Salami, Who Knew?

My daughter is a notoriously picky eater. If it doesn’t involve cheese or plain pasta, she’s generally not interested. I went through a period where it really stressed me out, and I would make her try new foods, but she usually cried for twenty minutes first, and then would take a bite so small that it was barely visible to the naked eye, at which point she would gag uncontrollably and, occasionally, barf all over the rest of her plate, thus precluding a second bite. So I gave up, and decided that one day she would outgrow it. I hoped.

So imagine my surprise when, last week, we were at a friend’s house for a playdate, and she tried, of all things, salami. And liked it. She and her friend were playing up in their room, while I sat downstairs hanging out with her parents. They had been given a Harry & David gift basket as a Christmas present, and in honor of our little get-together, they’d put the nuts and cheese out on a table, along with the salami, which they’d sliced and laid on a plate. About halfway through the afternoon the girls surfaced in the kitchen, and Ivy, who is a much more adventurous eater than, I imagine, Harper will ever be, walked past the table, grabbed a slice of salami, and put it in her mouth. To my utter shock, Harper did the exact same thing. With nary a gag or barf to be had.

“Did you just eat salami?” I asked, trying not to sound too excited about it. But she just shrugged nonchalantly.

“Yeah,” she said, as if her willingness to consume cold luncheon meat of questionable origin was an everyday occurrence in our lives.

“Did you like it?” I asked. Another shrug.

“Uh-huh.” AND THEN SHE REACHED FOR ANOTHER SLICE AND ATE IT RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. I almost passed out right there, and on the way home from their house I stopped at the market and bought the biggest salami I could find. It was all I could do not to skip through the store, yelling “My four year old ate protein, and I don’t even care that it’s disgusting and full of nitrites because it’s protein, and she ate it!” at the top of my lungs.

But, it turns out, there are Salami Conditions. Such as: She will only eat salami at lunchtime; she will only eat salami if it is thinly sliced; she will not eat a salami sandwich, only plain slices of salami. Fine. Whatever. So for the last week, I’ve been packing her grilled cheese sandwiches with a side of salami. Mac and cheese with a side of salami. Plain cheese ravioli with a side of salami. They look kind of nasty in the plastic sandwich baggie in which I pack them; the big, round, paper-thin salami slices, sticking to the sides of the bag like lunchmeat decals. Every day, when she gets home from school and I check her lunch box, I’m still kind of shocked to find that she’s eaten it at all. That is, I was, until today. You see, last night she decided to try couscous, which she also really liked (it’s just like rice, mommy!), and so today, for lunch, I packed her a container of couscous, with, you guessed it, a side of salami.

But when she got home from school and I checked her lunch box, I found the following: an empty couscous container, a plastic baggie with one salami slice still in it, and a note, which she had dictated to her teacher.

“Dear Mommy,