Is It Okay Not to Like My Kid Sometimes?


It was probably inevitable: Jeff Gordinier is a food writer who has traveled around the world in an endless quest for epiphanies of flavor, and somehow he fathered a picky eater.

This originally ran in How We Dad Now. You can read the other stories in the package here, as well as in our Summer 2022 issue.

"What's that?" Jasper asked.

"It's cheese!" I said.

My heart swelled with hope. We were eating at a restaurant whose menu nods toward the Iberian Peninsula, and Jasper had eyed a thin wedge of manchego. Maybe he'll like this, I thought. Jasper nibbled, leaned forward, and spit the saliva-
glazed cheese onto the tabletop.

My hope gave way to confusion, embarrassment, a whisper of muted anger. Jasper and I have a complicated relationship. He's just four years old, but the dude knows how to push my buttons. Kids are telepathic that way. Jasper's signature move is to receive a plate of food that I have meticulously, lovingly cooked for him and to dump it on the floor. Sure, it's funny from afar. When you're in the middle of it—well, sometimes I have to step outside and stand on the front stoop and take twenty deep breaths before I go back to work.

I have four children, ranging in age from nineteen to four. Here's something I have learned about parenting: No matter how open-minded you think you are, your kids will throw you curveballs that undermine your fixed ideas about the world. Philip Larkin had it only half right. The kids fuck up the parents, too. Which is why it was probably inevitable: I am a food writer who has traveled around the world in an endless quest for epiphanies of flavor, and somehow I fathered a picky eater.


I can spoon seaweed and pickles and salsa and smoked fish into the mouth of Wesley, Jasper's twin brother, and Wesley will do a grinning dance of joy. Jasper's palate, however, remains fixed in the bland middle of the dairy spectrum. He likes milk. He likes yogurt. He likes American cheese, but nothing more pungent than that. He loves white bread with cold pats of butter on top—don't even toast the bread unless you're in the mood for a tantrum.

I love Jasper unconditionally, but this behavior is bewildering to me—and to the extended Gordinier brood. Flavor matters to us. Flavor unlocks an understanding of, and an appreciation for, the world. When I was a kid, my father took my family to San Francisco from Los Angeles largely so that we could experience the minced squab in lettuce cups at the Mandarin. For a Gordinier, being a picky eater is a cardinal sin, but I hold on to hope.

"What's that?" Jasper asked the other day.

"It's a pepita," I said. I slipped it into his hand. He popped it into his mouth. Then Jasper uttered the magic word: "Yum."

As it goes for any father who's utterly stumped by his offspring, it's up to me to build a bridge to Jasper in the years to come. Maybe that bridge begins with a pumpkin seed.

FromEsquire US

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