The Hatch-Palucks, Week 17: Table Talk

Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge

cookbook amy hatch picture

All these cookbooks, and I still can't cook. Credit: Amy Hatch

Walking the long road to change -- which is, by the way, the longest road in the history of roads -- it's so easy to feel like we're traveling solo.

We might not be able to see the other travelers, but they're there, hustling along the best they can, hoping to arrive safely.

That's what I found out when I wrote about Emmie's food phobia. So many people left comments and contacted me, letting me know they, too, had dealt with similar fears or had watched their children struggle.

It was good to hear. There's power in numbers.

I had the same feeling on Friday, when Channing and I met with our team at the Family Resiliency Center at the University of Illinois. The super-smart trio of Dr. Sharon Donovan, Dr. Barbara Fiese and Brenda Davis Koester sat down with us to catch up on how things have been going since our first meeting with them in late November.

I pointed out that we'd put all of their suggestions to good use while traveling. I thanked Donovan for her rule of thumb about variety -- that it drives consumption -- and cut back on how many kinds of snack options I have in the house.

But before we could talk too much about moving forward, they wanted to talk about Emmie.

Donovan asked if we'd seen any improvement, and both Channing and I confessed that we didn't feel like we had. Emmie has added a new food -- homemade white bread, which I've been baking once a week, and she loves it -- but we wish it wasn't another carb.

My chagrin disappeared when Donovan suggested that we take any kind of progress as a positive sign.

"While I certainly commend you for wanting her new foods to be high in nutritional value, I think we have to take any acceptance of something new as progress," Donovan said gently. A parent herself, her empathy is palpable when we talk about our daughter's eating issues.

Fiese is also sympathetic, and validated our concerns about the loop that Emmie seems to be stuck in. She's rejecting foods that we can normally count on her to consume, like macaroni and cheese and chicken patties.

Fiese said she knows of some research being conducted in Chicago that might help Emmie. She offered to open that door for us.

After we shared our update about Emmie, the conversation quickly turned to my frustration with not feeling competent in the kitchen.

Channing and I often butt heads over food, and he took the opportunity to share his feelings about what happens when I try a new recipe -- and it fails.

"You're so hyper-sensitive about the food you make," he said.

Our team laughed, and Donovan broke any marital tension there might have been in the air by commenting that she felt "like a counselor."

My husband is right, though -- I take it personally when the food I prepare goes uneaten or is criticized. It's getting to the point where I hate to cook and dinnertime is stressful. I recently tried a new baked chicken recipe and it went over like, well, a dead chicken. It wasn't my fault that the meat was gamey or that the recipe wasn't successful, but I took it personally.

As we talked, Donovan noticed that we use negative words in regard to food -- words like "gross," "yucky" and "terrible."

"Is Emmie at the table when you talk like this?" she asked. "Because if she is, right off the bat you're telling her that the food doesn't taste good."

So why, she added, should she want to taste it?

It was like a lightbulb exploded over my head.

Why, indeed.

We also talked about how Channing and I want to add more plant-based foods to our diet, and how we want to eat less in general. The team offered some great tips -- leave the serving dishes on the stove so we aren't tempted to take seconds, serve the food on smaller plates.

And then they surprised us with an offer too good to refuse.

They're going to teach us both how to cook, and they're even going to invite some other members of our community -- busy parents, just like us -- to join the lesson.

We're not ready to share what the plans are just yet; some of the details still need to be worked out.

But I have a feeling it's going to make a very big difference in our table talk.

Who's the rest of the competition? Check out all the challengers' latest updates here.

How is the Hatch-Paluck family doing? Check in on their progress!

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.