 cup quirky plot

2 tsp magic realism

1/4 cup extreme weather event

In a large valley, mix wind, loneliness, dust, and family. Slowly add extreme weather event, stirring constantly. Fold in nameless narrator, poor-city-kid story, quirky plot and magic realism. Roll in to modest, unassuming balls and place on a large prairie sheet. Bake at 350F for one hour, removing when top is a gentle wheat colour. Cool and sprinkle with immigrant experience.

Serves 34 million.

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Tricking Toddler Tastebuds: (Or, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bread)

 

“NO!”

A wildly swinging little hand wrenched away the spoon, and a Rorschach blot of organic yoghurt hit the kitchen floor.  It looked rather pretty lying there, I thought bemusedly, the pale blue spoon a counterpoint to the creamy vanilla contrasted against the reddish floor tiles. Sighing, I picked up the third spoon of the morning (a green one, this time) and again attempted to get a little food – any little bit of food – into the obstinately closed mouth of my daughter. Or even onto it.

 

The mouth that babbled, laughed, drooled, blew raspberries, yowled, shouted, talked and burped; the mouth that accepted without prejudice anything that it’s owner chose to pop in it for a taste or a chomp (up to and including the cat); the mouth that did all this but NEVER closed – this was the mouth that became magically, hermetically, sealed when spoon-borne foods approached.  That was Miranda at 13 months.

 

I was at my wits’ end. She used to devour anything and everything with the single-minded appetite of … well, of her Papa. Suddenly we had a finicky fusspot on our hands. Former favourites were off the menu. She wouldn’t eat anything that wasn’t a bread or a bread-like object, unless it was a banana. She hated baby cereal. Food couldn’t be green. Or orange. Or slippery. It couldn’t have at one time clucked, mooed, oinked, or swam. And above all, she had to be able to pick it up and eat it herself. Her paediatrician reminded us that no child has ever starved herself to death, that she would grow out of it, and that as long as her diet was balanced over the entire week, not to worry about a particularly fussy day.

 

Hah.

 

We asked advice from friends and co-workers with toddlers of their own.

“I dunno, mine eats everything”, said some, “have you tried bananas?”

“If you find something that works, let me know!” pleaded the others.

 

Okay, back to the drawing board.

We had two basic parameters that we absolutely had to work within – it had to look like bread, and she had to able to eat it without assistance. And so we got creative.

 

Tiny sandwiches? Nope. She disassembled them like a bomb squad on a timer and the sandwich filling described a graceful arc on its way to the floor.

The bread she ate.

 

Attempt number two. Remembering buying stuffed buns in Chinatown, I decided to try making my own. A can of Pillsbury wiener wrap dough provided the necessary camouflage for the filling. I popped the can open, laid out the dough and cut it into squarish pieces. On each of these I put about a teaspoonful of mashed leftover beef stew and a sprinkle of grated cheese. Folding up the four corners of the dough,  I pinched it shut, flipped it over, and popped it in the oven for 10-12 minutes on 375 C.

 

I set the finished bun on the highchair tray and sat waiting for the little critic’s review. She poked it. She pinched it. She picked it up and interrogated it. She finally decided that if it looked like bread and felt like bread, it probably was bread, and she ate it. Well, part of it. Enough that she had a bit of vegetables and protein mixed in her carb and potassium diet, anyway.

 

A few minutes later, slightly flushed from my victory dance around the kitchen but feeling quite inspired, I jotted a down a few other ideas….

 

  • tiny fruit muffins, replacing half the flour with baby cereal (I also threw in applesauce and sometimes yoghurt)
  • more buns, stuffed with mashed whatever-we-are-eating-for-dinner
  • quesadillas, using mini pita shells instead of wraps
  • tourtiere or shepherds pie made the size of a tart
  • grated potato pancakes with bits of meat and veg in them
  • couscous mixed with a bit of egg and fried into a patty
  • fruit breakfast smoothies thickened with baby cereal (or in a pinch, straight up V8 fruit fusion drink)
  • yogurt in a tube

Some were instant favourites, some not, but finally she was eating a variety of foods again. As the months passed and she became accustomed to new tastes and textures, her fussiness at the table faded. Maybe the paediatrician was right and she did just grow out of it. Maybe our culinary trickery really did turn the tide. In any case, a little bit a work and some imagination in the kitchen made me feel as if I was helping my daughter to explore food at her own pace, in her own way. It solved the mealtime battles and allowed me to relax about her eating habits, so that I can now demonstrate a healthier attitude toward eating to my little girl. Goodness knows that little girls don’t need to see food as a method of control in this day and age.

 

Now eighteen months old, she eats almost anything that isn’t red and she’s beginning to experiment with using the spoon herself. It’s still bombs away over the side of the highchair for anything that she is finished with or doesn’t like (yeah yeah, we’re working in it) but at least, most days, she’s willing to try.

 

 

Even if, sometimes, the yoghurt still ends up on the floor.