Mr Potato Head

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Five a DayEvery week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenges writers to respond to a prompt with 99-word flash fiction. The prompts provide an opportunity to practice craft while having a little fun in a supportive writing community. Although participation is voluntary and never prescribed, the benefits to mind and spirit equal the benefits to physical health by the five-a-day servings of fruit and vegetables recommended by many health departments around the world.

 

This week, Charli challenged writers to in 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Five a Day. It does not have to be five servings of fruits and vegetables. What is needed five times a day? Have fun with what pops to mind for the prompt.

It’s a good thing Charli not only allows, but encourages, writers to “Go where the prompt leads”, as I’m not always satisfied with the obvious, literal interpretation. My mind jumps about like a rabbit in a vegetable patch, trying out different thoughts and ideas.

While Charli was talking about the five serves of fruit and vegetables as day for our physical health, I wondered about essentials for mental health that help us navigate each day.

sweet hearts

Mental health

How about a daily dose of these?

  • Self-worth – a sense of being valued, of having the right to occupy space in the world
  • Confidence – a willingness to approach tasks and face what life brings
  • Trust – an ability to trust others and feel safe in one’s environment
  • Empathy – making connections with others on a deep level
  • Compassion – giving and accepting kindness, contributing to a positive community and environment

What would you add?

I also wondered about the essentials for nurturing children’s growth and development. What would those five servings a day be?

girl child dancing

Children’s needs

First and foremost, children need to be loved and to have their physical needs met; for example food, water and warmth. They are givens.

Then to have their minds stimulated, every day, they need adults to:

  • Talk with them
  • Read to them
  • Sing songs with them
  • Play with them, and
  • Laugh with them.

What would you add?

world earth map

The world’s needs

And what about for the world, what do we all need?

  • Friendship
  • Understanding
  • Tolerance
  • Empathy
  • Peace

What would you add?

Why don’t children like vegetables?

But let’s get back to Charli’s five, and children. Sometimes getting children to eat their five serves of fruit and vegetables a day can be difficult. While fruit is often enjoyed, vegetables are frequently rejected. Researchers have investigated reasons for children’s refusal to eat vegetables and found these reasons (reported here and here):

  • Children burn lots of energy and need foods that are high in calories – vegetables aren’t.
  • Children are generally more sensitive to bitter tastes, which are often nature’s warning of toxicity.
  • Children have not yet learned through repeated taste tests and observations that vegetables are safe to eat.
  • Children associate vegetables with unpleasant situations (parental nagging) and associate other “treats” with more pleasant situations.

vegetables

How to get your children to eat vegetables

Suggestions include:

  • Reduce the natural bitterness by adding salt, sugar and other flavours
  • Serve small amounts of vegetables with other foods familiar to children
  • Present vegetables in different ways and repeated times
  • Avoid using food as reward or punishment and don’t nag

Of course, there are the old camouflage tricks – dress them up like a funny face – or play games like the “aeroplane” spoon trying to land food in the mouth.

What works for you?

Thanks Pixabay!

Thinking about the relevance of bitterness to toxicity and food refusal in children got me thinking about dementia patients who refuse food, believing it to be poisoned. I did a quick internet search (not very thorough) but could see only articles in which food refusal was linked to paranoia.

I wonder, with their changing realities and sensitivities, could they become more sensitive to certain tastes? Could taste contribute as much as the paranoia. Many would find it no easier to express than children. I’m certainly no expert, and it’s an uneducated thought, but it’s the thought that’s led me to my flash fiction response. I hope you enjoy it.

Mr Potato Head

Jamie’s head shook, and his bottom lip protruded as tears pooled.

Mum sighed.

“But you love Mr Potato Head,” coaxed Dad.

Jamie lowered his eyes and pushed the plate away. This was not Mr Potato – just a stupid face made from yukky stuff.

Dad moved it back. “Just a little try,” he urged. Mum watched.

Jamie refused.

Jamie visited at meal time. Mum was in tears. “He won’t eat anything.”

Jamie considered the unappetising mush. “Who would?” he thought, as he replaced the cover and opened dessert.

“May as well enjoy what you can,” he said. Dad smiled.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

38 thoughts on “Mr Potato Head

  1. Hugh's Views and News

    I remember always trying to hide the vegetables on my plate under the mashed potatoes, Norah. I don’t know what it was but I much rather eat a carrot raw, rather than when it had been cooked. It probably had something to do with my mother telling me that it was what Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer ate. She also hid the chocolate if I hid the vegetables. That worked as well.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Your Mum hid the chocolates! Sneaky. Did that encourage you to eat more vegetables? What happened when you’d eaten all your mashed potato? Or didn’t you? I guess your mum knew you weren’t eating them. Mum’s know these things. 🙂

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  2. Pingback: Five A Day « Carrot Ranch Literary Community

  3. dgkaye

    Great post Norah. Funny though, I remember when I was a kid, we hardly ever had a vegetable, other than corn or potato on the table. Nowadays I am seeing more little kids enjoying vegetables. I think it’s all in the approach, the way they’re introduced to them and making them tasty as you’ve noted above.
    Oh, and a word to add – compassion. 🙂 xx

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    1. Norah Post author

      Compassion – now there’s a good word to add. We can never have too much compassion. Thanks, Debby.
      When I was a kid we used to have mashed potatoes and possibly carrots and beans or peas. But I do remember Dad toasting corn in the fire of the wood stove and then covering it with lashings of butter – delicious! Dad was a farmer for a few years and grew most of our vegetables while I was growing up, so I guess I got to try lots. I always enjoyed them raw. 🙂

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  4. Charli Mills

    Well, you got us all thinking, Norah. I loved vegetables as a kid, my children loved vegetables, my husband grew up loving vegetables. So, I tried to figure out why we are the anomaly. You stated that one theory involves children needing a high caloric intake. A-ha! Butter. Traditional farm and ranch cooking involves copious amounts of butter. I saute, fry or add butter to veggies. There’s my tip — butter ’em up for eating!

    Your flash is a beautiful reflection of the boy as a man, though he still recognizes mush is mush. I didn’t realize taste changes with dementia. This is worth noting.

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    1. Norah Post author

      We used to have an ad for butter over here: “Butter makes it better”. It sure does. The butter versus margarine wars are still going on over here. I think butter’s winning again at the moment.
      Don’t take my word about taste change and dementia. It happened to my MIL and another elderly dementia friend. A google search seems to support that it is quite common, but I don’t know what the medical position is.

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  5. Kate

    Great take on the prompt! And your post included wonderful reminders of five things we could do every day to make our lives better. Well said. And the one item I can add to from personal experience is getting children to eat more vegetables. I remember Popeye was created to get kids to like spinach. There’s Tony the Tiger and Mr Potato Head. I imagine creating vegetable cartoon characters, particularly with superpowers might be a fun way to get kids to want to eat their greens. But you know, it isn’t always are kids who don’t like veggies. Some adults are ‘meat and potato’ kind of guys who are happy to avoid anything that has colour, unless of course it’s strawberry ice cream. Jessica Seinfeld wrote a cook book ‘Deceptively Delicious’ where the dishes are packed with hidden veggies that the kids can’t find. For example, she includes pureed cauliflower in mac and cheese. It’s a trick I used with my kids and hubby – and still use in our house. I often puree beets into my meat balls. Thanks Norah for another thought-provoking post. I like them!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hi, Kate. Thank you for adding richness to the post. You’ve filled it out in a healthy way. I’m not sure if Popeye ever got kids to eat spinach. I wonder. I don’t remember having spinach as a child, but do recall silver beet being very bitter. I love the new baby spinach leaves that are available to cook or eat fresh in salads. Jessica Seinfeld’s book sounds good. I’ve heard of a lot of “tricks” for hiding vegetables. It’s a good idea for making foods more nutritious. Vegetables are generally quite inexpensive compared to other things too so it’s good if you can get your children (and other folk) to eat them.
      When my son was young and didn’t like to eat vegetables, I wrote a story to encourage him to try. I can’t remember if it worked or not! 🙂

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  6. macjam47

    Getting my sons to eat veggies was a difficult task. I finally realized it was cooked vegetables they didn’t like, so I kept a store of prewashed and cut raw veggies in the refrigerator for them. I found I had to replenish it often. My oldest granddaughter will only eat raw vegetables and the baby is learning that gnawing on a raw carrot is better than pureed veggies.

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  7. Annecdotist

    Very thought-provoking post, Norah. Regarding what children need, I’d agree with these but I don’t think all children are loved necessarily, and I think the love gets expressed in the things in your list:
    • Talk with them
    • Read to them
    • Sing songs with them
    • Play with them, and
    • Laugh with them.

    As for getting the little darlings to eat vegetables, I’ve never had to do this, but I do have some ideas:
    • let them grow, or at least pick, their own veg to take pride in the production
    • pay attention to how they’re cooked (or raw is often tastier) – stir frying or better still roasting brings out the natural sweetness, or if boiling in a tiny amount of water so that there’s barely a teaspoon left in the pan when cooked – I defy anyone not to like brussels sprouts cooked this way
    • offer them a closed choice e.g. would you like peppers or sprouts or both?
    A clever flash and interesting speculations on changing tastes with dementia. I know that some of medications alter the way things taste so it could be a factor in triggering paranoia. If something tastes wrong but the person providing it denies it you might just wonder if they’re trying to poison you. One life stage I imagine most of us would rather miss out on.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your wonderful comment, Anne. Apologies for not replying sooner. I thought I had, but can’t see it here. I’ve had some distractions and it’s been a few days (too many) since I’ve been able to respond to comments.
      I agree that not all children are loved. It’s sad but true, and causes many problems throughout their lives.
      While you may never have had to follow your advice, it is good advice nonetheless. Over here, a lot of schools make veggie gardens. Children learn a lot from growing and then selling the vegetables. They are often used in the school canteen and, I believe, children are a lot more willing to try what they’ve grown themselves.
      Brussels sprouts is a favourite of my hub’s. He had them when he was growing up and associates them with Christmas. I didn’t have them and am not overly fond of them – particularly when they have the life boiled out of them as often happens. I agree that lightly cooked is preferable and have also enjoyed them roasted.
      A closed choice is good in many situations, not just with vegetables.
      Dementia is definitely one adventure I won’t be signing up for. I hope I don’t get conscripted. 🙂

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  8. D. Wallace Peach

    Great post, Norah. And I love your lists of all the wonderful things that children need to grow up happy and healthy. My grandson is a picky picky veggie eater. I have 4 strategies that seem to work pretty well. 1- he’ll eat it if he grows it (so he always gets to help in the garden). 2- we eat lots of “colors” instead of veggies. 3 – those fun presentations, 4 – I hide it in other food. 😀

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  9. Adele Marie

    Great story and I loved the facts you gave us. When Tara was little I did what we called the “Jewelled pizza”. Loads of peppers cut up small, yellow, green, red and orange. Red onion and mushrooms and cheese. She loved it because we said it was Princess food. Then she grew and the Princess turned into “No, don’t like it.” lol xxx

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  10. thecontentedcrafter

    You got my head whirling with your thoughts about why children don’t like vegetables Norah. I’ve got loads of questions and thoughts too and no real experience with the modern child any more. I would say don’t – please – don’t add sugar to veges to make them more palatable. I have often wondered, since my own children were little a million years ago – if we swapped the ‘treats’ with the veggies would that change anything? My kids didn’t eat commercial sweets until they were 5 years old and went out into the ‘real world then it was downhill from there 🙂 At least it gave their teeth a good start.

    I love your flash – life encapsulated in 99 words! The child becomes the parent – it happened for me yesterday when I forgot a word. My mind froze, my brain went blank, I searched and rifled through my memory banks and there was nothing, nada – blank, empty. My daughter offered me the noun and smiled sweetly when I grabbed it with thanks……. I’m hoping that doesn’t happen too often!! 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Yeah, I don’t know. I was just reporting what I read. I don’t think adding sugar to veges is a good idea. It sounds like most children will eventually come to like them. Most of us do, so why hurry them. Just like with reading, and anything else they have to learn. Give them time and exposure and let them decide. Forcing the issue is never good. My son ate anything. My daughter was fussy but I think she liked raw veges, like carrot, celery, tomato and cucumber. My grandchildren like raw vegetables too, including beans. You did well to keep sweets from your children before they started school. Most of us start off with the ambition to bring our children up with healthy habits. It can become more difficult as they socialise. I notice it happening now with G1 and G2.
      I forget words too, Pauline, but I find they come to me more easily through my fingertips than my mouth. It is frustrating when we can’t think of just the one we want. But you know, the older we get, the more we know, so it’s hard to find what we’re looking for with all that stuff in there. I’m sure you’re fine. Sometimes it’s more difficult for me when I’m stressed or tired. Look after yourself. Thanks for sharing. Your wisdom is always a treasure.

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  11. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    You brought back memories, not good ones. of the torture of vegetable ingestion. They just tasted awful! And all stuff I love today; tastes change. So do people, so I am glad that the boy in your story remembered and did not put the same torture on his dad. What’s the point?
    Once again, you have served up a tasty flash and as always, the whole entree` well done and in good taste. Good and good for ya, Norah.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I’m sorry I brought back memories of torture. For many of my generation, the vegetables themselves were tortured and had no life left in them when they were slapped onto the plate. Vegetables are much nicer when they are cooked correctly and served fresh.
      I didn’t know which way to go with my story at first – torture or compassion, but opted for compassion. That’s how we’d want to be treated.
      Thank you for your kind words, I’m pleased you enjoyed the post.

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I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

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