After 14 years of parenting, I've given up resisting cooking separate meals

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK
Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK 

That's it. I give up. After 14 years of refusing on principle to prepare separate meals for kids and adults, I have finally submitted. I'm done.

My thinking, early on, was that if I just continued to prepare delicious and varied dishes, my children would develop a sophisticated palate and we'd all sit around the dining table enjoying a range of menu items from around the globe.

My kids would probably also learn the languages of each cuisine so they could thank me for my domestic efforts in an authentic manner.

Alas, nothing like this has happened. The problem is that if the strategy had failed early on, I might have gathered myself together and given up earlier. But my eldest child, now 14, was an adventurous eater. Her favourite food was raw salmon sushi before she could say the words. 

Foolishly, I took credit for such a feat, being clueless about the fact that all experienced parents of multiple children know about any parenting victories: it was a fluke.

When my other two children came along, now aged 8 and 6, I took the same approach and was staggered to find these little philistines liked nothing but spaghetti bolognese and raw carrot sticks. Oh, and chocolate, lollies and biscuits, of course.

So for the past eight years, I've gone vacillated between two different approaches: pandering to the little monsters' very specific preferences for bland, unspiced, mostly uncooked foods – and getting bolshy and serving them up whatever the hell I feel like eating, and telling them they can have toast if they don't like it. (Which results in them eating toast for dinner 100 per cent of the time.)

I've ridden those two waves now for eight years and I've finally had it. I don't want to eat fish fingers and raw capsicum and carrot sticks, and they don't want to eat a sweet and sour fish salad or a chicken vindaloo so spicy it will clear your sinuses for a year.

Part of me despairs that these children will never develop a palate beyond the blandest of the bland, but the other part thinks, who cares? What difference does it make to me if they don't grow to love chorizo, chilli and dukkha? At least I can buy those things and know they won't steal them before I get to them.

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After 14 years of parenting, I've realised I can lead a child to Thai green curry, but I can't make them eat the damn thing. All I can do is continue to offer healthy choices and let them do the rest.

So I've finally given in. I now serve some kind of bland protein with raw vegetables at 6pm, and then a meal more to my taste at 7pm. The children eat their dinner in the kitchen while I'm preparing mine, so we're still all together, and our meal time is still used as an opportunity to connect at the end of our days and talk about what's going on with us. 

If the children want to try my meal, they're more than welcome (so far, they haven't). But my main focus is on everyone enjoying their food and getting what they need.

And that includes me. 

As parents we spend so much time ensuring our kids get what they need, but I've realised that it's also up to me to ensure I get what I need. I love spending time in the kitchen and whipping up a new recipe – especially if it's spicy. Why should I miss out just because my children aren't ready to join the party?