Eating Plastic

My son got a kitchen for Christmas. I don’t mean we remodeled a section of our kitchen for him or that he’s discovered how to use our kitchen properly. He received a molded-plastic play kitchen that will be taller than him for the next few years. It’s filled with plastic food-replicas of all kinds and a plethora of items making various cooking noises.

This new pastime has launched me headlong into a strange experience and realization. I now remember times as a child when I handed an adult some make-believe piece of food and they pretended to eat it with much enthusiasm. I remember this because I’m now the adult in this scenario and my son is bringing me a constant stream of painted plastic delicacies.

I hate this little skit. That might seem like an extreme response, but I’m having trouble figuring out the reason parents do this at all.

He just brought me a plastic slice of pizza. Actually, he dropped it three times on the rug while trying to carry it on a spatula barely wider than a fork and slippery as Teflon. No matter, I have the slice now. I appreciate the thoughtfulness and the fact that he spent a few minutes “cooking” the item. But I’m not fooling him or anyone when I pretend to take a bite. I know he’s more observant than this.

Put plastic food in a parent’s hand and we always do the same stupid routine, making noises of satisfaction, complimenting the chef and talking about how much we enjoyed each bite. Never mind the fact that we don’t rave this much when eating actual food. And I’ve heard some parents go so overboard in their response that they sound more like they’re doing a porn film.

Why do we act like we enjoy this experience? Why don’t we reject the same items we’d ignore if they were on our plates? Shouldn’t vegetarians refuse a plastic hot dog on personal grounds? Will Vegans be giving back the pink plastic steak because they abhor the conditions of the plastic slaughterhouses where it was cast and painted?

You might think I’m being absurd, but for my son eating is all make believe anyway. He sees us eating and enjoying food in real life, but he’d rather ask for real food and then refuse to eat it. I’ve been modeling proper food consumption his whole life and it hasn’t helped. Masquerading my way though a plastic feast just feels like it reinforces his ask-and-refuse policy.

Lets pretend to fly, or race, or shoot bad-guys. Pretending to eat feels about as productive as pretending to mow the lawn. We can and need to do the real thing at some point, so why pretend? Of course, once the boy outgrows this plastic kitchen he’ll probably love to eat and hate to mow the lawn. At least then I’ll be able to relate to what he’s feeling.

For now though he’s passing me plastic corn on the cob, cleaned in the flimsy-door dishwasher, cooked on the light-up grill, and dropped at least once in dog-hair.

I never eat corn on the cob. Ummmm… sooo, good.


  1. I have a friend named Denis who sits in the passenger seat of his SUV while his three year-old grandson Jack pretends to drive. All this while parked in the garage. Denis waves enthusiastically and calls loud hellos as they ‘drive’ past friends on the ‘street.’ Jack relishes this behavior for the same reason your son loves to serve you plastic pizza slices. His actions are eliciting a response.

    Good story Todd!

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