Opinion

Tucker for teens - it's meat, mash and don't get fancy

FINALLY, the dish was finished. The kitchen was a mess and I was sweating but it was now ready to present to the toughest judge to ever sit at a dinner table.

Was he going to like it? Would he notice the unfamiliar ingredients I had lovingly incorporated into this classic dish?

This judge is incredibly opinionated but I fear I will never consider him to be an expert on good food. The judge I was trying to impress is my 18-year-old son ... and a contender for the World's Most Boring Eater title so I was incredibly nervous about how he would he react to my daring substitution of core ingredients.

There was a silence at the table as he took his first mouthful. Then he looked me in the eye and announced: "This is great, could be the best spag bol you've made for a while".

Relief rushed through me - he hadn't noticed that I had substituted beef mince for pork mince.

Okay, it's possible that I've become addicted to My Kitchen Rules in recent weeks but if you have had to cook for a fussy teenager you'll know my anxiety was well founded.

Earlier this week I watched MKR contestants and Sunshine Coast residents Elle and Jake do their best to impress a table full of fussy eaters with their rabbit based entrée and basil flavoured ice cream for dessert and I couldn't help wishing my son had their taste for adventure.

Sadly, the T-bone steak they were criticised for overcooking was the one thing on their menu that my son would have eaten, but only if it was served pub style, with a large helping of chips.

Not that my cooking is even close to being considered creative. For a start I would never make my own vanilla ice cream while there is a tub of Pauls left in the supermarket freezer, let alone think to add basil to it!

But I do wish my son would try something new - like roasted carrot or a quiche made with more than just ham and cheese. 

As a toddler he loved his vegies but somewhere along the way he morphed into this big, muscly teenager who likes nothing but meat or fish served with mashed potato, rice, pasta or hot chips.

Our dinners are a constant rotation of about eight dishes that meet his approval. If I attempt something new it is not assessed for its creativity or taste - his main judging criteria is whether the dish contains visible vegetables or not. 

I, on the other hand, celebrate (quietly, of course) when I manage to get an "invisible vegetable" past his sensitive palate.

I have even taught him to cook in the hope that I could inspire him to eat a wider variety of foods but that move has backfired on me. If he's in the kitchen with me there is no chance of hiding some vegetables in whatever we are cooking.

Recently I was equally relieved and annoyed to discover that it is not just my cooking that is judged so harshly. We were celebrating a big family event at a fine dining establishment - the sort where small meals are served on big plates and the menu is peppered with fancy words rather than "plain old English" as my mother-in-law put it. 

My son, who considers himself a bit of an expert on potato mash, declared that the leek mash on his plate was inedible because "mashed potato shouldn't have crunchy bits in it". Luckily the poor chef was not within earshot.

I have two daughters who love their vegies and are willing to try new things so I know it's not my fault he's such a boring dinner guest.

I live in hope that one day he will bring his taste for excitement and adventure in other areas of his life to the dinner table. Failing that I remind myself that he will move out …. one day. 

How do you tempt a fussy teenager?

* Life with teenagers can be like an out-of-control roller coaster ride and when there's no one else to turn to for support or a second opinion, I go undercover to blog about the everyday dramas of raising my otherwise perfect teens.

Topics:  parenting, undercover mum of teens



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