This week, Aaron is working late every night and the soup situation has reached a stand-off: Leo spent 45 minutes raging after I poured hot homemade chicken soup with carrots and chicken over some egg noodles in a bowl, after telling him we were having chicken-noodle soup for dinner. Maybe he just wanted egg noodles? We may never know. Instead of explaining he tore the living room apart. He moaned and whined and acted like I was trying to feed him something green and raw and crunchy and bitter. And if I had been, I would have gladly said “I see that this bitter green meal is not your favorite, would you like a bowl of applesauce and yogurt for dinner instead?” But CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP people! Not a fleck of parsley in sight. I got stubborn, which is the easiest way to ruin a perfectly good evening.
“You like noodles, carrots and chicken,” I argued. “Yes,” Leo agreed, “but I didn’t want this soup this way.” “You eat what they serve for lunch at school,” I wheedled, “and you don’t get to choose that.” “Yes,” Leo agreed patiently, “I always sit down and eat my lunch at school. But they NEVER serve THIS SOUP.” Then he went back to throwing the furniture.
So I threw up my hands, and the next night, I told Leo we would be enjoying scrambled eggs with a side of ketchup, buttered toast and steamed cauliflower for dinner. He helped beat the eggs. He really likes cauliflower. And come on: buttered toast? Dinner was served. Leo came skipping over and commenced flipping out again. “I didn’t want these eggs this way!!! You told me we were having egg salad!” I reminded Leo that he had made the previous night very unpleasant for both of us, and requested that he try something different tonight. The idea sunk in, and he sat with me and poured a lot of ketchup on his plate. But he didn’t eat much.
Later, in the bath, staring at my gigantic toddler, it occurred to me: Leo is not that hungry. He’s come to the end of a growth spurt, he’s a giant among three-year-olds, and now, he has the leisure to be a real stinker about meals. Well good for him. I will focus my cooking energies on packing lunches for Aaron and myself, and Leo and I will dine casually this week. Fine by me. I’m celebrating with a refreshingly green, scallion- and herb-filled quinoa salad that will keep me going long past lunch—even, with luck, through the challenges of the dinner hour.
Zoe Singer is a freelance food writer and cookbook editor and co-author of The Flexitarian Table. Food Editor and blogger for The Faster Times, she tries not to eat for two now that her son is a toddler.