1. No thank you portion.
2. Eat what you take.
3. Eat what’s offered or not at all.
I think all families and households have some rules about food and eating, these are the main ones I remember from growing up.
The “no thank you portion” was famous as it applied to everyone, if we had a tomato dish my sister had to put a mouthful of it on her plate even though she hated tomatoes, us girls had to put a bite of fish on our plates even though we despised them, I had to take a small serving of mushrooms even though the slime and texture grossed me out. We didn’t have to take a lot but we did have to take at least a mouthful and put it on our plates, which led to the second rule which was you could serve yourself but you had to eat whatever you took. Seconds were allowed, but if you greedily over served yourself the first go around you had to plow through and finish it, including your no thank you portions.
My first realization that not everyone had the third rule was when I went to a new friends for dinner, the mom had made a fish casserole for her and her husband, and then made macaroni and cheese for the kids which was hard enough for me to understand that there were two meals on offer and you weren’t required to eat what everyone was eating! Then my friend decided she didn’t want macaroni and got up and made herself a peanut butter sandwich! I was so blown away I didn’t even know what to do with myself!
Being trained the way I was I took, and quickly swallowed, a bite of the fish casserole and loaded my fill of macaroni without complaint. The idea that you could decide on something completely off menu of your own accord had never even crossed my mind, my mother would have had a conniption!
A single meal was all that was ever offered and we could eat that, we couldn’t even decide not to eat it if we didn’t want to as we had to take our no thank you portion no matter what.
I’ve since worked as a nanny and used these food rules myself, they might not be perfect but they do work at getting kids to try foods they don’t always like or tried once and decided to hate. They do cut down on crazy demands from each individual child and they do set boundaries for the dinner table that each kid can understand and expect.
The more I think about my childhood food rules the more I wonder about yours- what were the rules growing up for you? What did you expect from dinner time and it’s rituals?