The Sneaky Carrot & Good Conversation

*Editor’s Note: It’s Friday again and time for some words of wisdom from our dad of the week, Jeff @OWTK! He brings up a good point about raising your children with a broad taste for food by creating an open dialogue. We used a similar approach in our home. How about you? Check out what Jeff has to say about those sneaky carrots!

I’ve never once had to sneak a vegetable onto my oldest daughter’s plate. And never once have I needed to lie and say “its chicken, honey” when it was (wink, wink) cod or halibut or something else decidedly not-chicken on her fork. I kid you not. She tried, and continues to try, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Some foods she liked after 1st taste – braised beef short rib, lentil soup, and asparagus (only sautéed, never grilled). Some not so much – hello mushrooms! Her willingness – oh screw it, let’s just call it enthusiasm (!) to broaden her palette has been aided by her handsome devil of a papa.

If it were still socially and politically necessary to do so, I’d plant my flag square in the middle of the kitchen. That’s my domain. There, and maybe only there, I am King. I conjure up and cook most every meal for this family, usually from scratch (thank you very much). And you know what? I love doing it. I’ve shared this crazy joy for food preparation with my eldest girl from a very young age. Yeah, she helps with certain non-dangerous tasks in the kitchen – things like measuring, pouring, and cracking eggs – but more important are the open-ended conversations we have about food. Maybe that sounds massively boring. If so, this next sentence probably won’t help with that. The two of us will chat about flavor combinations and sources of food, the proper way one cuts an onion to avoid tears and the key differences between cooking vs. baking. It’s this dialogue, even more so than the hands-on work, that’s taught her a lot about me and instilled in her the desire to keep her options open where food is concerned. This might just be my proudest accomplishment as a parent.

Her sister on the other hand doesn’t enter into new culinary experiences so freely. She’s not a picky eater, per se, not by conventional kid standards. That’s just not acceptable ‘round these parts anyway, but compared to my first-born the little one is more than a handful. Here’s where I’m at with her as she approaches her 4th birthday: I’ve taken to sneaking peas & carrots – veggies she admits to enjoying, although won’t always eat without a treaty of some sort – into her macaroni and cheese. I know, right? And I was thisclose to adding paper-thin sliced carrots to an egg sandwich recently, trying to pass it off as fancy orange ketchup. Stop judging me!

As much responsibility as I take for the Bear’s openness, I must take an equal share of the blame for the Mouse’s reluctance to allow new flavors and textures to pass through her lips. Those fascinating discussions between my oldest and I… yeah those don’t always happen with the younger one. And when they do, she’s often too busy chasing the cat around the dining room for her father’s culinary wisdom to fully sink in. But it’s not all nurture with that one. Somehow, and it still baffles me how she did it, as an early-eater she’d identify every single foreign substance in her mouth – a microscopic roasted red pepper buried inside a bite of meatloaf, for example – find it amidst all the other food in there, then fish it out with her finger. As amazing as it was gross.

But I digress. My goal isn’t to produce the next Julia Child. Instead, what I’m really trying to do is share with my daughters an important part of myself; a passion I possessed long before anyone had the audacity to call me Daddy.
Success in parenting is awfully difficult to measure, especially early on in the process. What’s easier to see the impact of, and what I think matters a whole awful lot, are the moments spent with your child around a Kitchen-Aid mixer, under the hood of a car, on the driving range, or wherever you’re most comfortable – wherever and whenever you are the most you.

Allowing our children to share in, or at the very least witness, the activities that round us out as individuals will provide more possible points of connection between us and our kids as they age. They’ll see that our lives don’t actually evolve around making them brush their teeth; that we are, you know, a tad more complex than that. And maybe, along the way, they’ll learn to whip up some chocolate chip cookie dough, change the oil in the family car, keep their drives in the fairway, and eat a carrot or two.


  1. Freakin’ awesome!

    I’m a bit of an ‘Anti-Sneaky-Chef’ myself, and my kids are just the opposite of yours: the youngest will eat ANYTHING, and the eldest is a bit more hesitant.

  2. Jacque says:

    There are actually cook books out there on how to hide the good stuff so your kids will eat it. :) I think most of it consists of pureeing it.

  3. EMB says:

    Great read as always!
    So glad I understand what your saying.