Chinese buffet reveals ability to eat anything

Of the many things for which I thank God for in relation to my children, on the top-ten of the list is they’re not picky eaters. There already aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, and if I suddenly had to worry about something beyond affording ingredients and putting dinner together at the end of a long day, our whole family would be in for a world of hurt.

When my kids were babies, a stage that, fortunately, didn’t last very long, they ate baby food for only the briefest of time. And during that stage, thankfully, it was pretty much one-way feeding, meaning anything I put into their mouths didn’t get shot back out at me. They never spat out food, be it strained peas squash. Eating everything on the spoon, looking around for more and then trying to lick out the baby food jar was more the norm.

As soon as my children were able to crawl, they signaled their readiness for solid food by how readily they downed cat food and dog food from the respective bowls on the kitchen floor. Many of those eating patterns remain in place today, as Connor, who was never much for Little Friskies’ seafood blend, still doesn’t much care for fish dishes. Kate, on the other hand, who teethed and grooved on the soybean meal-fortified shapes in our dogs’ dishes, took an instant liking to the tofu that came with later Chinese take-out meals.

It just goes to show that children eating pet food isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but an important developmental stage to help prepare them for adulthood. Unless, of course, the family pet is a reptile that dines on live bugs or rodents, or a raptor, for which you have to acquire roadkill. Those are important distinctions.

My ability to eat just about anything (outside of live bugs, rodents or roadkill), or to at least to find something I can eat among anything offered, has served me well. I can menu-plan around grocery store sale fliers, knowing just about anything in the ads are fair game fare for my family. It’s also saved me time and money by allowing me to comfortably attend life’s many potlucks where I get to sample all kinds of goodies for the low admission price of one lowly dish to pass. An added bonus is that when someone invites me out to a restaurant, I don’t care where we go because I have no real preferences other than the restaurant’s kitchen passed its last health department inspection.

I grew up near a cousin who was a picky eater and saw firsthand what he put his family through. His tastes ran toward crunchy carbohydrates and imitation cheese. Instead of fruits and vegetables at home, he’d escape to our grandmother’s house, to dine on saltines and Cheez Whiz. While he’s a changed person in his 40’s, he has an elementary school-aged son of similar ilk. The apple avoidance didn’t fall far from the tree.

At work, I am surrounded by kids with eating issues. Some refuse meat. Others dodge combined ingredient dishes. Still others self-select starches. Some will do fruit but not vegetables; others the opposite. Some objections are texture-related, but it’s nevertheless maddening. I can’t imagine having picky eaters whom I could not take to the Chinese buffet my kids and I enjoyed for lunch during our last round of doctor and dentist appointments in Kalamazoo.

I beamed at the sight of controversial Kung Pao Chicken, Hunan beef, crab rangoons, sushi, shrimp, broccoli, peppers and onions on their plates. They not only dove into the food and discussed its merits, but got me to try something new, too. What a role reversal. But we couldn’t help but notice how, over time (and likely in response to picky eaters), Chinese food buffets have become less healthy. Garlic bread, pizza, mozzarella sticks and breaded onion rings were available and cheese was melted over some of the shellfish where we ate.

“You will be fortunate in everything you put your hands to,” read my daughter’s fortune cookie. And your body will be more fortunate if you use your use your hands to grasp healthier items.


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