I've been trying to think of what would constitute success in this venture.
On the most fundamental level I want to lower the drama around food. Some of this doesn't have to do with the food itself, but with the behaviors expressed when a perceived undesirable food appears in front of the picky eater.
They've improved from the days when "Gross! Get that off my plate!" was bellowed at the top of their lungs, but that doesn't mean the stress of eating with them is gone. It's just different. Now there's usually some whining to start with, followed by (boy) getting up and pacing the room and being asked repeatedly to return to the table, sometimes followed by more whining with the occasional explosion or tiny sampling of unfamiliar food followed by extremely dramatic response. The girl is (usually) quieter and she tends to try the wait-it-out principle. She knows that her dad and I will often finish eating before her, get up and start cleaning up the kitchen so she can clear her plate and quickly scrape the offending items in the trash without anyone noticing.
Except sometimes we do notice. And then she is doubly mad that she was served food she perceived as undesirable and that she got caught.
Here's what I'd like:
When confronted by an unfamiliar food, they will (calmly) agree to try one bite. They will give it a chance (the boy in particular sometimes psyches himself out so much that I don't think he actually tastes the new food). If they don't like it they will (calmly) tell me. And if it is, say, the only vegetable on their plate they will suggest an alternative and get it for themselves. If it's the main course, they will offer to make themselves peanut butter toast or a bean and cheese quesadilla--something fast and easy that I consider a healthy alternative.
My hope is that even if they don't enjoy the food I cook, they won't ruin my enjoyment of it by emitting a toxic behavior fog into the atmosphere of the dining room or by expecting me to drop my fork and go be a short order cook.
They'd still be picky, but that doesn't mean they'd be unpleasant to be around when eating. And that would go a long way to improving dinner-time at our house.