Lessons In Paella
By Cheryl Hansen
I made paella for dinner tonight. I’ve never made it before and very nearly talked myself out of it. I just wasn’t in the mood to lecture my kids about trying new foods and then spending the rest of the evening sitting in the negative environment as they pulled yucky-faces while I held firm in my mean-mommy mode. Making memories, right?
I thought back to my childhood in Iowa. My mom never made paella, but we didn’t live on macaroni and cheese alone (she made hers with Velveeta). It was a meat-and-potatoes kind of menu with vegetables we grew in a garden (that she froze every summer for our winter meals). Mom made a lot of casseroles: tuna and noodles, hamburger pie, goulash. On occasional Fridays, we made those Chef Boyardee pizza kits and were allowed RC Cola while we watched “The Dukes of Hazard.” While it was not exactly a palate-pushing array of foods, it never occurred to me to complain (unless it was liver or lima beans). Once I grew up and expanded my own tastes, I figured I’d be one of those moms who’d expose my kids to all kinds of foods.
But that was before I had kids, of course. Like all new moms, I thought I’d hit the jackpot when my babies happily gobbled down pureed green beans and squash. Then came the toddler years when there were days that the only thing they’d eat was a stale Cheerio from under the couch. The end result has been a somewhat cautious approach to their meals. They prefer grilled cheese sandwiches, but will eat pea soup (for real). They crinkle their noses when I make salmon, but end up asking for seconds.
The truth is, they’re exactly like me. Healthy foods never sound good to me, but they always are once I bite the bullet and make them. And contrary to what I’ve told myself in the past, roasting brussels sprouts doesn’t take any longer than making pancakes. And my kids like brussels sprouts (maybe not as much as pancakes, but still).
Guess what else? They loved the paella. And so did I.