Broccoli: A Gateway Vegetable

6.2.10: Leo's 24th Month

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It’s happening. The kid eats vegetables. Broccoli, to be specific. And I guess this is a fairly common (and definitely boring) vegetable. But I’m taking a different view of the matter: if Leo eats broccoli—and he does, lots of it too—then he eats vegetables again! So I may throw in a few wildcards at each meal—tonight’s chicken and broccoli stir-fry contained red bell pepper—and he may chew them up and then hand them to me politely, and I will simply congratulate myself on exposing him to yet another experience as I wipe my hands. Remind me of all this when he’s twelve and he still eats only broccoli.

Actually, a big part of this broccoli eating has more to do with Leo’s ears than it does with his mouth. We took him in to the pediatrician to discover the umpteenth double ear infection, which was followed by a round of antibiotics, and I noticed—not for the first time, but I’m a slow learner—that whenever Leo seems particularly “two” (he bit another child!) and stops eating everything the slightest bit not-bread, it turns out he has a bad ear infection.

So, currently we’re in the clear, he continues to take Zyrtec nightly (which is apparently a standard treatment for kids with water-retaining ears--and yes, there was a recent recall, but apparently the generic is safe), and he has an appointment with a pediatric ENT scheduled. Plus, we’ve started giving him a little slurp of probiotics after meals to counter the insane amounts of antibiotics he’s weathered this past year. A tip: if your toddler gets irritable about drinking a relatively benign-tasting medicine or liquid supplement, try mixing it with a couple tablespoons of milk or soy milk and serving it in a cup with a curly straw. We got one of these magic devices in a party favor bag and thus, Leo’s probiotics are now called “crazy straw medicine!”

As far as I can understand, ear infections involve the anatomy of some kid’s ears not allowing fluid build-up from colds to drain out (and you know he’s had plenty of colds). This can be treated with surgery if needed, but sometimes the kid just grows out of it. Since we’re on the far side of cold season, I’m hoping for the best when we meet with the ENT next month. In the meantime, I’m buying heads of broccoli like they’re some kind of sought-after, foraged delicacy of the season—say, ramps. Hey, it could happen. Chicken with broccoli today, broccoli and ramps tomorrow!

Recipe: Chicken with Broccoli

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.