As a confessed chocolaholic lifer, I was happy to read all the brou-ha-ha recently about letting kids eat their dessert first if they want to.("Go ahead, kids, eat your cake first," by Tralee Pearce, http://www.latimes.com 7/24/2008). Two Montrealers called Marie Breton and Isabelle Emond actually wrote a book called Family Table: Recipes and Strategies about this kid-friendly approach.
Sure, why not? Everyone else in my family thought my little food habit was crazy when I was a kid, but I thought dunking my chocolate cake in chicken soup tasted good. Or cake with ketchup. Now this may sound a little extreme, even to those who like their eggs ranchero style, but I confess that I never made my own four children sit at the table until they finished everything on their plates -- or denied them dessert if they didn't eat the main course. I figured that eventually they'd work it out for themselves. And they grew up just fine, although they do subscribe to the five bites theory for their own children. Bretton and Emond say this is a no-no as well. Maybe three bites are enough.
Probably my ahead-of-the-time attitude was influenced by the fact that my husband thought the exact opposite (you can see why eventually -- it took about 30 years of debating about dessert and other contentious issues -- we got a divorce). I just didn't see any sense to watching my frequently visiting mother eat all my daughter Shelley's peas (Shelley just wouldn't eat her peas) up for her when my husband wasn't looking.
Now chocolate, that was something else. Everybody ate it up right away.
In one of the books I edited for a client, called Staying Ahead, the author, Morris Macarz, recalled growing up on a Polish farm with a blended family of 18 children. When the farm dinner bell rang, he ran for the table as fast as he could -- because if he didn't, there would be nothing left to eat when his little legs got there. The law of supply and demand worked every time. Maybe modern mothers should take a lesson from this story. In these tough economic times, put less on the table, Moms. The kids will be happy to eat the peas eventually.
Until then, go ahead. Eat your cake first, kids. Leave the nutritious stuff for the rest of the family. Maybe if you stuff yourselves with dessert, you'll want some healthy food the next time (you know how it is when your chocolated-out). And if anyone tries to tell you that there are starving kids in the rest of the world who would like to have all the good food we take for granted in the U.S., it's true. So eat your cake while you can.