Thursday, April 1, 2010

Treat-Hugging Dessert Worshiper

I will openly - if not exactly gladly - admit to creating some less-than-desirable traits in my son. His fondness for certain annoying turns of phrase? My fault. His paci-attachment? I started it. But I will not be held responsible for this one:

The only thing Westley will eat without argument is dessert.

Last week, while Rob tucked in to sweet-potato-and-lentil stew and I munched on brown rice and veggies wrapped in seaweed, Westley had a cupcake for lunch. It was a mostly-organic, all-vegan carrot cupcake, sure. But still a cupcake.

Ice cream sandwich with for dinner.

I'm not about to delude myself and argue that because the ice cream sandwiches and cookies of which Westley has suddenly become so fond are vegan that that's somehow better. I truly believe that a plant-based diet is the way to go, health-wise. But, animal-free or not, sugar and flour and fat are still sugar and flour and fat.

Now, it's true that I bought Westley that particular cupcake. But it was an experimental cupcake. Typically, when he gets a treat, Westley gobbles it up on the spot, sometimes before it's paid for. I wanted to see if I could slowly wean him away from this sugary speed-eating. On a weekday when Westley and I were going to have lunch with Rob, I told Westley he could pick out a treat "to eat at Daddy's work." He chose a cupcake, and it was no small miracle that it made it to lunchtime in one piece.

Even though I'm something of an enabler, I still claim innocence on the dessert-worshipping-toddler issue. Because I'm not the one who introduced Westley to sweets in the first place. I'm still not entirely sure who did. It was probably my mother, who treats vegan ice cream like a pantry staple. But Rob is also a prime suspect, based solely on my observation that every single one of his teeth is a sweet tooth. (Along with the cupcake, Westley picked out a cinnamon-oatmeal cookie to give to Daddy.) Regardless, dessert was something I was in no hurry to bring into my son's life.

I don't "do" dessert. I've never been passionate about it the way some people seem to be, which might be because I didn't grow up with dessert. I was raised on health food before health food was cool. Until my mom started graduate school, she cooked every one of our meals more-or-less from scratch. There were always cakes for birthdays and cookies for holidays, but we didn't start keeping dessert-like things in the house regularly until I was in my teens. I experimented with desserts in college, but it turned out to be a phase. Now, my idea of dessert has more to do with guacamole than it does with chocolate.*

I feel completely ill-equipped to deal with Westley's passion for sweets. I know toddlers go on food jags and that as long as I don't make a big deal out of it, everything will (I hope) turn out fine. But why couldn't he have chosen a food jag that I understand? (And one that I didn't associate so strongly with health problems now and in the long-run?) Right now, it feels as though the only way I'm ever going to get Westley to relish my cooking is if I give up on root-vegetable chili and start baking cookies.

Does anyone have a healthy(-ish) cookie recipe? I'm not looking to sneak veggies into my kid's baked goods. It doesn't fit with my food philosophy; I prefer to be forthright and honest with my muffin. (Never mind that so many of those hide-healthy-things-in-dessert recipes call for a measly quarter cup of sweet potato...and yield twelve servings). But if he's going to load up on sweet-tasting carbs and fat, it would be nice if they were good carbs and fat. Westley will happily eat cookies, and I want to be able to give them to him without giving myself a heart attack in the process.

*When I needed to jump-start my labor, my midwife suggested castor oil. Specifically, a castor oil milkshake. Supposedly, blending the castor oil with ice cream makes drinking the whole bottle easier. Huh. "Mix it with something you don't like," she advised, so as to not spoil positive associations with a favorite ice cream flavor. I bought some chocolate Silk along with my castor oil, which I blended up with chocolate non-dairy ice cream from my parents' freezer. The result was pretty foul. The midwife was surprised I'd chosen chocolate. Because we all know about women and chocolate.

There is one thing comes close to being a chocolaty, dessert-y thing I can get behind: chocolate avocado pudding. Westley thought it was only okay, Rob deemed it "too avocado-y" for dessert. Which is just the way I like it. But if I'm only making it for myself, I'll just make guacamole instead.