When it comes to dinner, I’m really a fan of mom or dad making one meal for everyone to sit down to. Like many parents, I fell into doing exactly the opposite pretty early on. I spent some time and effort shifting that dynamic and got it in the range of “there is at least one thing that is the same on all the plates.” Feh.
Somewhere along the way, Crazy Plates got invented. What we’re doing now is probably going to bite me in the ass someday, but it is working extremely well at the moment, and I’m not (yet) complaining.
I think it started with me occasionally doing what I called “Mandala Meals” for me and hubby, which were essentially tapas-type foods arranged in beautiful patterns on a plate. I loved mixing the colors and textures into something fun to prepare (and I am soooo not a cook!). Like a mandala, I knew I was creating something that would be destroyed soon enough. Get present with this moment, right? Right.
One night when we’d been in a rut around (not) keeping our four-and-a-half year old, Kylin, at the table and fighting over what he would and wouldn’t eat, I tried to ramp up his excitement for the meal by creating what I randomly called a Crazy Plate. It’s just painting with foods, really.
Sometimes it’s a visual pattern — concentric circles of edamame, blueberries, cornbread and cheese. Sometimes it’s a number pattern — five strawberries, four piles of lima beans, three hunks of feta, two carrots dipped in hummus, one piece of toast. Sometimes it’s everything arranged in triangles.
Lately, it’s been scenes. In one, we’ve got a tree made of turkey bacon, pepperoni and lima beans, clouds of banana slices, a fence of cheerios, a cheddar cheese moon. He’s come to expect these plates, and therein lies what I except will be a problem later on. For now? He eats ten times better than he used to.
There are a whole host of pros: I am able to include decent variety of textures and food groups, it’s mostly whole, uncooked foods, a variety of colors is necessary to a good scene/design, and he’s genuinely curious to see what the plate looks like each evening. He’s not demanding this set-up at school or friends’ homes (as far as I know). He knows he’s got to eat every bite to get his choice of dessert. One day, I’m hoping we can set some ingredients in front of him and let him create his own.
It’s also tiny but fun creative outlet for me. As a music therapist, I was required (or… ok, fine, required myself) to come up with unique and creative lesson plans each week for 20 different classrooms for 15 years. That got to be a pain times three. I actually look forward to coming up with each plate, and I’m not afraid of running out of ideas. I trust there is always another way to combine avocado with swiss cheese on a plate that is, if not thrilling, at least edible