It would appear that Ava and Ruby spend three days per week in the presence of a demi god.
I'm talking about Omar, the chef at the girls' nursery – I discovered recently that he managed to get Ava to eat a tuna sandwich. No in fact, he has been getting Ava to eat tuna sandwiches for months! And that's not all.
This all came to light about a week ago when Ava told me that Omar is: "The best cook in the world ever."
"Oh, really?" I said. "And what does Omar make that is especially yummy?"
"He makes toona sandwiches."
"You know? Toona? It's fish."
"Yes, darling, I know it's fish. You always tell me you don't like it. But you do?"
"So I could make you a tuna sandwich, and you'd eat it?"
"Oh. No. Well, maybe..."
My eyes narrowed. "Anything else you like only at nursery?"
"Umm. Mackyooni? It's small pasta. And it's cheesy."
"But you never eat that here."
"Omar makes it nicely, Mummy. And, umm, shepherd's pie."
All it's really done, of course (and I'm not wishing to do Omar down here, really, I have even requested his shepherd's pie recipe to see if he has some kind of magic ingredient) is highlight yet another parenting pitfall I have evidently run headlong into.
I have created a fussy eater. Or at least I thought I had a fussy eater, but what I actually have is a fussy-when-at-home-eater. She is so busted.
I guess it's been a long time coming. Back when Ava was weaning, I had that totally smug thing going on: "Oh, she'll eat ANYTHING!" I used to spout. "It's amazing, she'll try anything at all, she eats like a horse, and she adores all vegetables..."
And then Ava got to the age of about two and it all changed.
She went through a phase of wanting to eat nothing but cheese, which was challenging. And then, after that, the list of foods she was willing to eat became shorter and shorter.
Bolognese was always okay – but she'd only eat pasta if the sauce was red (not orange, not white – it had to be utterly tomato-y). Actually, all other sauces were ditched completely, including any kind of gravy.
She continued to eat broccoli and French beans (we'd already discovered she was allergic to peas and all legumes by this point). But carrots came in and out of favour and sweetcorn, well, she'd have a few forkfuls of at a push. Everything else – including peppers, courgettes, aubergines, leeks and CABBAGE. All ditched.
To be fair, Ava does eat really well. She does eat the vegetables on her plate, she has lots of fruit, she only likes brown bread. She knows that avocado makes her skin soft, carrots make her see in the dark, broccoli makes her tummy happy and sweetcorn makes her run faster (ahem, all true right?).
She eats well, and healthily. It's just that plain food thing. Very plain food has become the order of the day. And I know for a fact she's not the only child who has gone through this – I remember speaking to a children's nutrition expert some time ago, and she was telling me about the 'neophobia' stage, the fear of new things (food in this case) which commonly occurs around the age of two.
But I guess, rightly or wrongly, I went with it. I just can't stand waste. To serve up meals to her day after day that I knew she was unlikely to touch meant a) suffering the panic attacks which inevitably come on with parenting an un-nourished child and b) a bin full of expensive food.
What I'm hoping is that this is one of those catch up things. You know when you look at your child and you suddenly realise their trousers are an inch too short (PLEASE tell me you do that, too)? She's hopefully changed/grown and I now can catch up.
So yes, like I said, she's so busted.
But talking all this through with Ava gave me a thought that chilled me to by bones. Had Omar managed to get Ruby to eat fruit, I wondered?
Ru never went through the neophobic thing as a toddler. She has always been willing to try anything at all. She eats everything from chilli con carne to pickled garlic... But one thing she has NEVER eaten is fruit.
When I was weaning her at six months, I gave her some mashed banana and she looked at me like she thought I was trying to kill her. She's almost phobic about fruit, all fruit. At the age of 18 months I could put a green grape and a green olive on a plate and she'd gobble the olive and run away from the grape. At least she has been consistent.
So has he? Has Omar managed to get a slice of apple, or a satsuma segment past Ruby's lips?
No, he hasn't – 50 % success with my children. That's why he's a demi god.
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