The Battle of Orange Food Begins

I have to confess that right about late September a strange obsession strikes me: Pumpkins. It has little to do with Halloween, actually. I simply love all the crazy colors and shapes and varieties of this vegetable. I also love the flavor.

Each year, like a crazed squirrel hording nuts for the long winter, I buy over two hundred pounds of fantastic and even bizarre winter squash plus sweet potatoes. What may sound crazier is that I really do plan on cooking them. All of them.

I probably don’t have to tell you what happened that first year when my toddler was able to express her taste preferences beyond spitting things back out at me. It’s the same scene all of us parents have seen at our dinner tables. I set the first of many planned orange vegetable recipes down in front of her and …


Up to this point, she had only used this word to describe bugs, bad smells, and anything related to the diaper pail contents. Sweet potatoes had been her favorite baby food. What was this new behavior?

“Why don’t you like it? Mommy worked so hard!” I asked. I can’t say I expected an answer. The kiddo only had a grasp of about 20 words at the time.

It was, very simply, the first food fight I had ever experienced as a parent. Over the next three years, we waged an epic campaign, my child and I, a conflict that I began to refer to as The Battle of Orange Food. I suffered some wounds and burns from slicing and cooking squash after squash. I attempted nearly fifty different orange food recipes, and prepared many of those several times each.

The biggest casualty of the battle was my own ego and attachment to the hard work and effort I put into each recipe. It’s not an easy thing to let go of your expectations. As Sun Tzu says in The Art of War, “If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Thus, the greatest win was my own understanding of my child’s food behaviors in these early years and learning more about my own behaviors, too. The learning experience that can be summed up in a few topics – each the subject of my next four posts:

  • Strategies for Countering Color Issues
  • Strategies for Countering Taste Issues
  • Strategies for Countering Texture Issues
  • It’s Not About You: How to Step Back and Just Enjoy Your Dinner


Published on: September 26, 2011
About the Author
Photo of Beth Bader

Beth Bader is the coauthor with Ali Benjamin of the acclaimed book, The Cleaner Plate Club, designed to help parents understand picky eating behaviors; where they originate, and how to deal with them creatively to get kids to eat better.

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