Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Texture Issue

One thing that continually surprises me is the boy's sensitivity to the textures of foods. There are plenty of times when I've come up with something that I think he'll be able to tolerate flavor-wise and color-wise (bordering on bland and beige) and it has been rejected based on texture. One prime example: red lentil soup.

I love this soup (recipe below). It is easy, it is fast, it is tasty and it is one of the recipes I turn to when I haven't been to the grocery store and need to cook from the pantry. The only fresh-ish thing it really requires is a lemon and you could get away with a little sherry vinegar if you didn't have one. It also doesn't have anything green in it that might set off the visual alarms of many picky eaters. The girl will eat it sometimes, though not in large quantities. To me, the red lentils are particularly nice because they break down more than their green, brown or black counterparts so the soup is almost creamy with no pureeing required. But my perception and the boy's perception of the texture of this soup are miles apart.

I've tried to serve it to him multiple times and (multiple times) he has run to the trash can to spit it out. It's not like he has this reaction to all members of the legume family: refried beans are a staple of his diet. He occasionally tolerates baked beans and whole pintos. But he says that the texture of this soup is like sand in his mouth.

This has also been a limiting factor with both kids with fruit. Neither of them can stand the way tiny seeds feel when they are crunched between your teeth so they have rejected strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and kiwi for this reason.  Pears are also too "gritty." And they don't like slippery textures (what they call "slimy") so that eliminates bananas, ripe peaches, plums and nectarines.  I might try them on some under-ripe stone fruits once summer rolls around.

What textures are problems for your picky eater?

After the "sand" description you might be reluctant to try the lentil soup, but it's fast and easy and worth a shot. Maybe it'll fly under the texture-radar of your picky eater.

Easy Middle Eastern Style Red Lentil Soup

1 medium yellow onion chopped
3-5 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 T olive oil
1 carrot, grated (optional)
1 T tomato paste (optional)
1 and 1/2 C red lentils (NOT brown)
7 C water
1 t salt
fresh ground pepper
1 T ground cumin
**Juice of 1-2 lemons (depending on the intensity of your sour-pleasure center)

In a big pot, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until the onion is soft. Add the tomato paste and grated carrot (if using), lentils, water, salt, pepper and cumin and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer for at least 40 minutes (more is fine--if you are going to simmer for a LONG time then put a lid on the pot so all the water doesn't evaporate). Just before serving add half the lemon juice (at least one lemon's worth) and then taste to see if you want any more lemon juice, salt or pepper.

**If you don't have any fresh lemons in the house, bottled lemon juice or a little sherry vinegar will suffice.

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