By: Elizabeth Webber Akre
I grew up hating fish. I was fine with shrimp, lobster and scallops, but I didn’t like anything with fins. When I first met my (now) husband, he was baffled about how anyone could dislike fish. One evening, we were with a bunch of friends in the bar at Harper’s, where we ordered some dinner. When our plates arrived, I looked over at my husband to see that he was happily chewing a horribly undercooked piece of chicken breast. I practically dove on top of him and wrestled the fork from his hand to, you know, save him from a most certain death from raw chicken. As the hubbub died down, he said something along the lines of “what the ____ are you doing?” As I pointed out the raw, pink meat he was chowing down on, he shook his head and said, “Elizabeth, this is tuna.”
And so it began. He was determined to “teach” me to eat fish. Well, here we are 16 years later and I’ve mastered tuna, salmon, tilapia, flounder, grouper and snapper. And, now we have a child involved. The last thing I want to do is taint her tastes by inserting my own opinions about likes and dislikes or tales of picky childhood eating. But, I must admit…in the back of my mind I thought, “surely she won’t like fish. She’s just a kid.” I started her out on shrimp, then moved to lobster (which she immediately loved and asks for all the time) and then I decided to get bold and serve some salmon. Guess what? The child devoured it, gave it her signature “10 thumbs up” rating and has now had several varieties of fresh salmon, as well as smoked salmon. Both are on her list of favorites. I am blown away by this, but also really proud of her, and a little proud of myself for succeeding in not transferring my childhood anti-fishness onto her.
So recently I decided to introduce her to another finned friend. I rubbed Cajun seasoning on tilapia fillets, grilled them in my grill pan with a little bit of butter, and served the fish and sauce over grits and collards. I crossed my fingers as I set the plates on the table. Guess what? She did it again! Loved every bite and before dinner was finished, she asked if I’d make it again the next day.
Now, I’m beside myself. My child likes fish. This is a good thing. Fish is good for us. It keeps us from getting chicken-day-after-day-boredom syndrome. Yes, this is a very good thing indeed.
Here’s the funny part of this tale. A few days ago, my husband and I had eaten late in the day, so were just going to make supper for the little one. He offered to cook her some salmon, which he was already in the process of thawing. But then came the curveball. “Daddy, I’d really rather have tilapia.” He proceeded to tell her that the salmon was almost ready to be cooked and that we’d have tilapia next time. She was not happy. When my daughter is upset or angry about something, she writes it down and delivers it to you in the form of a letter, a note or even pictures. She disappeared for a few minutes and returned with an 8”x11” piece of paper with one word scrawled across it.
T o l o p i a
She’s quite good at sounding out words that she’s not sure about. Well, my husband took one look at this note and realized that the salmon would have to wait until another day. He cooked up some tilapia and veggies and all was right with the world. I guess the moral of the story is: if you get your child eating fish, let her choose which one she wants to eat. Didn’t Confucius say that? 🙂