By Wayne Chan
Northwest Asian Weekly
Since when did being a good parent also mean making yourself look like an idiot?
That’s exactly what happened last weekend when we went out with some friends for an adventurous night of dining.
But before I get there, let me give you some backstory.
When I became a dad, I became committed to making sure our kids didn’t become finicky eaters. For any parents out there, I’m sure you know the type.
We know some of them very well — to the extreme. One child we know isn’t just picky with the usual items like vegetables or seafood. She won’t eat any pasta if there’s any spaghetti sauce on it. She won’t eat pizza with pepperoni on it — it has to be a plain cheese pizza. She’ll eat a hot dog, but not on a bun. The ironic thing is that she’s used to eating regular standard issue hot dogs you get from the store, but she won’t eat an Italian sausage.
I once told her that if she knew what they put in regular hot dogs, she’d know immediately that the Italian sausage was by far the less “icky” of the two items.
Making sure your kids don’t grow up with a limited variety of foods certainly isn’t easy. With our kids, you could tell where things were headed. They didn’t like vegetables. They only wanted pasta and french fries. But we persevered.
The rule was they would eat everything on their plate and that was final. There were times when they held food in their mouths for hours and we wouldn’t let them spit it out. The only choice was for them to swallow it. My daughter Savannah once had a wad of cabbage in her mouth the entire day, only swallowing when I sat with her in bed until bedtime.
It paid off. Now Savannah loves vegetables — she can’t get enough of them. She likes what all kids like — ice cream and cake, but she’d trade both of them in for a salad in an instant. My son Tyler’s favorite show is chef Andrew Zimmerman’s “Bizarre Foods” because Mr. Zimmerman travels the world eating exotic dishes. Tyler gets more excited the more seemingly vile the food is.
There is a tremendous amount of satisfaction that comes from knowing that you’ve made that kind of difference in your kid’s lives. There was no way that I was going to have a bunch of kids who were finicky eaters. I didn’t want them to turn out like, well, me.
I have to fess up. I am the epitome of what I wanted to avoid with my own kids. I’m not crazy about vegetables. I’m hesitant to try anything new. When I was a kid, my mom would put bok choy on my plate and just the sight of it would give me dry heaves.
I will admit that I am a lot better than I used to be. And in my travels, I’ve sampled a lot of exotic fare — snake, turtles, pigeon, etc. I must also admit that my sampling of these foods could be measured in the number of molecules that brushed my lips and in the end, I didn’t enjoy any of them.
So, I should have known that I was setting myself up for a trap (as well as ridicule and humiliation) when Tyler suggested that we try a restaurant that Andrew Zimmerman visited that specialized in various preparations of … goat.
This wasn’t some far-flung restaurant in Asia we were going to. This was a local restaurant about 20 minutes from my home. When Tyler first made the suggestion, my internal filter automatically thought, “I’m not going to eat any goat. He can eat all the goat he wants — I’ll just order something else on the menu. Maybe they’ll have a cheeseburger for all of us non-goat eating customers that come in.”
As we sit down and peruse the menu, I quickly discover that my choices included shredded goat, braised goat, goat soup, goat tacos, goat salads, goat burgers, and goat burritos served with a side of goat.
In other words, I was going to have goat for lunch.
Still, I figured I’d be OK. It wasn’t anywhere near as revolting as some of the things I’ve been served in Asia. I would make it through this meal.
Until Tyler’s order arrived.
My son, who I pride myself in getting him to eat a variety of foods, did indeed order a goat dish — I mean, what other choice did he have? But this was different. He ordered a baked head of a goat. A big plate with a fully formed skull of a goat — and Tyler was practically drooling over it.
He started by scooping out the cheek, then pulled out the tongue and gobbled it up, then split the head open and started spooning mouth fulls of brain into his mouth. All the while, he was commenting on the experience.
“Umm …. the brains are so tender … munch … so, so good.”
I could feel a grumbling in the pit of my stomach. Next up, goat eyes.
He poked one of them out with his fork, and popped it in his mouth and started munching on them.
“These are my favorite! They’re so creamy! Dad, you want some?”
I knew he was going to ask.
What was I going to say? If I don’t try it, I would be the biggest hypocrite on the face of the earth. If I do try it, I’m afraid I’ll end up re-enacting a scene out of The Exorcist. On top of that, it was hard to respond to him what with all the dry heaving I was doing.
So, in the end, what did I do? I ended up eating three goat tacos. And as for the eyes? Well, knowing that a goat only has two eyes and Tyler had already eaten one of them…
“No, I’m full Tyler. Let Mama have the other one!” (end)
Wayne Chan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.