An Expanding Appetite

My oldest son has always been an adventurous eater. His little brother, on the other hand, has been stuck in the chicken and pasta phase for far too long. He tries other things, but often makes a dramatic “I hate this ¬†face” long before the food even passes through his lips.

Realizing that there’s no way to force a child to like different foods, I’ve taken a rather straightforward approach: either you eat what you’re served, or you go hungry. It’s simple, and it’s easy, but it hasn’t done much to improve his palate.

In restaurants, it can be particularly frustrating. There’s little point in taking kids out to eat if they’re just going to get macaroni and cheese or a hot dog. I mean I can cook those things at home for a fraction of the price, and usually better than the restaurant (well, almost better).

A couple weeks ago, the boys and I were in a restaurant over at Crystal River that specialized in seafood. I ordered a bucket of crabs, and my oldest son got some snow crabs. My youngest announced that he was going to be adventurous, and ordered a chicken pasta.

After a few minutes of watching us crack crabs, however, he couldn’t take it anymore. “Could I crack one?” he asked.

“Nah,” his older brother answered without looking up.

I licked my fingers. “I thought you don’t like crab.”

“Well,” he said. “I don’t. But I could crack it for you, and you could eat it.”

“I don’t know.” I broke open a claw and pulled out a big chunk of meat. “The whole point of cracking is so you can eat.”

“But I can do it for you,” he said.

“Cracking them is fun,” I said.

“I know! That’s why I want to do it.”

“But you don’t eat them.”

He sighed. “Please? Just one?”

I gave him a crab to crack, and he settled in, handing me the meat as he pried it out. After he was done, I told him to eat some more of his own lunch, and then he could have another.

The meal progressed in a delicious haze of crab, butter, and garlic. Toward the end, the little guy just couldn’t take it anymore. He touched a piece of crab meat to his tongue experimentally. “Hey,” he said. “I like crab!”

I laughed. “Me too.”

“About time,” his brother said.

Flash forward to today. We’re taking Nana and Grampa out to dinner tonight, to a restaurant that’s famous for ribs. My oldest is excited and looking forward to sharing a rack with me.

“Can I share, too?” his little brother asked.

“But you don’t like ribs.”

He gestured with his hands. “I might now.”

You know what? I have a feeling he just might.

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