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Hi all--a question for those of you who are veg*n with children:

Do your kids follow the same diet you do? How old were they when you converted to veg*nism? Any problems getting them to share your diet?

I am concerned about my son, age 10. He has been an extremely picky eater since ever he was a baby--weaning him from breast milk at age 1 was a horrible ordeal, because he did not seem like any solid foods. Getting him to try new things was always very difficult. Over the years I read several books on children with picky eating habits and learned that some kids are just that way; a combination of personality and physiology (overactive taste buds, highly developed "gag reflex," etc.)makes enjoying many foods difficult for them. I have a lot of sympathy for my son, since I was a picky eater myself as a child. Once, when I was in first grade, the school principle was patrolling the cafeteria and saw how little of my school lunch I had eaten; he made me take a bite of cole slaw, and I promptly threw up all over his shiny brown wing-tipped shoes.

Since we became(lacto-)vegetarian four years ago, the problem with my son has gotten worse. It seems that all the foods he likes are unhealthy convenience foods and/or meat dishes (hamburgers, chicken, steak--all of which he gets at friends' houses). He is a gentle and compassionate boy who is well aware of the conditions in slaughterhouses and believes that he should not eat animals, but the alternatives all taste "disgusting" to him. We've tried all the veggie substitutes for these familiar foods, and they usually send him running for the bathroom with a hand over his mouth. As for vegetables, the only ones he eats (and he doesn't really like them) are corn, peas, and sometimes broccoli, and salad made with just lettuce and carrots. His attitude is very apologetic; I think he is truly miserable about it. But at 10 years old, he lacks the willpower to conquer his sqeamishness--or more accurately revulsion--for the texture and taste of most of the food we eat. I end up cooking him some pathetic meal (I mean like a bowl of noodles or a microwave cheese pizza) while my husband and I are enjoying whatever sumptuous vegetarian dish I have prepared that day (and I do love to cook, and am good at it). It makes me feel like such a rotten mother, I can tell you. Thanksgiving is the absolute worst; since there's no turkey, the only things he'll eat are rolls and his stupid lettuce-and-carrot salad.

What to do? I won't force him to eat foods that repel him, although I do cajole, bribe, and threaten. I have thought about taking bribery to a new level by starting a "bank" and putting in a quarter every time he takes a bite of something new, but something about that feels wrong to me. Meanwhile, I try to think of healthy things to make based on his limited preferences. Things that have worked:

--smoothies made with yogurt, frozen fruit, "secret" bananas and "secret" tofu

--tacos made with Yves "just like ground" (he HATES beans, perhaps more than anything else except tofu)

--boca burgers (sometimes these taste okay to him, sometimes not)

--basic rice pilaf, if it doesn't have any "weird" stuff in it

--whole wheat bread, plain--no lentil spread or hummus

--cream of potato soup, pureed so no veggies are visible


Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I should handle this, while preserving the good relationship my son and I have? As I said before, I won't (and in fact can't) "make" him eat anything, and I hope not to set up a bitter struggle that will cause him to reject veg*nism (and his parents!) completely the second he turns 18. . . .


Thanks so much for listening,
RW

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Do you think he would be interested in cooking (assembling) for himself? It might reduce the "ick" factor if he has some control over what goes into the meal (for which you provide the ingredients, of course--limiting the fatty/junky stuff like cheese.)

I know when I was a kid, I didn't want to eat most vegetables. Then, my family grew some things like zucchini and beans, and I started participating in gardening. Somehow, seeing the veggies grow made them more palatable. Of course, I didn't want to eat most canned veggies after having them fresh. Good luck!

-Heather

Still not too keen on canned peas
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RenaissanceWoman, (great name, btw!)

I have no kids, no good ideas, or anything else helpful, but I just want to say you sound like a wonderful mom dealing with a 'picky eater.'

There was a bit of a tangent on an LBYM thread some days ago, but I want to say how difficult it is for you not to use undue force on your child amidst the obvious difficulty to ensure he's nourished and fed despite it. My own parents used forcefeeding in our family growing up. Let's just say it wasn't pleasant then and as an adult now, I often find myself tremendously conflicted about whether they ever really cared about my good nutrition (and think of all those 'starving children' in whereever), or if it was one of the earliest manifestations of their need to control. No, not all forcefeeding situations will result in some type of complex (heh), but I'm aware a balance must be made between your needs and his preferences; it would be unreasonable that only one of these issues are met adequately. Thank you for your determination to be a good parent while balancing your son's individual needs and preferences. Being a good parent is rarely easy, often guilt-laden.

Btw, the only think I could imagine is maybe discussing this with a professional who might be familiar with eating battles, such as your pediatrician or a dietician that specializes in dealing with pediatric nutrition.

Best wishes and good luck, DollarIQ.
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What a good mom for at least trying!!!

I don't have any kids myself, so I only speak from observation and no actual experience--other than having been a kid (in the distant past.....).

First of all, it sounds like he is still getting better nutrition than most kids his age. So many of my friends have kids who refuse to eat anything but chicken nuggets and french fries, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or grilled cheese. The fact that he will at least eat a lettuce salad is, I think, fantastic!

I think if I had a kid like this, I would just try to make sure to at least have something on hand that he will eat. Maybe getting him involved in actually cooking food might make him more interested in eating it, too. I know when I was a kid I thought I didn't like certain things, but when I actually helped my mom prepare food, even if I thought I didn't like it, being involved in the prep work piqued my interest to try stuff and sometimes I even ended up liking it! (Now I like everything!).

Plus, we had a rule in our house that you had to at least try one bite of everything my mom cooked (except when she cooked liver for my dad--we were all exempt from the "one bite rule"--thank God!). If we at least ate a bite, we were welcome to eat whatever was on the table in whatever quantities. (IE, if we just wanted to eat mashed potatoes, after trying one bite of everything else, it was OK).

I think it's great you don't force him to eat anything. You're right, he's more likely to go the other way if you do. And if he eats some meat at school or a friend's house--well, I guess everyone, even a 10 year old, should be allowed to make some of his own decisions. If he eats some of that stuff now (not in your house, of course), he may eventually come to appreciate your vegetarian values and meals more because he has something to compare it to.

He's not dying of starvation, and he is still getting, like I said, probably better nutrition than most of his peers who eat nothing but junk food.

My brother was the pickiest eater in the whole world. We weren't raised veg, but we always had lots of veggies. One week he hated green beans, the next week it was peas, and it seemed like he hated whatever was on the table. But for about 2 years, his favorite snack was a ketchup sandwich. Go figure! But he grew up (fairly!) normal, and now he eats everything.

Good luck.

Janet
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Thank you soooo much for being supportive, heather and DollarIQ and Janet (and anyone else who might respond later). I thought everyone was going to tell me my kid is a spoiled brat and needs discipline (I've been hanging out at the LBYM board too much, heh). In fact his behavior is exemplary (straight-A student, good citizenship awards, not greedy for toys, etc.). The food thing is not exactly a behavior problem; it's more of a psychological (and perhaps partly physiological) issue that we have to accept and deal with.

DollarIQ, I'm sorry to hear about your negative experiences growing up. What do you mean by force-feeding? I tried to imagine what it would entail, and had a vision of my husband holding our child down while I stuff tofu in his mouth. . .how else could you "force" a kid to eat? I can't think of anything, short of corporal punishment, that would make my son eat beans. And even then I'm sure he would gag and vomit involuntarily.

Janet, I'll definitely try getting him involved in cooking more. Unfortunately then he will see me putting tofu in his smoothies, but he should know the truth anyway. The "one-bite" rule is also an excellent one; I always ask my son to take at least one bite of whatever the adults are eating, and he usually does, because he really wants to please us. I suspect that he is is holding his breath and not tasting the food, however.

I don't like him eating meat at friends' houses and school, but you're right, I can't control his choices completely. What makes it difficult is that we are veg for ethical reasons; I like to eat healthy food, but that's a completely separate and less important issue (if I found out tomorrow that a vegetarian diet was going to kill me, I would still refuse to eat animals). At the same time I don't want my son to lie to us or conceal the fact that he eats meat occasionally. So I have to hope he will come to the right decision on his own, when his reason and willpower are better developed. I myself wanted to become a vegetarian in my teens, but my commitment did not become firm until many years later. It's very hard to buck cultural norms when you're young.

Thanks again,
RW
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The fact that he will at least eat a lettuce salad is, I think, fantastic!

It wasn't until I was pretty much out of college that salads started to look good to me. My Mom always served a little salad of iceberg lettuce and chipped carrot, but it never tasted like anything unless I drowned it in dressing.

It's a good idea to try and get him involved with preparing his meals, but also keep in mind this is a 10-yr old boy with a 10 yr old's interests (baseball, horsing around). I know I never had any patience for preparing food with Mom. I wouldn't expect him to.

And oh yeah, we 2 kids were exempted from the "taste it" rule when it came to liver.

A lot of times it's an ordeal to just get kids to eat something, and that's not even getting into whether it's the kind of food you want him to have. I think it's great you're not forcing him to go veggie. If he wants to when he's older, he will. I remember it wasnt' until I was 23 that I'd eat broccoli. And the dish that made me a believer is one of those made with all raw broccoli, raisins, nuts, red onion and bound with some mayo. I couldn't stop eating the stuff. Yum.

My point is, my palatte didn't even really develop until I was well into my 20's. I love to cook now, and I'll even cook food for other people that I wouldn't eat myself (seafood, for example). The kid probably needs time to make his decision. As long as you explain why Mom and Dad eat they way they do, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't totally reject the idea as he ages.

Of course, he's 10. 10-year-olds do a LOT of rejecting.

Susan
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It *sounds* like this may not be an issue, but I'll throw it out: is it possible that your son may have some unidentified food allergies? Though were that the case, he'd be allergic to stealth tofu, too...

If that's NOT an issue, it may well be, as you noted in your original post, that he may have a particularly sensitive sense of taste. I read somewhere that something like 10% of the human population can be classified as "supertasters," that is, people who have particular sensitivity to bitter and salty tastes. On the other hand, if he likes junk food... : )

Perhaps it's possible that some of his pickiness is a reaction to outside influences, his peers who think vegetarianism is "weird"? As you said, it's hard to buck the norms when you're young.

Just some thoughts. Good luck with your son. Hopefully he'll grow out of it. FWIW, my younger brother was also a very picky kid, and when I became a vegetarian at age 16 (he was 12) he absolutely refused to eat anything I cooked that had tofu or other soy products in it-- it was "weird." Anyway... I fixed him good. I made a lasagna for dinner one night that had a filling of spinach and tofu, with a white sauce (made from cow's milk)layered with tomato sauce and noodles. Could my brother tell the difference between the tofu and the ricotta cheese I told him it was? Nope. He loved it. Ate many servings. I think I told him the truth when he was in college, by which time he'd become a semi-vegetarian neo-hippie anyway.
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Could my brother tell the difference between the tofu and the ricotta cheese I told him it was? Nope. He loved it. Ate many servings. I think I told him the truth when he was in college, by which time he'd become a semi-vegetarian neo-hippie anyway.

Heh, heh, that is great. *snicker*
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The food thing is not exactly a behavior problem; it's more of a psychological (and perhaps partly physiological) issue that we have to accept and deal with.

RenaissanceWoman, true... I'm sure there are at least psychological reasons and there's even a strong possibility there might be a physiological basis as well. Does anybody out there remember the research from more than a year ago about why some people might not like broccoli, or other foods? Some people have a higher sensitivity to certain types of 'bitter' or textual flavors that not everybody has - it was great news for people who've long tried to suffer with what they couldn't tolerate. The basis was not only 'bitter' but also 'sweet' and other things; the research studied people with chronic sweet tooth (teeth?), aversions to broccoli or other specific foods. Texture and other issues were also included in the research, but I could only remember the thing about 'bitter' and 'sweet.' They discovered some type of detectable thing about different people having different sensitivites. Also, I think there was also something about some children having heightened sensitivites to food. I'm sorry I can't remember specifics!

DollarIQ, I'm sorry to hear about your negative experiences growing up. What do you mean by force-feeding? I tried to imagine what it would entail, and had a vision of my husband holding our child down while I stuff tofu in his mouth. . .how else could you "force" a kid to eat? I can't think of anything, short of corporal punishment, that would make my son eat beans. And even then I'm sure he would gag and vomit involuntarily.

Thanks for the expression of support; the fact that you can empathize with your own child, and even me, shows you're a very concerned individual. RenaissanceWoman, I hope you realize how valued that is in general, though often there is not material recognition for being caring. To answer your question, I'll spare the readers the details, but you have the answer in your inquiry: "corporal punishment."

Unfortunately then he will see me putting tofu in his smoothies, but he should know the truth anyway.

Heh... the struggle between trying to sneak it in to nourish him unknown to himself, or actually having him make a conscious effort to accept it and develop an honest appreciation or personal judgement of it, heh.

I don't like him eating meat at friends' houses and school, but you're right, I can't control his choices completely. ... At the same time I don't want my son to lie to us or conceal the fact that he eats meat occasionally. So I have to hope he will come to the right decision on his own, when his reason and willpower are better developed. I myself wanted to become a vegetarian in my teens, but my commitment did not become firm until many years later. It's very hard to buck cultural norms when you're young.

I think you are doing the best possible, in terms of the sociological aspects of eating styles. You would like him to follow a certain ideal, but the real world out there isn't as particular. All you can do is show him what you prefer, how, and why. When he grows up and starts to make decisions about himself, he'll have the foundation you provided for him. If anything, I hope he'll learn to respect diversity and differences in opinion, even though he follows his own preferences.

Also, I think the world is way too hard unproductively so; respecting individual choices and preferences is something the world at large has difficulty with. Demanding conformity is easier, in the short term, than learning to accept change and and adapting to unfamiliar ways and beings.

Enough for now... sorry, my work (boss) beckons,
DollarIQ
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It *sounds* like this may not be an issue, but I'll throw it out: is it possible that your son may have some unidentified food allergies? Though were that the case, he'd be allergic to stealth tofu, too...

Doh, I forgot about that! Be aware that allergies can develop where there were none before, or much milder.

Also, be aware of food intolerances (which are NOT the same as allergies), not limited to things like lactose intolerance (dairy intolerance is well known, often developing or worsening as people age), fructose sensitivies, or celiac sprue, among others. I don't know of more, but consider if there are food allergies or intolerances.

Running again, DollarIQ.
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I'm sure there are at least psychological reasons and there's even a strong possibility there might be a physiological basis as well. Does anybody out there remember the research from more than a year ago about why some people might not like broccoli, or other foods? Some people have a higher sensitivity to certain types of 'bitter' or textual flavors that not everybody has

Super-Tasters and Non-Tasters
http://www-instruct.nmu.edu/hper/mmowafy/HN455/students/shjohnso/supertaster.htm

frames version of above, if your browser supports frames. Slide 2 has a good diagram of taste areas of the tongue.
http://www-instruct.nmu.edu/hper/mmowafy/HN455/students/shjohnso/Supertast_files/frame.htm

Matters of Taste
http://www.medicinecabinet.co.uk/healthyeating_arch/v11i1_healthyeating.htm


Laura
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Laura, I can't say it enough: you're a genius! :)

How do you always know what I mean when I don't even know what I'm saying? LOL! The more I ask, the more I find out you know, heh.

Thank you much for the references and linked info.

DollarIQ
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Laura, I can't say it enough: you're a genius! :) How do you always know what I mean when I don't even know what I'm saying? LOL! The more I ask, the more I find out you know, heh.

Well, there links I posted on the LBYM board when the debate over the "best" tasting vodka/coffee/wine for the buck. Seemed kind of silly when someone who had an overdeveloped sense of taste was trying to claim something was "best" when speaking to someone who might be a non-taster.

Laura
boarding on super-taster, married to a non-taster ;)

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Some people have a higher sensitivity to certain types of 'bitter' or textual flavors that not everybody has - it was great news for people who've long tried to suffer with what they couldn't tolerate. The basis was not only 'bitter' but also 'sweet' and other things; the research studied people with chronic sweet tooth (teeth?), aversions to broccoli or other specific foods.


This is the reason why I can't stand mushrooms. Maybe it was because my mom tried to make me eat canned mushrooms when I was young, but there's nothing redeeming about them. Can't stand the way the smell, taste, or feel while chewing or going down. I've tried to find really good mushroom recipes in the hopes that, like broccoli, I'll stumble across one that just makes the food likable to me. No such luck so far.

I was a very picky eater when I was little, too.

Susan
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Wow, Laura, thank you for posting the links. What a sweet thing to do (even if my taste buds are messed up, I know sweet when I come across it!)

RW
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I, too, have a picky eater (in fact, a 10-year-old boy who is also horrified at slaughter conditions and who won't eat at McDonald's because of the McCruelty site).

The rest of my family are not vegies, although they eat a lot of vegie food because I'm the main cook in the household. I'll often do a meat side-dish, with the major part of the meal being vegie stuff. He won't eat ANYTHING green (to the extent that he once picked all the oregano off his pizza before he'd eat it). His tastes tend to run toward hot dogs, ramen noodles and macaroni & cheese.

I have never believed in forcing children to eat anything. We have a rule, though, called the "No Thank You" helping. The kids have to take at least a little spoonful of everything, and try it. They're welcome to have more if they end up liking the food. I always make sure to offer SOMETHING the kids will eat -- usually breadsticks, corn, or something like that. His gustatory horizons have opened up a little bit using this system. But not much.

I've decided that I'm just not going to worry about it. It's not a power struggle, and I have to respect his preferences. He's growing, basically healthy, and doesn't seem to be starving.

That's how I handle the picky eater in my family.

It sounds like you're doing what you can do!
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Renaissancewoman,

My nephew (now 24) has been the same way as your son since about birth. I've never seen anything like it -- *no* mayonnaise, salad dressings, bread with peanut butter (plain peanut butter on a spoon is perfect, though -- started as a young child), and all kinds of other strong, quirky rejections since early childhood. Because of sinus allergies, he has long given up dairy, which I can go along with.

He chose to go vegetarian as a young adult and loves green beans and broccoli, soymilk, and Boca Burgers. Vegetarianism agrees with him, but he still seems to reject most things. I saw him eat a bit of split pea soup the other week and was surprised. He also picked over some scrumptious pasta with great "homemade" sauce in a restaurant with a group of us the other month -- ended up eating mostly some of a side dish of steamed broccoli.

Like you, I'm finally seeing that this is probably biological and that he physically can't tolerate most of what we take for granted. Was interesting reading your note and will look into ways to help out. Just had to share this, though, because it was so strikingly similar to my nephew.

He's over 6' tall and is relatively healthy, so there may be nothing to worry about. In fact, he's a third-year med-school student.

G.
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Hi all--a question for those of you who are veg*n with children



What's up with the * in vegan??
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What's up with the * in vegan??


It can mean either veg(etaria)n or veg(a)n.
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What's up with the * in vegan??


It can mean either veg(etaria)n or veg(a)n.


Ahhh! Thanks :-)
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RW:

First, I'd like to say this is my very first post to the V&V board, and it is a great board (mostly nonjudgmental, very friendly...way cool).

I have two special needs children, a 4-year-old boy with autism and a 2-year-old girl with PDD (sort of autism lite, for lack of a better description). They have completely different eating styles. If left to his own devices, my son would live on chicken, hot dogs, steak... pure meat, in other words. The only raw veggie I can get him to eat is celery. My daughter seems to be a born vegetarian, but a very picky one. Both of them are very sensitive to texture, and cannot stand having something feel too odd. I don't eat beef and go completely meatless at least three times a week, but I could eat fish fourteen times a week with no problem. My husband is a meat-and-potatoes man with a serious aversion to tofu.

The first thing I have to say about food is this: DON'T SWEAT IT. Seriously! If your son likes meat on occasion, the worse thing you could do is deny him completely. I know because an aunt of mine who is an unpleasantly radical vegetarian has grown children who bypass the produce section and have freezers full of prime steaks. One of my cousins said that having his mother pass judgment on others just because of their diet of choice was enough to make him want meat that much more.

So, back to my family. I have found some dishes that everybody enjoys.

* Rattatoule (I think that's the way it's spelled). The veggies are cooked, but not overcooked. I use a nice vegetable broth with a touch of burgundy and make sure the onions are finely chopped (texture, again), then top it with cheese.

* Vegatable soup with ditalini, the little macaroni-like noodles. In both of these dishes I have to use tomato sauce and paste because the kids gag on cooked tomatoes.

* Grilled cheese sandwiches.

* Spaghetti with mushroom sauce. The children pick the mushrooms out and feed them to the cat, but they eat the pasta and sauce.

* Celery stalks with peanut butter and raisins.

* Peperidge Farm goldfish dipped in hummus.

I hope this helps.

Uhura :o)
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They have completely different eating styles. If left to his own devices, my son would live on chicken, hot dogs, steak... pure meat, in other words. The only raw veggie I can get him to eat is celery. My daughter seems to be a born vegetarian, but a very picky one[. . . .]My husband is a meat-and-potatoes man with a serious aversion to tofu.

Thanks for the reply, Uhura! I admire the way you successfully juggle everyone's very different eating preferences.

an aunt of mine who is an unpleasantly radical vegetarian has grown children who bypass the produce section and have freezers full of prime steaks.

Nooooooo! Please don't let this happen to me! I swear I will be less radical! I promise to stop using the laminated pictures of dangling cow carcasses as placemats! I will even remove the graphic photos of slaughtered pigs from the refrigerator door! ;)

By the way, I have printed out all the wonderful replies to my original post and shared some of them with my son. He felt relieved to know that his pickiness is not unusual, and also inspired to try harder to like more foods. On Friday night he ate some of the filling from the stuffed peppers we had and declared it "okay," and last night he asked me to put crumbled soy sausage in his spaghetti sauce (normally I make plain sauce and set aside a portion for him before I add soy sausage, mushrooms, etc.). I am so proud of him! :)

So once again, thanks to everyone; it looks like you may have helped to change our lives.

RW



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By the way, I have printed out all the wonderful replies to my original post and shared some of them with my son. He felt relieved to know that his pickiness is not unusual, and also inspired to try harder to like more foods. On Friday night he ate some of the filling from the stuffed peppers we had and declared it "okay," and last night he asked me to put crumbled soy sausage in his spaghetti sauce (normally I make plain sauce and set aside a portion for him before I add soy sausage, mushrooms, etc.). I am so proud of him! :)

What a good idea, RW! Let him know too that tastes can change over time. I used to hate broccoli, mushrooms, shrimp, lima beans, garbanzo beans, pea soup and several other things when I was around twelve. After I was eighteen, I discovered I liked a lot of the things I thought I used to hate.

I'm still not crazy about lima beans, although I like them a lot more than I did as a kid and there are several Portuguese lima bean dishes that are actually edible ;). I do like all of the rest now. I stayed open-minded enough thru the years to keep trying things periodically that I knew I might not like just to see if I still felt the same way about them. Staying willing to try things once in a while lets you discover lots of wonderful ethnic cuisine too. When we travel, I know I might not like everything, but if I keep trying new stuff, I'll surely find something wonderful that I wouldn't have known about otherwise.

Hope that perspective helps a little,
Laura
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Get a simple vegetarian cookbook, take him shopping with you with his own limited $ for ingredients he might like to try, and let him learn (under supervision) to cook.
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