When Your Own Family Hates Your Cooking

February 3, 2014 | By | Comments (10)

bean-soup_300There is a new, sad little pattern that happens almost nightly in my household and it goes like this:

Me: “Time for dinner!”
Kids thunder down the stairs.
15-year-old: “What’s for dinner?”
Six-year-old: “What’s for dinner?”
Me: “Blah blah*
15-year-old: “Ugh.”
Six-yearold (whining): “I hate blah blah.
15-year-old: “Can I make myself an omelet?”
Six-year-old: “Me too?”
Me: Silent, head in hands, despairing. Another epic kitchen fail by Mom.

And what is for dinner? What is blah blahBlah blah could be: anything vegetarian; anything with kale; anything with cilantro; anything with spinach, swiss chard, arugula, zucchini, beets; anything without carbs; anything without cheese; anything without soy sauce.

I KNOW this is a cliché. I know! I realize sitcom episodes and book chapters and blog posts have been written about this for years, decades, maybe even centuries. I know this, and still I’m beginning to get a complex. You see, I think my kids just hate everything made by ME. They will eat any pot roast or baked fish with a weird sauce or even asparagus, for God’s sake, when they are at someone else’s house. I have witnessed it, and heard other parents marvel about what “good eaters” my sons are! But when it’s made by me…can I have an omelet?

Last night was the last straw. I made this fantastic vegetarian chili from Real Simple, which had no cilantro or spinach or kale or swiss chard. But, of course, it had no cheese or soy sauce. So…can I have an omelet?

When I was back in college and working on the school literary magazine with a bunch of other jaded, snarky undergrads who hated everything, I decided that, as a test, I would retype a short story by Alice Munro or Raymond Carver or John Updike and submit it, just to see how unworthy my fellow critics would say it was. I never got around to doing it, but it’s given me an idea. You probably know where I’m going with this.  And if you see me sneaking out of Smashburger tonight—well, just don’t tell my kids.

*not the name of an actual dish

If you (unlike my children) want to hear more from me, you can follow me
on Twitter @kvanogtrop.


  1. Janet

    I served mixed vegetables for years just so my 4 kids could pick out the vegey they liked each night. It will pass.

    February 3, 2014 at 8:29 pm
  2. Christine

    Your essay rings absolutely true in our house. My children though will not eat anything anywhere, though. They are basically carbohydrate–atarians. We used to worry about this. We used to think they would grow out of it. They are now 14 and 12 and there’s no sign of either one of them asking me for more fish and zucchini. Nor will they really even try more then a molecule of it. I have gradually come to accept that my children will grow up and leave my house without ever truly appreciating my healthy, nutritious cooking.

    February 3, 2014 at 9:10 pm
  3. 4k

    My mother would not allow it. We would go to bed with no food if we didn’t eat what she offered. We thought it was SO cruel. We were mildly afraid of starving and I remember sneaking crackers into a hiding place by my bed just in case I would ever need them. But we actually adjusted well to her rules, and we ate dinner every night with little or no complaint. She allowed each one of us to decline ONE ingredient. You could switch to something else, but not often, and you could not announce your switch last-minute at a mealtime. (For example, when one of my brother switched between mushrooms and eggplant, he still had to eat the mushrooms in that particular meal). We thought we had the strictest mom around. We were right, but we grew up the healthiest, most versatile eaters of anyone we know and all four of us are great cooks as well. Now I have many food allergies and diet restrictions, but it is not difficult for me to follow the diet I must for my health and still eat delicious gourmet meals. I have my strict mother to thank :-) What is the moral? Be strict! You may be afraid that they’ll hate you for it, and maybe they will think they do for a short time, but they will get over it and thank you in the long run for being a good mom who cares about them more than they care about themselves.

    February 4, 2014 at 12:41 am
  4. Amethyst Mahoney

    Sounds like your kids are not picky eaters, but in a power struggle with you. So let them make their own dinners for a while, as long as you approve what they make. An omelet now and then isn’t bad. Otherwise, you should just pack them off to the neighbors’ every night where they obviously eat.

    February 4, 2014 at 12:58 am
  5. TwilightReader

    My Mom’s rule when I was younger was that I had to eat it or starve. When I got older, if I genuinely didn’t like something (didn’t like broccoli until I was in my twenties, still hate cauliflower, cabbage, pork chops and a whole host of one dish meals like Curried Chicken, chili, stew, most soups, etc.) I either had to make do with what I will eat (mashed potatoes, rice, macaroni and cheese, pasta, corn, beans, salad, etc) or make myself a “good” replacement. I live alone now and I am an excellent cook, as far as my own tastes go and I am learning to cook more meals that I like, like slow cooker stewing beef in gravy and fried chicken, etc.

    February 4, 2014 at 1:26 am
  6. Kathy

    When I was a teenager, I invited my boyfriend over for supper. He took a bite of my mother’s hash with sage and said, “Is this stuff spoiled?” We’ve been married forty years now. And I never use sage.

    February 4, 2014 at 8:04 am
  7. Monica Greenwood

    That describes most nights at my house, too. Three nights ago, I made chicken parmesan, and offered the plain cutlets as an alternative. My 13-year old decided, two bites in, that he didn’t like either option, and announced a (new) restriction: he doesn’t like chicken off the bone (until now, I’m quite sure he didn’t like chicken ON the bone). Last night, he had a “delicious” meal at a friend’s house. What was it? Chicken cutlets. (Insert me hitting my head against the wall). You are not alone.

    February 4, 2014 at 10:04 am
  8. Jean Kinney

    Goodness, who is the parent? When I was a kid, one of 5, we ate what mom fixed and NO one complained. If we did, it was no supper. I grew up loving all food but okra and liver, which are admittedly not vital for survival. My two children were raised the same way; one eats everything, the other is a vegetarian, and HER son won’t touch vegetables, but he is on the university cross-country track team! So, I guess it doesn’t really matter what they eat, as long as you don’t mind preparing several meals, or let them fix their own. And they will grow up and leave home eventually, and you can go back to cooking what you want.

    February 8, 2014 at 9:25 pm
  9. Elizabeth

    My kids are a little younger than yours, but your story is very familiar to me. We have a rule that they have to at least TRY what I cooked before they claim not to like it. Then, if they still decide they don’t like it, they are welcome to have a piece of bread and butter. That’s it. Also, we are trying to teach them phrases like “I don’t care for that” and “no thank you” because I don’t expect them to like everything I cook, but I do expect them to have good manners. If your 15 year old knows how to make an omelet, then maybe he should be in charge of cooking dinner for your family one night a week. That would be a great way to give him some practice cooking and he’d be much more likely to eat what he spent time making! Good luck!

    February 9, 2014 at 2:18 pm
  10. maya

    I know … In my case its both husband and kids and in laws. Was just getting really really tired of having to bully everyone into finishing their meals .when i came across this.. Thanks .. Keep up the cheer … Don’t lose heart …,then it becomes even more difficult to cope with ….

    April 22, 2014 at 1:14 pm

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