Sunday, May 27, 2007


This morning while tending my vegetable garden I noticed the first bell pepper fattening on the vine, its waxy green skin glimmering new and unblemished under an umbrella of broad leaves. As I left, thinking of the taste of a fresh roasted golden yellow pepper a month from now, I double-checked my garden's chicken wire fence to make certain there weren't any gaps that would let a rabbit in to steal my prize.

Back inside the house, I brought out my good heavy mixing bowl and started gathering the ingredients to make biscuits for the strawberry shortcake I had planned for tonight's dessert after dinner. We had Bisquick in the pantry, but I skipped it, opting instead to make the biscuits from scratch: flour, salt, sugar, cream, butter, baking powder.

When the dough came together, I rolled it out and cut it into heart shapes with a cookie cutter.

While the biscuits baked, I took out a box of ripe strawberries and selected the nicest ones and rinsed them. The strawberries were too red and juicy for me to resist eating a couple. I sliced the rest, and put them in a bowl with some sugar. Then I put the sugared strawberries and fresh-baked biscuits in the refrigerator to chill.

When the neighbor girl came over around midday to play with my son, I made a point of showing her the first pepper. She had helped me plant some of the herbs in my herb garden, and I thought she'd want to see how quickly the vegetable plants across from the herbs had grown. She was excited about the pepper, but impatiently disappointed to see the tomato plants I planted just a few weeks ago covered in yellow blossoms, but no fruit.

Later this afternoon, while running errands, I stopped at the hardware store and found that the herbs were on sale. I picked up a peppermint plant and a chamomile plant to put in pots on my patio. Between those two and the spearmint I already had growing, I thought, I'd be set for the rest of the summer for fresh herbal tea.

At dinnertime, despite the rain outside, my husband fired up our new grill for the first time, grilling hamburgers and veggie burgers and ears of corn over charcoal and soaked hickory chips under the shelter of the carport. The new grill made a quick, clean fire and the burgers came out tender with crisp edges.

When we'd finished our barbeque, I brought out some heavy whipping cream, mixed in sugar and vanilla, and whipped it into a rich whipped cream. I spread this over the biscuits I'd baked earlier, and added the sugared strawberries.

As I bit into a crumbly, strawberry-juice-soaked, cream-topped biscuit, feeling utterly decadent, I considered that the simple recipe I'd used for my strawberry shortcake was probably not all that different from the recipes used by women fifty or even a hundred years ago. Only, I imagined that the whipped cream would have tasted much better a hundred years ago, if it had been skimmed earlier that same day from milk milked that very dawn from one's own personal cow.

Still and all, I decided, this strawberry shortcake was pretty damned good.

But my son wouldn't eat the strawberries, or the shortcake, or the cream.

He didn't care for the barbeque sauce on his burger, either, come to talk of it, and he didn't even want the grilled corn touching his plate.

The chamomile plant and the mint plant I bought earlier today? They will both make great tea to soothe upset stomachs the next time one of us gets sick. But I know my son won't tolerate even a drop of warm tea on his tongue. Not even with sugar in it. I've offered it to him when he's been sick before, many times.

The fresh peppers and tomatoes and beans I'm growing in my garden? The basil, parsley, oregano, and sage? Chances are, he won't willingly take a single bite of any of these things when they're ready to be eaten.

Because none of these things are on his list: the list of things he is willing to eat. That list that has grown so much over the past year, after so much work, into something that, finally, sort of resembles a sustainable balanced diet. That list that has grown so much, yet sometimes still seems so terribly short to me.

For as long as I can remember, since I was a very little girl, toddling after my mother in the kitchen or my grandmother in the garden, growing and cooking and eating good food has always been such a pleasure for me. Despite the issues all sorts of people, including me seem to have with food these days-- worrying about this or that food making us too fat, or causing cancer, or heart disease; worrying about where our food comes from, and whether making that food harmed the planet or caused other people suffering, etcetera-- despite all that, food has so often been a source of so much wonder and joy for me.

And the fact that my only child doesn't seem to enjoy food much as all is so devastating to me when I think about it in the context of the joy I have experienced in connection with food. It's the same to me as if a person could, somehow, hear, but not hear music; the same as if a person could walk, but could not dance.

And my sadness over the world of happy experience I imagine my son is missing out on now haunts every happy moment I experience watering a tomato plant (and breathing in the sultry tomato scent the plants give off each time they are watered), or kneading bread dough (and feeling the elasticity grow beneath my hands, and imagining the fine texture it will produce in the finished loaf), or biting into a tart new apple or a slice of fresh-baked cake.


Lisa said...

I feel your sadness. But trust me, over time his food list will expand. It might take a few years but at some point he WILL love all of those things has much as you do.

A few years ago, Seth wouldn't have eaten any of that stuff either. But today he'd eat everything you mentioned except for the peppers and veggie burgers. (We're still working on the veggies.) You could have have traded kids. And by the way, my mouth is WATERING from this post. Your hubby is one lucky guy!

Awesome Mom said...

I can't help but think that your obvious love of food will rub off on him eventually. He is still young yet and there is plenty of time for him to add more to his food list. Evan's food issues have not been as deep as your son's but there were times when I wondered if he would ever get off of his tube. He did with a lot of work and patience on my part. Now he eats with gusto (most of the time, he is still a picky toddler).

Bea said...

This post is so poignant. No matter which foods (or how many) your son eventually adopts, I think that food is your love language, in a sense, and he will come to appreciate that. I can't stand rice pudding - but I remember my mother preparing it, and something about that memory makes me feel loved.

Alanna Kellogg said...

Just poetic ... a "dear son" letter if not in intent, then in sentiment ... just lovely!

Jaelithe said...

Lisa: You are my inspiration in many ways when it comes to parenting a child with SID. Thanks for the reminder that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Awesome Mom: I hope you are right!

Ms. BubandPie: Luckily I am also fluent in the languages of cuddling, coloring pictures, crazy dancing, and reading bedtime stories, all of which are things the boy truly enjoys.

Alanna: I ought to have figured you might understand :)

Lisa said...

I wrote something in my comment about "you could have traded kids". That's a total typo. I had meant WE could have traded kids that day. I know what that's like to make all sorts of yummy things and find your child won't eat any of it. Seth would have been more than happy to eat all of those goodies.

Oh what's helped us is that when Seth has a playdate, I'll feed them a snack the other kids like but Seth won't eat... Like grapes -- he sees his friend eating and then will try himself. So sometimes peer pressure works. :-)

Rebecca said...

My son is not a picky eater, but he wouldn't have eaten the whipped cream or strawberries. He would however eaten all of your biscuits.

He also isn't a big veggie eater, but he loves salad, so he eats alot of that.

I don't have experience with what you are dealing with, but kids change so much over years. He may learn to love preparing the food even if he won't eat it.

Anonymous said...


lovely, and sad.

Perstephone said...

I can completely share your fears on this. In our home eating and food are art forms and so far our son is quite the picky eater. It isn't so much that I want him to just eat something as it is that I want to pass along to him the richness that has been a key factor in the quality of my life. People laugh at me because he's only 20 months old, but a stressful, nonenjoyable meal makes a huge difference in my day.

Mike Minzes said...

Great blog!! I will be back for more.

Marianne said...

Very moving, Jaelithe. I hope Isaac's list grows and grows. Just since I've been reading your blog, so much progress has been made.

Good luck to you and your family.

Alice said...


R said...

I'm a school social worker and very involved with many diverse kids. No matter what the concern is, remind yourself that it's a journey. There are always twists and turns, and what is true today won't necessarily be true tomorrow. He may not ever be able to appreciate food exactly like you do, but maybe his appreciation will expand one day. And even if it doesn't, he is sure to find something in his life that provides him the same type of satisfaction that food provides you. Chin up :)

Kelly said...

Coming over from the Perfect Post Awards. it's difficult in so many different variations when it comes to kids and food. Yesterday (in the 90 degree heat, yea I'm an idiot) I roasted an oven-full of veggies: summer squash, zucchini, whole bulbs of garlic, red onion, grape tomatoes, all to toss with some penne and parmesan. The child picked through the veggies and ate just the tubes of pasta, and it made me, indeed, feel melancholy.

Ruth Dynamite said...

Your vivid descriptions are making me salivate.

I suspect that as your son grows, he will get more adventurous about tasting new foods. Until then, he'll have to absorb culinary cues from you - which, no doubt, he will.

Namito said...


My first time here. Couldn't have picked a better post for me to read first.

I have fond memories of my Mom's garden as well, and I occasionally wondered if my daughter's non-interest in all thing vegetable comes in part from not being part of the whole growing experience.

I guess it isn't. I'm glad to see that our love of these things eventually will be passed on in some way.

There may be a time when the Impling and I happily tear apart an artichoke together. Nice thing to look forward to...

Krista said...

I came across your blog just today after my heart was broken (yes, actually broken-hearted here) again by my "boy who will not eat". My 5 year old basically lives on bread and cheese. I read this particular post and felt like you were in my own head. My husband is a chef and we love *good* food, natural herbs, fresh veggies, rich sweets, etc. But our love of food is completely lost on our son. I had a bad night last night as my son ate one bite of bread and butter at a BBQ and his little friend cleaned off a large plate of grilled chicken, veggies, bread, and sausage. Happily. My son's issues stem somewhat from sensory issues, so I'll be watching your blog closely. Thank you for sharing.