Operation Green Bean
OK. Every now and again I devise a parenting plan or strategy that is so original and outside-of-the-box that its sheer brilliance blinds me to the fact that it is inevitably doomed to failure. And the latest one was in regards to getting my picky-eater kids to eat a green vegetable. Any green vegetable. One.
Now having worked in professional kitchens for over a decade, I’ve cooked 99% of the produce available at your standard grocery store. So drawing on my experience and knowledge of the various tastes and textures that a cook can tease out of veggies, I determined that the simple haricot vert (French green bean) was going to be my best shot at success. It’s crisp (my kids hate soft food), and it has a relatively mild flavor (next to something like, say, asparagus or brussel sprouts).
So my plan was this: knowing that resistance would be high, I was going to break them down with a long-term strategy spread out over a few weeks by preparing them in ways that would be increasingly pleasing to a youthful palate. First they’d be simply blanched (which I anticipated would be ugly). Next I would sauté them in bacon fat with bits of crispy bacon (my son’s favorite food). And finally, I would present them tempura-fried (who doesn’t like fried food, come on). So there it was: Operation Green Bean.
(Aside: Let me just say that despite the fact that I would classify both of my kids as pretty picky at the table, my daughter is probably a little more adventurous insofar as while she has a limited diet, different tastes and textures don’t necessarily bother/revolt her the way that they do my son. So with that in mind, I was expecting more success with her in this endeavor than with the boy.)
Phase 1: (Blanch and) Shock and Awe
For this, I just cooked them in a bit of salted water and served them unadulterated on the plate. I figured it would be good to get an honest reaction, but it would also set a pretty low bar in terms of my kids’ expectations so that later incarnations would seem a bit more tantalizing.
Result: My son—tears welling in his eyes—asked everyone to leave the table, because he didn’t want us to see him throw up. We did, and he did.
Phase 2: Everything’s Better With Bacon
Now like I said, my kid’s are in the upper percentiles on the picky eater scale, but as members of the human race, they do love bacon. So here we played on that fact and sautéed our little haricots verts in some rendered bacon fat and served them interspersed with crumbled bits of bacon.
Result: Positive yardage. Everyone got to stay at the table, no tears were shed, and with the help of plenty of milk, a green bean apiece was successfully consumed.
Phase 3: If at First You Don’t Succeed…Fry and Fry Again
My final roll of the dice. Tempura-battered green beans. And not some delicate, glassy tempura like you would get at a fine Japanese restaurant, but rather I went thick. Like something you might see at Long John Silvers. And then double fried.
Result: Remember what I said about my daughter? The first words out of her mouth were these: “Actually not that bad. Cap, you should try it.” To which he responded, “I don’t like the way they smell, and I don’t like the look of them.” He choked down a couple, made some gagging noises, and chugged a glass of milk. And in one fell swoop that was it. Not just for him, but for her. She wouldn’t have anything more to do with them. Furthermore, she bristled at any reminder that mere moments before she had expressed any sort of enjoyment for fear of looking bad in front of big bro.
So there it was, a glimmer of hope squashed not by anything intrinsic to a green bean itself, but by an ancient force more powerful than any plan of mine could foretell: sibling rivalry. This isn’t over, yet, though. Next time I’ll be prepared with another time-tested strategy: Divide and Conquer.