I have a theory about child rearing. Chances are I have a theory because I don't have a child. If I had a child, I wouldn't need a theory, I'd have an uncontrolled experiment in progress and no time or ability to theorize. But having procrastinated procreating past the point of my own best-before date, I'll stick to theories.
My theory is this: no child under the age of 16 should ever be fed anything they don't want to eat. If that means a childhood fuelled exclusively by hot dogs, pizza, tater tots and macaroni and cheese, so be it.
Of course, I also have a theory that kids should be packed off to boarding school but that's a different column.
There are, surprisingly, sound reasons supporting this theory. For starters, while children's palates are finely-honed enough to discriminate between, say, red and yellow Smarties, or gummi worms as opposed to gummi toes, their nascent tastebuds don't really register the difference between a hamburger and filet mignon. Their childlike minds do, however, understand eating with their fingers is way more fun than eating with a knife and fork, so any parent forcing their kid to eat filet as opposed to burgers is either wasting time and money, needlessly torturing their child or shamelessly social climbing.
Besides, just suppose you have a mutant — gifted — child. Suppose the little squirt actually develops a taste for grilled lobster tail sauced in a reduction of herb-infused fish fumet and rare sturgeon roe. What an insufferable little simp he or she is going to be next time you stop at White Spot for a quick nosh. Introducing kids to food like that is an act of parental over-reaching that can only lead to no good.
Kids should "discover" food completely by accident. Or at least driven by their own curiosity led, in turn, by their sensitive little noses and growing sense of social shame.
The benefits of this theory are manifold. First off, you save dough on food costs. Second, the words "meal planning" disappear from your vocabulary. Third, the inevitable mealtime Mexican standoff is eliminated and you both save face. Fourth, you don't wind up raising some weird little Poindexter who doesn't fit in with the rest of his taste-challenged buddies.
And finally, maybe even most importantly, the thrill of serendipitous discovery — at whatever age — is the fuel of creativity. Forcing a kid to eat kidneys is just money in the bank for some shrink 20 years down the road. Letting him discover he's eating kidneys in a funky pub in Munich because he's hungover after two days of drinking high-octane beer at Oktoberfest and doesn't know the German word for kidney, well baby, that's an adventure he may write about someday when he becomes an accidental columnist. Don't ask me how I know.