There are a few kids in this neighborhood who love my cooking. They believe anything coming out of my hot little oven is sprinkled with magic yummy dust. I love these kids. They are so fun to feed.

There are others, however, who won’t touch a single thing that comes off of my burners no matter how hard I try.

When my preschooler brings home playdates for lunch, I try to serve friend friendly fare. I suppress the urge to toss in handfuls of spinach here and there, or to sneak in a cauliflower puree into the dipping sauce. I dole out the Good Stuff in an effort to save my kids from too much kitchen table embarrassment.

Mac ‘n Cheese out of the box, oven fries, fresh homemade bread slathered with homemade jam, quesadillas, meatballs and ketchup, apple slices, dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets … I’ve tried them all. And what is the response to these ever-so-kid-approved menu items?

“I don’t like that kind.”

“Do you have any Ranch I can dip it in? I’ll only eat it with Ranch.” (Sadly, I run a Ranch-free ranch.)

“I don’t like skin on my fruit.”

”I don’t like ketchup. I like ‘pink sauce.’ Do you have any pink sauce?” (It took me a minute to realize she meant Fry Sauce, a beforehand foreign concoction for this California girl.)

“I know my mom makes this same thing, and I don’t like it there either.”

“Why did you put ham into this quesadilla?”

“I don’t eat this kind of bread (they mean wheat) … Or jam (they mean with visible fruit.)”

Then they push away from the table and sweetly ask, “When is snack time?”

So here’s my dilemma. Do I hold firm to what is being served and say, “Well, you certainly don’t have to eat it, but this is all that’s being served for lunch today.” But since they are, after all, guests, I should offer them a bowl of cereal or … something, right?

But what’s in my cupboard? Raisin Bran, Grape-Nuts, All-Bran, Ancient Grains Granola, or I could cook up some steel cut oats sweetened with agave and a pinch of cinnamon? Oh, I just can’t win!

Now, how do my kids act at other people’s tables? I honestly have no idea. I’m not even sure I want to know. But it better include the phrase, “Thank you Mrs. So&So, that was delicious!” even if they are served up chicken feet swimming in stewed cabbage, or given lamb’s brain with sautéed liver on the side.

I don’t mind at all if it comes home stashed in a napkin inside their pockets. The laundry, I can handle.


Margaret Anderson has a degree in Journalism from BYU, is a freelance writer, returned missionary, and mother of four small children. You can read more at