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The Gateway Dinner: How We Got Our Kids to Eat Real Food + Enjoy Poetry (I Hope)

Updated: Oct 27, 2018

Roast chicken extravaganza. My husband's recipe is at the bottom of this post.

There are so many reasons kids only want to eat a few things when they are little -- and just as many suggestions on how to fix that. And, honestly, just as many reasons we can blame ourselves and feel bad about it! This post is not about any of that. I want to talk about how rejection or just having a little taste is OK. And maybe approaching new things with ease and acceptance is the easiest way to integrate it.

Until age 8, when he began to grasp the connection between nutrition and health, my son pretty much ate spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, roasted seaweed, carrots, freeze dried strawberries and apples. Other than that, he wanted sweets. The only dinner he joined us for was roast chicken. Especially given his personality, we had to accept that one dinner a week at the table with us, eating the same meal, was good enough. At first, he ate the meat and refused all the veggies. And now, at age 13, he's one of the biggest foodies I know. He loves to try new things and has shed all his hang-ups about food.

The newest inductee to Sunday dinner! She didn't eat everything on her plate, but she did take at least one bite to try it.

During the cold weather months, we roast a chicken every Sunday. It's a great way to finish out the weekend with a hearty meal. (It also gives us a steady supply of bone broth to make our nourishing chicken soup.) My daughter was similar to my son as a younger child, although her tastes were a bit healthier and her list of acceptable foods slightly longer. She started joining us for Sunday dinner about a year ago and is now trying all the vegetables on her plate! It feels like a new era where we can all connect on a similar level and enjoy some conversation and good, nourishing food. Hallelujah to health and also enjoying one of life's great pleasures.

And speaking of life's great pleasures, this experience of the "gateway dinner" with both kids got me thinking about other acquired tastes. I was also thinking about how I can bring more beauty, meaning and appreciation into our lives. Although we like to read, I realized we had been severely lacking poetry. I love how good poetry heightens our awareness of all the things that ultimately matter most: simple joys like beauty, nature, love and connection. To be honest, it had been years since I read any poetry, but felt this would be a great addition to our Sunday dinners. So, I printed out a collection of fall inspired poetry and gave it a shot. It went as expected. My son was immediately on board while my daughter rejected it. Actually, she said, "I'm out!" after the first poem. She often has very dramatic reactions to new things, which has made me realize I don't have to be invested in whether or not she embraces the new thing I want her to like. I can accept her reaction without my disappointment or trying to make her feel differently. And my acceptance actually gives her space to come around, and she almost always does.

So, she heard the poem, and that was good enough. Just a taste.

For the Chipmunk in My Yard

by Robert Gibb

I think he knows I'm alive, having come down

The three steps of the back porch

And given me a good once over. All afternoon

He's been moving back and forth,

Gathering odd bits of walnut shells and twigs,

While all about him the great fields tumble

To the blades of the thresher. He's lucky

to be where he is, wild with all that happens.

He's lucky he's not one of the shadows

Living in the blond heart of the wheat.

This autumn when trees bolt, dark with the fires

Of starlight, he'll curl among their roots,

Wanting nothing but the slow burn of matter

On which he fastens like a small, brown flame.

Classic Roast Chicken

1 roaster chicken (5 lbs. will serve 4 and still have plenty of leftovers)

1 whole onion, ends cut off and peeled

1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges

4 - 5 cloves garlic

3 sprigs fresh rosemary

6 sprigs fresh time

Olive oil (or butter) and salt and pepper for skin

Preheat oven 375 degrees. Remove giblets from cavity of chicken (we put them in the crockpot for the weekly bone broth). Rinse off chicken and pat dry.

Fill cavity with fresh herbs, onion, lemon and garlic cloves. Rub skin with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Close cavity with wooden skewer or truss the legs with baking twine. Place in roasting pan with rack. Bake for 2 hours. Baste with juices from the bottom of the pan every 20 minutes (or when you think of it!).

Let the meat rest for 5-10 minutes before carving. Serve with your favorite vegetables.

Pairs well with a Chardonnay or Cote du Rhone.



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