Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Day 24: White Scourge

My 5-year-old daughter will eat just about anything. All you have to do when she says "What is it?" is say "It's delicious. Try it." and she will. And pretty much the next thing out of her mouth will be "Mmmm! Delicious!" It's just that easy.

But then there's her mother. Yeah, the one who was a child in the '70s, when Americans had simpler tastes. I grew up eating chicken, rice and salad that didn't touch each other on the plate. I didn't even try salad dressing until I was like 15. My favorite restaurant was Carls, Jr. I swooned over Dolly Madison Zingers. We looked forward to American Chop Suey night--elbow macaroni, ground beef and tomatoes, casserole-style--without irony. And I first tasted Chinese food on my 18th birthday.

First it was fish. What, you're saying. You don't like ANY fish? Okay, maybe a little lox on my bagel. A few bites of someone else's swordfish. So sue me. But one night at a restaurant, Jarrah said "I want fish fingers." (She heard this on Charlie & Lola, an adorable KPBS show about British siblings.) I refrained from comment, and she got her fish fingers. Yummed them right up, too. A couple days ago, she wanted the fried cod. Couldn't get enough, even when all the crunchy bits fell off and she was eating (heaven help us) straight-up fishy bits.

Last week, she asked me to buy her avocados. Ooooo-kay. I do not eat avocados. Right, right, that includes guacamole. I don't like the texture; I don't like the taste; I don't like them, okay? Yes, I know that it's some kind of crime against nature to live in California and not like them. Moving on. So there I was in the store, fondling avocados, wondering what I was supposed to be looking for. They were black and rough and seemed to give somewhat alarmingly when I squeezed. I shrugged and threw a few in a bag. Back at home, she wanted some right away. I placed one on the cutting board, squinted at it, then thwacked a knife through. It wedged into the rock in the center, and there it stayed. Eventually, I managed to get a few, smushed bits out of the casing and onto a plate for my little princess. She devoured them. The next morning, she instructed me to slice up the avocado inside a sandwich, with turkey, of all things. I mean, can you imagine? But there she was, assuring me that this was normal. I was like Well, alright, as long as I don't have to eat it. Lunchbox was empty when I picked her up.

But all this was but a preamble to the the true test of my mettle, the one that might have felled one of lesser strength and fortitude. Readers, you know how you hear about moms who think nothing of lifting a bus if their child's well-being depends on it? I do believe I had my lifting a bus moment. Except that what I did was harder.

We were in the supermarket, and Jarrah said "Mommy, Ryan has cottage cheese in his lunch. I want you to get me cottage cheese."

I froze, icy tendrils of terror creeping up the back of my neck. "I'm sorry, dear, I don't think I heard you? I think you said you wanted a sandwich tomorrow of Marshmallow Fluff and sprinkles? I think we can manage--"

"No, Mommy. I said I wanted cottage cheese. In my lunch. And for breakfast."

Oh, be still, my frantic heart. You can do this. Your four years of training as a mother have been leading you to this moment. When you sat in the emergency room for six hours with vomit in your cleavage, you were preparing for this real struggle. And now, Little Grasshopper, you will prevail.

To say that I do not like cottage cheese would be like saying that I do not like nuclear war. Or being submerged in a vat of cockroaches. Please insert your own example here. I have no idea how this dislike developed, which I think makes perfect sense--we who have been deeply, deeply traumatized are often forced to suppress those memories in order to keep us teetering on this side of a psychotic break. Somewhere in my childhood, I was abused by cottage cheese, and I don't wish to discuss it now. But take my word for it: cottage cheese is no friend of mine, and I do not want it residing under my roof.

"You really, really want cottage cheese."

"Yes, I do."

"Okay." (Do you know what it cost me to say that word, Readers? Without accompanying screams and ghoulish faces?)

I swallowed a few times as I picked up the various containers, reading about their contents. They may as well have said "Hamster Eyeballs" and "Pureed Roly-Polies" for the look on my face. I settled on one called "Low-Fat Cottage Cheese with Pineapple," desperately hoping that the presence of this cheery fruit might somehow obscure the horrors within. Wishful thinking.

Once home, the container stared at me ominously from the fridge, but not for long. "Mommy! Can I have a cottage cheese snack?"

"Ooo-kay, honey." I took a deep breath and opened the container. You are an actor, I told myself. Stop gagging and act. My stomach flipped around like a 10-year-old at a gymnastics competition. I stopped breathing. I scooped a mess of that curdulent white crapcake into a bowl, sunk a spoon, and handed it to Jarrah. "Enjoy," I breathed as I raced from the room.

Wow, I thought, once safely on the other side of the house. Look how brave I am. I am truly amazing. How many people would make this kind of sacrifice? I deserve some kind of freakin' medal, or at least a T-shirt. Maybe they should write about me in Parenting magazine.

"Mommy? I don't think I'm going to finish the cottage cheese. It tastes a little funny."

Oh, Universe. I knew you wouldn't let this selfless act go unrewarded. Thank you. Thank you. (sob) Thank you.


erin said...

I love fish, avocado and cottage cheese.
Even all together.

All of my friends growing up thought my family was weird. We ate mostly vegetarian and never ever had hamburger helper or anything remotely resembling it.

But we did eat ramen noodles mit gusto!

Stephanie said...

Your passions definitely come thru here! Fantastic.

A fried egg, sunny side up, would be my vat of cockroaches, ewwww!

Yo~if the avos give alarmingly, they are overripe. Palm them and they should give like ripe mango when ready to eat. If harder, give it a day or two on the counter.

The Wades said...

What a hoot!

I am a former hater of cottage cheese. Now, I must admit it's pretty good. I'll take it any day over the roaches.

"Oh, be still, my frantic heart. You can do this. Your four years of training as a mother have been leading you to this moment. When you sat in the emergency room for six hours with vomit in your cleavage, you were preparing for this real struggle. And now, Little Grasshopper, you will prevail."

Awesome and too funny! Way to step up to the plate.

Joan said...

It tasted funny? It was probably the pineapple.

Paul and Heather said...

Too flippin funny! Cottage cheese grosses my Pauly out to no end...only surpassed by feta cheese! I'm glad for your sake that Jarrah didn't like it. Picking the one with pineapple probably did it for does taste a little weird.

bridgetcarle said...

Heh! I had the same thought as Joan. But I knew immediately how horrible it was for you. Next it will be ricotta cheese!

Anonymous said...

It tasted funny because it had pineapple in it!! Cottage cheese is savory; pineapple is closer to being sweet than savory. I never understood that combination . . .


Anonymous said...

Ick, with pineapple! :)

But yummy without pineapple!

You are a very brave mom. And you are giving me some good ideas. Maybe I'm going down the wrong path with my little picky toddler -- if I act as if I don't want to eat stuff, maybe she will want to eat it? Right now I spend a lot of time trying to convince her that stuff is yummy -- even stuff like cake or pizza or hot dogs, stuff that I would think 99 out of 100 toddlers would agree is yummy! Lix