No one wants their kid to be a picky eater, not least of all a guy like me; I’ve basically built my entire adult life around food and drink. I’ve spent time preparing it, enjoying it, reading about it, sharing it, and writing about it. So when my son, Finn, came to town for Father’s Day, our itinerary, peppered with trips to the museums, parks and outdoor spaces of Charleston, was built mostly around what we were going to eat.
During our first trip to Finn’s favorite pizza joint, Mellow Mushroom, he boldly declared, “I don’t like vegetables.” That’s when I hatched my plan for the week to turn a rabid 4-year old carnivore into a kiddie Alice Waters. Having read “Bringing Up Bebe,” a book that espouses “the wisdom of French parenting,” I was inspired to introduce a very fair rule: you must try any vegetable once, and if you decide, after finishing that entire bite, that you don’t like it, then you don’t have to eat it again.
Using an all veggie pizza as our starting point, Finn found himself enjoying green peppers, mushrooms, broccoli and tomatoes with aplomb. Olives, unfortunately, did not make the cut.
Moreover, when cooking at home, I hatched a devious plan to turn cooking into fun, and prepare a delicious, wholesome meal that pleased both baby and Daddy alike. I bought a large roasted chicken (taking most of the work out of it for myself), and had Finn pick it apart – leaving it’s pristine chicken chassis for later stock-making. Once the chicken was done, that went into a bowl with arugula, and hefty handfuls of mint and parsley – all picked by Finn, a task he found wonderfully challenging and supremely rewarding. Finished with blanched green beans, crumbled feta (again, deconstructed by Finn), cherry tomatoes and croutons, we doused the whole thing in olive oil and sherry vinegar, and sat at the table together, recounting the day.
“I love salad,” said Finn.
And all was right in the world.
Brooks Reitz is an entrepreneur and restaurateur based in Charleston, SC. He has been recognized nationally for his work in the restaurant world and for his company, Jack Rudy Cocktail Co., which produces small batch cocktail mixers for home and restaurant use. He writes about drinking “the good stuff,” and is the father to a crime-fighting 4-year old boy.