Ah, the bedtime snack. The hallowed bastion of childhood. The memory of warm milk and cookies, a bowl of fresh fruit, or a cup of Rice Krispies eaten dry just because. Crackers. Pudding. Jello.
Things are a little different here.
Tonight for her bedtime snack, the Maiden requested a plate of agar agar. As in, the seaweed that you use as a thickening agent. It isn’t especially edible, since, as the Maiden pointed out in incomprehensible excitement, “It tastes just like eating string!”
Yes. It does.
We have weird food issues around here. The Maiden is allergic to, well, not everything, but it sure feels like it sometimes. I’m mostly vegetarian, sometimes vegan. The Man thinks he’s had his vegetable quota for the day if there’s a piece of lettuce on his burger, and for the love of God please do not put anything resembling a bean, tofu, or something that didn’t come from an animal on his plate.
The Maiden can’t make up her mind.
She and I tried vegetarianism last summer when the Man left for Afghanistan. She decided it wasn’t for her, and demanded steak. But then suddenly a few months later, she flipped and was done with meat. No steak or beef. No pork. One forkful of fish and that was it. Chicken? Gross. And don’t even approach her with the revolting platter of Thanksgiving turkey and gravy. Shudder. Gag. Hide under table. Etcetera.
Whatever. I don’t particularly care for meat either, so I couldn’t blame her. We had a lesson about adequate protein sources, and she happily ate beans, tofu, lentils, and grains. And eggs. Lots and lots of eggs, until the day she ate at least six and was decidedly anti-egg for several weeks.
She was still vegetarian when the Man got home, all desperate for meat that wasn’t cafeteria-style chow.
No big deal. I made vegetarian and omni versions of meals to cover all our bases. I know, I know–but it worked for us.
Then something happened and she turned. Again. Wait, meat was awesome after all! Could she eat some of the Man’s? He eyed his dwindling plate with regret. Heck, she even ate chicken again–the anathema of all animal products–although she’d carefully dissect it to make sure that it didn’t contain even a micro-ounce of gristle. But if it didn’t, she was all for it. She’d still eat vegetarian stuff, but if meat was on the menu, it had better end up on her plate, too.
Then last night, the Maiden took one look at her chicken fajita and burst into tears. “But I don’t like chicken, Mommy,” she said. “I’m vegetarian, like you!”
I’m not a short order cook. Fine, I am a short order cook, but I am not making three different meals; two is bad enough. So now we’ve ironed out a deal: she has to make her decision before dinner. If she says she wants the vegetarian version, that’s the version she has to finish (or no bedtime snack–not even if it’s stringy seaweed). Same deal with the meat.
She still has odd food choices. She likes Thai sweet-hot chili sauce on her hot dogs instead of ketchup like normal people. She went through a phase where she constantly ate tahini (sesame butter) and pickle sandwiches because they were the favorite meal of some weird comic book characters who look like bones with faces (I am not making this up). She’s tried things on her (soy) ice cream that are so outrageous I won’t even mention them here. (I also forget what they are, but I have a hazy memory of grossness. And of her loving it.)
So be forewarned. If the Maiden visits your house, don’t bother offering her kid-friendly food. Guide her to the weird-and-freaky-sauces-that-you-bought-for-one-recipe-and-are-only-hanging-onto-because-you-paid-$5-for-the-stupid-thing-and-that-would-be-a-waste section. Then let her make her own crazy combinations.
Tomato juice with an infusion of mango chutney and a splash of Tabasco sauce? Bring. It.
Or, in a pinch, just serve her seaweed.