I bought an eggplant this week. It was an odd choice, I’ll admit, since no one in my household likes eggplant but parenting is a strange and unpredictable journey.
Also, children are weird. Have I mentioned that recently? Take my children, for example. A couple weeks ago, they started lobbying to have ratatouille for dinner. You know, the summer garden extravaganza featuring eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, squash, and lots of fresh herbs.
I pushed back against their request, gently pointing out that they don’t like eggplant, tomatoes, onions, or squash.
My attempts at logic were rebuffed. It was ratatouille or bust. I think they must have recently been exposed to the Pixar movie by the same name in which a charming rat teaches an aspiring human chef how to cook, using – you guessed it – ratatouille as the culinary climax. It’s the only explanation I can think of for their odd fixation.
I had my doubts, but when your children are literally begging you for vegetables, it seems foolish to refuse. So we loaded up on produce and got to work. I diced things for what felt like hours, then simmered and sautéed and stirred. I decided cheesy grits were the ideal accompaniment but also baked cornbread as a failsafe.
It’s a good thing I’m so forward-thinking, since my three darling angel babies ate precisely two bites of ratatouille amongst them, gagged ostentatiously, and then demolished the entire pan of cornbread.
Kids are funny, fickle creatures.
Overall, I must admit that our family has a somewhat tenuous relationship with vegetables. We do all right with staples like peas, corn, and broccoli but don’t always branch out much. This summer, I valiantly attempted a backyard garden. I’ve tried such things before with mixed results. I’m not much of a green thumb, but there’s just something so romantic about the idea of tending a garden.
With input from the kids, we planted bell peppers, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, green beans, watermelon and a couple of blueberry bushes. Now, at the height of the growing season, our batting average is, shall we say, modest. The broccoli was entirely eaten by bugs. The watermelon seeds never germinated. The bell pepper seedlings are technically alive but are tiny and utterly lacking in peppers. The first round of green beans never came up, but we’ve got a second round growing now, and the tomatoes, of course, have gone completely haywire and are attempting to take over the entire backyard.
In the middle of our garden there is also a luxurious patch of pink vinca because my five-year-old wanted no part of vegetables and selected flowers as her contribution to the horticultural effort. They add a bit of panache to the whole affair.
The kids love the garden, despite its humble production. They check on it daily, water it enthusiastically, and give regular pep talks to the underachieving plants. The theory, of course, is that they’ll be more willing to eat the veggies that they grow themselves and I think there’s some validity to that idea. My son eats sungold tomatoes like they’re candy (which they practically are) and the girls are counting the days until the green beans are ready for the dinner table.
In the meantime, we make ratatouille. It doesn’t really bother me that they didn’t like it. In purely practical terms, the universal rejection left me well provisioned for lunch this week. More broadly, I don’t expect my kids to like everything I make because their tastes are still developing. And to be perfectly honest, eggplant and summer squash don’t make it onto my Veggie Top 10 list, either.
The fact that they requested vegetables for dinner and were willing to sample the finished product counts as a victory in my world.