The holidays are over, and the big controversy in my house is that I didn’t get any Hanukkah presents this year. At least, not yet. My husband did get me a present, it just isn’t ready. And my son did make me something at school, but he left it in his cubby. And my daughter made me something, too, but somehow, it fell out of her backpack and was never seen again. I really don’t care – I’m not telling you this to gain sympathy, or pity, or to complain, or even to make you feel grateful for any gifts that you may have received from your family – I swear. I’m simply telling you this for back story purposes; to set the stage for what happened last night, when I unintentionally received what is, by far, the best, most amazing, most anticipated, most patiently-waited-for present of my life. Drumroll please. Badadadadadada: my daughter took a bite of steak.
In case you’re wondering why I would rather have this, than say, diamonds, or a new handbag, I’ll point you back to a post I wrote almost a year ago, entitled Food Fight . It was about the fact that I’d had it up to here with my daughter and her dislike for anything with any flavor, taste, or nutritional quality, and so I bought some books in the hopes of finding some professional guidance for getting her eat like a normal human being. But rather than finding magical solutions, I was instead instructed to indulge her food follies. At dinner, I was to serve at least one thing I knew she liked, and I was to let her eat that, and only that, until she was full. So, for example, if I was serving lasagna, I would also serve bread and fruit, and if she didn’t want the lasagna, then her dinner would be bread and fruit. Period. The theory was that she would eventually become so tired of bread and fruit for dinner, that she’d decide, on her own, to try the lasagna.
Now, for eleven months, I have stuck with this strategy. If I serve stir fry chicken and vegetables with rice, she eats rice. If I serve spaghetti and meatballs, she eats plain spaghetti. If it’s turkey tacos, she eats just the taco shell. I no longer scream and yell about how she’s not getting any protein, or about how she never eats vegetables. I don’t force her to take three bites of chicken and then watch her gag and retch as she swallows it. I don’t make her her own separate dinner every night. And I don’t withhold dessert. Instead, I put several foods on the table, and she decides which, and how much, of those foods she wants to eat. And let me tell you, I’ve been doing this for eleven months, and she has never, not once, asked to try the lasagna. Or anything else, for that matter.
Last night, as usual, I threw some steaks on the indoor grill and served them with corn on the cobb, some sautéed snow peas, and breadsticks from a box. As usual, my daughter took a piece of corn and about ten breadsticks, and put them on her plate. As usual, we talked. But then, about halfway through the meal, Harper looked at me and said, I think I’ll try a piece of steak. Just like that. I think I’ll try a piece of steak. Like it was no big deal. Like it was something she said every day. Like she didn’t at all expect me to fall off of my chair and faint dead away. Or get up and start dancing a jig.
But I didn’t. I looked back at her, and in a tone that was just as cool and nonchalant as her own, I said, okay, and I cut her a piece of steak about the size of my thumb. Smaller, she instructed. And make sure there isn’t any black stuff on it. So I cut it in half, carefully going around the char-marks from the grill. Smaller, she said. So I cut in half again. And then again. Until finally, it was about the size of an ant, or maybe a half of a pea, and she nodded. I held my breath as she turned it around, inspecting it from all angles, and then held it up to her nose and smelled it. And I continued to hold my breath as she stuck out her tongue and licked it, and put it into her mouth, and then, as I awaited the verdict, I very narrowly managed to avoid passing out from a lack of oxygen to my brain, when finally, her face contorted, she picked up her napkin, and….she spit it out and handed it to me.
I stared at the napkin. You know how I didn’t get any Hanukkah presents yet? I asked her. She nodded, solemnly. Well, I don’t need them anymore, I told her, barely holding back my tears. Because this, this right here, is the best present I have ever received. She and my son cracked up. Mommy’s Hanukkah present is a piece of chewed up steak, they screamed. But I just shrugged, and then spent a good ten minutes trying to figure out how to save it for posterity, before determining that the maggot problem it would create would probably cancel out the fond memories otherwise associated with it. When everyone had calmed down, my daughter asked me, earnestly, if I really wanted that to be my present. Absolutely, I told her. Because sometimes, the best presents come in little, half-chewed packages.