Veggies in Disguise

Fun With Veggies

No two ways about it, when dealing with the young of the species, cupcakes are an easier sell than cauliflower. The drill-sergeant approach has been known to work, but browbeating a child into choking back vegetables does not a fun dinner table make. Far better to focus your creative energies in service of the reluctant palate.

Think in Matchsticks
Nothing's worse for kids than trying to choke down a giant, gaggy mouthful of something they're pretty sure was put on Earth to poison and prevent them from making it to dessert. A teeny sliver of raw carrot or sweet potato can be a less-than-intimidating nibble, especially if served on a doll-sized plate.

Save Earth From Alien Invaders
This tactic might not hold much currency with the fairy princess demographic, but most aspiring star commanders will happily play along, wolfing down half a head of steamed broccoli, if that's what it takes to subdue the invading "alien" hordes. A background in improvisational comedy will come in handy here.

Sweeten the Deal
Orange vegetables are always good candidates for a spoonful of brown sugar or a drizzle of maple syrup.

Span the Globe
A 40-year-old acquaintance recently relinquished his lifelong grudge against eggplant, after ingesting an accidental mouthful of the stuff during a family-style dinner in Chinatown. It turns out he just wasn't a fan of his mother's attempts at eggplant Parmesan.

Fly Below the Radar
If you've got a blender, you've got clearance to sneak some vegetable puree into everything from pancake mix to homemade muffin batter. You decide when, if ever, to declassify such covert operations.

Don't Bother Defrosting
Corn and peas can be served straight from the freezer, if that's the way your kid likes them. (Research shows most youngsters do like them that way, especially if Grandma's an easily shocked traditionalist.) "Ice peas" could displace raisins as nature's most kid-friendly snack!

Indulge Their Mania to Help
Did you know that anyone who wants to help in the kitchen is honor-bound to sample a heaping portion of anything he or she had a hand in cooking? Shocking, but true.

Study the Kiddie Menu
You don't have to work in a diner to arrange food in novelty shapes pleasing to the childish mind. Why make Mickey Mouse's ears from pancakes when cross-sectioned cucumbers are every bit as round and immeasurably higher in Vitamin A? Look to Betty Crocker's classic "Boys and Girls Cookbook" for inspiration.

Go Easy on 'Em
And while you're at it, go easy on yourself, too. Some days patience and empathy count for much more than a bite of squash.

About the Author:
Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the award-winning zine, The East Village Inky, and the author of four self-mocking autobiographies, including "The Big Rumpus" and "Dirty Sugar Cookies: Culinary Observations, Questionable Taste."

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