My third son’s current pre-dinner question: “Are we having rice or soup tonight?” While the list of foods he doesn’t like is much, much longer, right now, rice and soup hold the top two spots of foods he doesn’t want to see on the table.
His 10th cranial nerve (aka the vagus nerve [aka the gag reflex nerve]) does not like being stimulated by anything other than a cheese quesadilla or an Oreo. This pickiness is 100% nature. My oldest son will tell you his favorite foods are pad thai and asparagus. My second son does love mac and cheese, but he’ll eat anything I put on the table. My youngest son is just a baby, who currently puts everything in his mouth anyway, but also happily eats almost everything we offer him.
While I’m not one of those natural chefs who knows just which spice to add or never uses measuring spoons, I’m a good cook and I like to cook so I make a lot of different things. My special cooking talent is picking recipes. Curried turkey burgers, sweet potato and lentil stew, and lemon-ginger chicken thighs are all fabulous repeats at our house. Yes, every once in a while I’ll choose a lemon—and the frequency was higher when I first joined Pinterest (hello ten disgusting freezer to crockpot meals)—but those occasions are few and far between.
But seriously—rice? How does a child not like rice? It is the staple of entire nations. On my mission, I saw babies eating it by the fistful and I ate it every day for a full 16 months. And soup! There are a million different kinds of soup. How can you group chili, butternut squash, tomato basil, potato leek, clam chowder, and chicken noodle under one giant umbrella and say, I don’t like soup? Well, he’s four, so he doesn’t see the logic in these questions.
I will give him the benefit of the doubt and say he’s come a long way, but it hasn’t been without a lot of tears and gagging at nearly every dinner. He will now eat raw spinach, but not if it has been mixed with any sort of dressing. He’ll eat most fruits, but not raspberries or blueberries. And the other night, we had some grilled chicken, which, in his estimation was “good all the way up to Jesus’ feet” and that is a pretty distant measure of goodness to a little guy.
Tonight, to his horror, he sat down to…rice soup. I wasn’t doing it to be cruel. It’s actually a delicious Greek egg and lemon soup that just happens to have rice in it and that everyone else in the family loves. It’s a quick, easy meal made with items I always have on hand and that’s what I needed tonight between basketball pickup and swimming drop off.
He ate everything else first and then, eyeing the cookies we made this afternoon, asked, “How many bites do I have to eat to get dessert?”
I hadn’t put much in his bowl, so my response was, “All of it.” Then I watched him take his first bite. He held it in his mouth, he slowly moved it toward the back of his throat, he started gagging and coughing, he jumped for the napkin that had fallen out of his lap and held it to his lips as he somehow managed to choke it down. We renegotiated—four more bites…because he’s four. Not every bite was as bad as the first. He got a cookie and as I tucked him into bed he said what he says every night, “I love you everywhere and back and never end”—and I think that might just be a little farther than all the way to Jesus’ feet.
Greek Egg and Lemon Soup
6 c. organic chicken broth
2/3 c rice (brown, white or mixed)
4 tsp. chicken bouillon
1/3-2/3 c lemon juice
In a large saucepan, combine broth, bouillon, and rice. Cover and cook until rice is tender (about 20 minutes depending on which rice you use). Beat eggs well; beat in lemon juice. Slowly beat into broth. Heat over low heat until mixture becomes creamy and hot, stirring occasionally. Do not boil. Garnish with parley (optional).