Kids can be so funny about food. At the school, we, of course, have the kids who won’t eat anything. The other day the cook made some really delicious vegetarian fried rice but one of the kids wouldn’t eat it because there was corn, peas, and little diced carrots in it. I was sitting at a little table in the play kitchen corner working on the daily diary, an on-line post we do every day saying what the kids have done that day, and I moved the little boy over near me so I could try to get him to eat. I had my own bowl of rice and I made a big show about taking a spoonful that was full of veggies and talking about how delicious it was. “One bite,” I told him, “Just one bite with the veggies and if you don’t like it, then you can just eat around them.” So he took one bite and then promptly let all the food fall out of his mouth back into the bowl. “Okay, just eat around them then. You’ve got to eat at least the rice.” He couldn’t really handle the spoon very well so he started using his hands to painstakingly pull every tiny veggie out and push them to the side. I’m not really cool with kids using their hands to eat, unless, you know, it’s finger food. But this kid is particularly sensitive and I felt it was more important to get him to eat something than scold him for his poor table etiquette. Since he was using his hands for getting those disgusting vegetables out of the way, he also decided it was just easier to use his hands to eat the rice he had decontaminated. And rice kept falling out of his grubby little hands and back into the bowl, and rice that was in his mouth was falling back into the bowl as well. I kept telling him, “Vegetables are so good! If you eat them, you’ll get as tall as me!” But he wasn’t buying it. I got up to go do something and came back just in time to see him with his head over my bowl, letting a mouthful of food fall into my rice. “Hey! What are you doing?” I said. He looked up at me, rice still falling out of his mouth, and said, “There was veggies in that bite. I’m giving them to you because you like them.” Heart of gold, that kid. I promptly threw the bowl of rice out.
Then there are the kids who just need a little bit of persuasion. They aren’t adamantly opposed to eating something, like the aforementioned kid with the generous heart, but they need a bit of cajoling. I’ve learned to try to reach a compromise with them. “Five bites and then you can be done.” I’ll say. Sometimes, the great thing is, if I get them to take big enough mouthfuls, then the food is actually pretty much gone after five bites. I win. But some kids are smart and they negotiate. “Three bites.” they’ll say. “Four,” I answer. “Three.” they respond. And honestly, they usually win. I’ve never been a good haggler. Sometimes I try to trick them. If they’re supposed to have five bites, after bite #2 I’ll say, “Okay, only four more!” but suddenly these kids, who barely even know their own age, become little arithmetic whizzes. “No, I only have three more bites left.” I’ve got to improve my trickery skills. Seriously. I can’t even bamboozle a three-year-old.
There’s this one little kid who is a bit picky about certain foods but he’ll eat if I sit by him and do the “five bites” thing. The other day the cook had made something Kiwis call Nana Bake. It’s a casserole of baked beans topped with mashed potatoes and cheese. I think it’s pretty gross, as I’ve never been a fan of canned baked beans, but most of the kids seem to get super excited when it’s Nana Bake day. So this kid didn’t want to eat, I told him to take five bites, he cleverly got me down to four. I was sitting in front of him, making sure his bites weren’t tiny little spoonfuls, because, yes, they will try to get away with barely dipping their spoon into the food and calling it a bite. So this kid was eating and he was looking at me as if I was forcing him to eat fermented duck eggs or a giant cockroach or something that was really and truly nasty. He was clutching his shorts in both hands and his face was red and he was trying to chew but he was gagging a bit and the food started slowly sliding out of his mouth. And suddenly I felt like Joe Rogan in Fear Factor. “Don’t you spit that out.” I told him, “This is your second to last bite. You’re almost done. Chew chew! Swallow! Don’t you spit that out!” The poor little kids eyes were watering and he was shaking but he made a gigantic swallow, threw his hands up in victory over his head and opened his mouth to show me the food had been swallowed. “Yay!” I told him, clapping. But I really felt bad about forcing him to eat something he so obviously hated. “You can be done,” I told him, “You really worked hard on that last bite.” “No Leah,” he told me, “I can do it.” He took a giant gulping breath, opened his mouth way wider than necessary, and spooned one last heaping spoonful into his mouth. And he proceeded to chew and shake and grasp at his pants and his eyes watered and then he vigorously started shaking his head back and forth. “You don’t have to eat it.” I told him, “You can spit it out. It’s okay.” But that kid was a trooper, he swallowed and reached for his water bottle and drank it as if he’d been in the desert for days, water spilling down around his face and onto his shirt. “You did it! You’re amazing!”I told him.
Really, y’all, I’m like Joe Rogan.
During snack time, when it’s something the kids all like, like cheese and crackers and pineapple (or some equally yummy fruit) , if I turn my back away from the snack cart for like a second, I’ll turn back around and suddenly it looks like a zombie movie scene where the zombies are all crowded up against a car trying to get to the yummy human inside. Those kids crowd around the cart looking for second helpings, their hands all held out, pushing each other to get closer. Seriously, it can happen in like a few seconds flat. I’m watching the kids sitting and happily eating, I turn away for two seconds, turn back…..zombie horde. It can actually be a bit startling.
Some of those kids are little hunguses too. In case you don’t know, a hungus is Australian and Kiwi slang for someone who is always hungry and will eat just about anything. Unfortunately, the younger children of the hungus persuasion, will also eat appealing looking clods of dirt and various things they find on the ground so they need to be watched pretty closely. Sometimes we eat snack outside. One afternoon, after having popcorn and apples, I was all the way on the other side of the playground and I looked over to see this little three-year-old on his hands and knees crawling around the area where they’d just had snack sucking up all the fallen popcorn on the ground like he was a little Hoover vacuum. He’s a hungus. Or he just really, really loves popcorn. I ran over and promptly put a stop to that.
I looked it up and a hungus is actually a real animal, part sheep part hippopotamus and it lives in the Miznia Jungle……..
So as I was typing this I started wondering where the Miznia Jungle is, as I’d never heard of it before, so I looked it up and it turns out it’s all made up. There is no Miznia Jungle, there is no hungus. I was happily reading about the Miznia Jungle and it said it was home to the hungus and the deadly bloodworm. “Deadly bloodworm” got me wondering a little bit and then I read the part that said, “The Miznia Jungle is also home to the mysterious Snake People, part human, part reptile with telepathic abilities.” That’s when I realized the hungus was probably not real. I probably should have realized it when I saw the website was called The Zork Library but sometimes I’m just not too swift on the uptake.
This is the fabled hungus.
But the hungus does exist, in the form of ever-hungry humans. At least down here at the bottom of the world.
Anyway, it’s almost two and it’s time for me to have a late lunch….I’m starving.
See? I’m a bit of a hungus myself.