My daughter Rose, 21 months, is an adventurous eater.
I'm not sure if this is because she is too young to categorize all green food under the label "vegetable," which, for her 4-year-old brother, carries a certain suspicion, the same way I'd feel about, say, insects on my dinner plate. Or if her current, wanton approval for raw bean sprouts, stuffed grape leaves, hummus and blueberries (together), and passion fruit (a tart fruit full of slimy seeds), is prescient of her future: by age 18 she'll be living on Baffin Island, feasting on salted seal blubber.
Rose's first meal, outside of gallons of breast milk, happened the way things often do with the second child, without much prior thought. I can hardly remember now. Was it the sweet slices of pear she gummed down to the skin while we strolled around town her first fall, trees dripping with fruit? Or perhaps that slippery quinoa curry I mashed furiously with a fork, desperate to shush her as she cried at a potluck dinner. I do know she wasn't the recommended age of six months, nor was it that pediatrician-endorsed rice cereal mush.
Whatever that first sampling was, Rose fell in love. She'd eat carrots, applesauce, yogurt, avocados and, with each new taste, she'd look at me like: this too exists? By 9 months, Rose was the first to sit down for a meal and the last to leave. It became inconvenient to mash up separate foods, so she began eating what the rest of us ate. Without a single tooth in her head, she'd polish off sandwiches, noodles and thin slices of ham. She ate cooked cabbage and spinach, and sucked the color out of juicy slabs of elk meat. Meanwhile, her brother would point out everything at the dinner table he didn't like. His litany began to sound precisely like our family shopping list.
Col's eating preferences revolve around the bland marriage of wheat and dairy. While the rest of us savor pasta primavera piled with gorgeous garden delights, Col takes his pasta plain, thank you very much. Or his bagel and cream cheese. Cereal and milk. Bread and butter. You get the idea.
Col is perplexed as to why Rose gets praised for being "adventurous," when he is the one who climbs down slippery mountain slopes where Rose must be carried.
"She's an adventurous eater," I explain. "That means she will try almost any food."
"Even peppers?" Col asks, incredulous. "Even pineapple?"
I sigh. How such benign and sweet foods such as peppers and pineapples came to be racy in Col's mind is a mystery. He never even liked bananas, which seem to be as regulation-issue for toddlers as peek-a-boo and sippy cups. The books say pickiness can be overcome, just keep putting the Brussels sprouts on the kid's plate.
You can't fool him. He will carefully dredge out any errant colorful things hiding in his noodle bowl. No problem, pass 'em on to Rose.
Rachel Turiel's column is published every first and third Sunday. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org