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

3 eggs

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).

January 29, 2014


  1. Sage

    January 29, 2014

    I have a picky eater too but she’s 13. I made chicken tikka masala which she likes but only if she picks off any food or sauce from the chicken.

    Beautifully written post. Is that soup called avgolemno?

    • Katie

      January 29, 2014

      Thanks, Sage. I didn’t know it was called that, but now I think I’ll use the fancy name.

  2. eljee

    January 29, 2014

    My oldest hated rice for a long time. I think it’s a sensory thing; it’s the texture that bothers them.

    I have two very picky eaters, and dinner time was a frustrating battle-zone for years. I finally found a solution that has helped tremendously. We gave the two oldest (the picky ones) each one night per week to choose the meal. But in order to do that, they had to eat well the other five nights. We established a point system where they started out with 50 points (10 per day). At dinner time, they lost points for not eating and also for complaining about the food. If they went below 40 points, they didn’t get to choose the dinner on their assigned night. Change happened literally overnight. We did also allow each child to choose one food that they never have to eat, and it doesn’t affect their points.

    • Katie

      January 29, 2014

      What a good idea eljee. We may have to try something like that.

  3. Janell

    January 29, 2014

    I’m going to have to remember eljee strategy. It sounds like a great one. Right now my two year old just goes through love and hate phases. What he has loved for a month could be tomorrow’s hate, and what he’s refused to eat for six months could be this afternoon’s favorite food.

  4. eljee

    January 29, 2014

    I am not a chart person, so it took me a long time to get to the point of doing this. When I first became a parent, my plan was to not worry much about food, to give them lots of autonomy over what they ate, to not make dinner time a battleground. We just ended up with entitled kids who expected mom to be their short-order cook and who ate very few foods willingly. If I could go back in time, one thing I would do differently would be to never ever ask my child what he or she wanted for lunch or breakfast. I did that with my oldest since he was an only for so long. I wish that from day one I would have established, “This is what we are eating today. Take it or leave it.” We were truly desperate by the time we started that chart. I don’t think it would work for younger kids. We’ve slacked off on it lately, and although the kids are starting to complain a bit more, they eat much better than they did before the chart. I just knew that there would foods they would like if they would give them a chance, but they kind of had to be forced to give them a chance.

  5. M2theh

    January 31, 2014

    I hate rice. I am 37 years old, and I have hated rice for as long as I remember. At least 27 years ago I remember seeing some custard in the fridge. Mmm, custard. I took a big spoonful of what turned out to be rice pudding. To this day I still want to hurl thinking about it. My daughter loves rice, so when we go to Cafe Rio I get the rice in the side and she eats it. I also hate tomatoes. I will eat them blended up in salsa, in spaghetti sauce, but I would rather starve than eat a tomato chunk. Luckily my husband and daughter hate tomatoes too. And I hate cinnamon. No cinnamon rolls at our house.

    Our rule is if you hate it, go get a bowl of cereal. I generally make stuff we all like though, easy when there’s only 3 of us.

  6. Teresa Bruce

    January 31, 2014

    My oldest HATED rice … until she became a college student and found she sometimes had to tolerate it. By the time she filled a service internship in the Dominican Republic she’d learned to eat it daily. Now it is among her kitchen staples.

    During the anti-rice years, and when other “I hate this!” moments came along with our other children, I made sure that if I served an odious food I also served something they liked. The rule was they had to take three bites (however small) of what they hated. (Sometimes that meant TINY bites from half of a single cut green bean.)

  7. Shantell

    February 3, 2014

    My husband is a great cook, which, oddly led to our first fight after we got married. He has definite ideas about what he will and will not eat and knows, because he’s a good cook, that he can make something better, tastier, not can-o’cream o’ – plus a carb dish. So our kids got the idea that they could do the “I’ll just make something” deal. Now, if I make dinner and you don’t like it, you get a peanut butter sandwich. That’s it. It only took my son twice to figure out that wasn’t the best method to dinner!

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