Today I received a copy of Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious–and with all due respect to Ms. Seinfeld and gratitude to the giver of this gift, its arrival has launched over the last 12 hours something of an ethical quandary.
The assumptions driving this cookbook, of course, are (1) kids like a finite number of dishes, (2) they don’t like vegetables, and (3) the only way to get some kids to eat vegetables is to slip them in surreptitiously to the foods they will eat–butternut squash in noodles, cauliflower in mozzarella sticks, chickpeas in chocolate chip cookies.
No one can argue the nutritional benefit of adding pureed spinach or carrots to foods you’re already eating; and if you can’t taste them, then what’s the harm?
The harm, I think, has to do with the deception. I don’t like surprises. I don’t like to be tricked. And as a former vegetarian, I would hate to think that someone along the way deceived me–perhaps telling me a soup was vegetarian when, in fact, it had been made with chicken broth, duping me into believing that a veggie burger I ordered was not prepared on the same grill as one made from beef.
And deception has no place in our home. As I consider what is being proposed in this book, I can’t help but conclude that at its core it is saying it’s okay to lie to people if it’s for their benefit. But is it? Eventually children will discover this culinary ruse, and it might lead them to wonder about what else they might have been deceived.
So, even though I would be positively giddy if my children chose to eat and willingly embraced gorgeous, fresh vegetables, I don’t think I have it in me to trick them into eating them. If I want them to eat broccoli, I’m not going to puree it and sneak it into their chicken nuggets. I’m going to put it on the plate next to their chicken nuggets–in plain sight–and let them decide if they’re going to eat it.
And I have to believe eventually they will.