Friday, December 13, 2013

Vegetable Ninja-ed His Sandwich

My son doesn't admit to liking anything that grows out of the ground. He gets his vegetables from the vegetable oil that fries up the vegetarian animals that end up on his plate.

Raising the vegetable bar in my household depends on a few key points:
1. Thin
2. Small
3. You don't mention it.
4. Dry
5. Layers

It's a subtle thing - you're not lying.  You're behaving as if this is normal for normal people: lettuce with a ham sandwich, tomato with your turkey breast.  Lying is when your child asks, "Are these vegetables?" and you say, "Why, no, they are the magical parts of the turkey which only show up in the sandwiches of the luckiest of children!".

My son and I used to argue about his lack of green intake.  It was tiring. Therefore, I stopped trying to argue with him and just used logic. If he didn't like my lunches, he could make his own. Well, he did for awhile, and they were appalling lunches. Then when I returned to making them, he grumbled about my "salads" on his sandwich. Therefore, I tried sandwich-making, "Ninja" style. Subtle. Quiet. And I used a very, very sharp knife.

Thin is crucial. A thick slab of dripping tomato is disgusting to anyone. I am an adult; I eat tomatoes today. But I remember the icky feeling of the "spurt" of slimy seeds into my mouth. If you feel uncomfortable reading that line, then I've been successful at conveying my personal distaste for tomatoes in my errant youth.  So, slice them thin, especially for first timers.

Super thin cucumber
Look at that tomato juice. Gross.
Small is essential, too. The newcomer to the vegetable world does not want to noisily chow down on three inches of greens on their first vegetable journey. A select few, tender leaves in the middle of the sandwich, between meat and bread, should be fine.

Don't mention that you added vegetables. It is a child's prerogative to deny the value of anything that a parent deems important, noteworthy or educational or healthy. Avoid that argument otherwise it  will end up with your child trading his sandwich or dissecting it apart at the schoolyard lunch table. I actually found that my children were both more willing to eat more of their lunch as long as that item was not part of the argument of the week.

Don't forget this word: Dry. A wet sandwich is an absolutely DISGUSTING sandwich. Try to feed a wet sandwich to an adult. They won't eat it, will they? Therefore, do not set up your beloved little person to sink their teeth into jellyfish-like globs of wet dough and dripping sandwich meat. They will reel in horror and instantly point an accusing finger at the weeping greenery in their sandwich. To avoid this, you must air-dry or paper-towel dry the sandwich ingredients. You're not being overly indulgent. You are trying to create food that will be eaten, not wasted. Ask yourself, when you are done, would you eat that same sandwich in four hours? Why or why not? Yeah. You see what I am saying, don't you? It's like McD's fries the next day. No way, no how.
Finally, I believe a good tactic is layering your sandwich correctly. Ideally you can provide packets or dressing or ketchup which your child will lather onto the sandwich himself.

But if you don't have those individual packets which you loaded up on at the Drive-Thru window (Wait, you don't do that?), then lightly spread the dressing, apply the cheese, position the tomato and/or lettuce, then the meat, then the second slice of bread.

Put the vegetables in the MIDDLE. It's not the point of hiding them; that's a side benefit. It's the point of minimizing the potential for a wet, gloppy, disgusting sandwich, dripping in tomato juice and slimy with ham liquid.  The (formerly) wet stuff is best in the middle - even though you've dried them somewhat. It's a safety precaution.

So, am I spoiling my children by being so careful with their sandwiches? Well, you decide. It took about thirty days of these "Ninja"ed lunches until my anti-green stuff son admitted that he usually ate the whole sandwich, including the "green stuff".  Win the war, forget the battle.

We never really argued about his eating more vegetables again, and he appeared a little more likely to try a new vegetable when approached...

Note: one cannot go from tomatoes to parsnips. That's too big of a jump.
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