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Parental Indiscretion

By Rachel Laing


Chicken Fingers vs. Chicken Feet

I sometimes get surprised reactions when I mention taking my kids to eat sushi. “Your kids eat SUSHI?” friends say, as though they’re convinced kids in Japan exist on chicken fingers and Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese.

Yeah, my kids eat sushi. I changed thousands of diapers, suffered many sleepless nights and myriad other limitations on my freedom, but I will be damned if parenthood will condemn me to the tableau of mediocrity at a Chili’s or Applebee’s on a Friday night.

I’m trying to cultivate culinary worldliness in my kids, as my parents did for my sisters and me. Mind you, this effort is not without its peril. Once, on a trip to Los Angeles from my hometown of Pittsburgh, my parents were excited to introduce us to falafel. We sat on the patio of a Persian restaurant enjoying a gorgeous Southern California day when the waitress set down my plate of falafel, and I got my first whiff of cumin.

I was horrified by the odor and wasted no time in announcing, “It smells like ARMPITS!”

More than three decades later, I can still feel the sting my mortified mother’s shut-your-mouth-right-now pinch on my arm. But I learned to love it, along with many other foods I’m glad I was forced to try as a child.

My kids are less scared of us than I was of my parents, so it’s been a little tougher to raise adventuresome kids. My daughter, who chowed down on spicy tortilla soup at age two, began going into histrionics over a single grain of black pepper around age five. Gyros were the greatest thing on earth, until suddenly, inexplicably, they weren’t. Roasted asparagus was delicious until my son realized it “looks like Grinch fingers” and never touched it again.

I thought we’d never break down my son’s exclusive love of white starch, but then we got invited to Dim Sum brunch at Emerald in Kearny Mesa. Instead of eating only white rice as expected, my son ate everything—EVERYTHING—he could get his hands on. Shrimp dumplings, crab claw fritters, pork buns. He was this close to trying the Phoenix claws, which are chicken feet that look exactly like chicken feet. I was so proud!

This was the gateway that led to sushi, then Thai food. The obvious next stop was pho. These are kids who would eat ramen for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, if allowed, so I thought noodle soup would be the easiest sell in the world.

But when the server set down the bowl of Bò Viên in front of the kids, it happened. My daughter pushed the bowl away haughtily and abandoned her Inside Voice to declare, “It smells like FEET!” 

My glare escalated to actual (whispered) death threats, but to no effect. We paid, went home, and the kids ate microwaved taquitos. Someday, I thought, we’ll look back and laugh at this. Hopefully over a bowl of pho.

Parental Indiscretion

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