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Disguising Food cookbook feud

I read an article in my local news paper in the past week about a lawsuit between two women, one accusing the other of plagiarism. Okay that happens and I think the judge threw the case out.

The topic of both books was how to disguise in food to trick children into eating things for which they think they don't like. What a horrible idea, that is just down right mean.

I remember that this topic came up a few years ago on Home Cooking. If I remember correctly most of us posting about the topic were against it. I posted a true story about my step father and my niece. He decided he could trick all of us into eating liver. My husband and used to go to my mom's for dinner on Thurdays. He made a Bolognaise spaghetti sauce, and to use ground beef liver instead of regular ground beef or pork. The children were fed first while the adults had cocktails. So he served up their plates and sat down with his drink. My niece who must have been about 4 at the time, took her first bite, spat it out and said "Don ----- what the hell is this?" (We had to clean up her speech before she started school.). We all went out for dinner. That trick backfired and was costly for him.

If you read that article, what do you think about it? I believe one of the writers was Jerry Seinfeld's wife and I'd never heard of the other writer. I think playing tricks like that on people is mean. It does not have to be children, it could have been someone trying to disguise meat so an unsuspecting vegan or vegetarian will be tricked into eating it. What do you all think?

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  1. Im not sure about mean.

    But it's very wrong in my book. It sends a very bad message about food.

    1. (As an adult) I was told they were "mountain oysters". Even after I found out what they really were I had to admit they tasted great.

      1. I didn't see that article, but I remember the controversy. IIRC, Mrs. Seinfeld came out with her book (Deceptively Delicious?) after the first one (Sneaky Chef?) came out, but with her Seinfeld name, her book got more press.

        Also, IIRC, the premise of at least the first author wasn't so much being sneaky to be sneaky, but to serve the hidden broccoli alongside recognizable broccoli, so the kids were still being exposed to real veggies, but might get some nutrients even if they're still balking.

        There's a level of "hiding" food that doesn't bother me. Some of the "vegetables" in my house (for my veggie-phobic but not allergic son) include pumpkin muffins and spinach ravioli. I don't lie about what's in something, but I don't mind treating something in a way that makes it more palatable. I don't see much wrong with bumping up the level of veggie power in pasta sauce (adding pureed veggies) -- I'm still exposing my kids to plenty of plain ol' veggies. But I wouldn't lie about what's in something, especially if it were for an adult who might have restrictions for any number of reasons (vegetarian/religious/allergies).

        That being said, I checked one of the books out from the library when my kids were younger, and wasn't interested in following the plan laid out (lots of pureeing in batch and freezing in small portions). I'd rather keep exposing them to a variety of food. And when we have brownies, they're brownies, not some weirdly textured hidden spinach weirdness.

        4 Replies
        1. re: momjamin

          I agree, I only lied by omission...my three year old did not need to know there was "stuff" in that milkshake or that mix of pasta. I only put healthy things in there that you wouldn't taste and that I knew they might reject outright if I announced it.

          I would think that anyone could taste liver from across the room! Hiding strong tasting things by trickery would almost do the opposite of what you would want. Like- making your kid phobic and rightly paranoid about trying anything you cooked. That is really a dumb tactic in my book.

          1. re: momjamin

            I didn't realize this feud actually saw the inside of a court room or that a judge threw it out but I clearly remember the first cookbook was written by a woman who didn't have a famous husband and that much of the media buzz surrounding the book was the claim that the Seinfeld's were completely unaware of the other author, Sneaky Chef's work, which Sneaky Chef didn't believe.

            As for disguising or hiding vegetables or anything considered less than child-friendly, I don't subscribe for the main reason that teaching my children how to cook/bake is a big part of learning how to fend for oneself and those lessons would be lost if we couldn't be totally honest about food/menu/preparation. Some people grow up their whole lives not liking certain foods, but just own it....don't disguise it.

            1. re: HillJ

              I don't know how Seinfeld or publishers could have not known, since the other author was on national T.V. with her book and techniques before her, on The View, I think, or Today.

              1. re: mcf

                Oh I agree mcf...but I didn't want to sidetrack the thread.

          2. I agree that it's not mean, but it is unnecessary. Few kids starve or refuse to eat veggies for life.
            Give them a multivitamin daily, put good food on their plates, and try to have them at least taste everything once before issuing a thumbs down. Fighting over it or being obsessed with sneaking it into them may be all good intentioned, but is kind of obsessive about winning control from your kids over their bodies.

            24 Replies
              1. re: mcf

                I once read a statistic that I considered quite extra-ordinary: a child typically has to be exposed to a food somewhat less than 30 times before he/she will accept and eat it. (I suspect the author is talking about food like spinach or broccoli rather than ice cream) Assuming this number is anywhere close to the truth, a parent might as well get started making a dent in that total. Perhaps the first author had read similar information which is why she recommends serving the recognizable vegetable along with the hidden version.

                Incidentally, I'm not so naive as to assume that for all children serving #29 will be rejected totally and serving #30 will be totally consumed. I've shared this rather large statistic so people are mentally prepared for an acceptance process that will be very long and gradual.

                1. re: Indy 67

                  In my experience, this is very true. Again, as you said, not saying exact numbers of exposures will do the trick but that it is a long process of repeated exposure.

                  1. re: Indy 67

                    I've heard that stat and find lots of truth in it, too. My #1 son has problems with texture in particular, and will tell you he's "allergic" to all vegetables. But because #2 son likes broccoli, we serve that regularly, and #1 son will now eat a floret or two without the dramatics of old.

                    1. re: Indy 67

                      I've heard that statistic, too, and I really wonder how they came up with it. Obviously, it varies a lot from child to child and family to family.

                      1. re: Indy 67

                        I've always read that it was more like 10 times, but I guess it varies. I think it is horrible, and a BIG mistake, to lie to kids (or anyone) about what is in their food. You want to establish trust. But you can also establish at least a bit of authority by insisting on at least a bite or two of everything on the plate - this way you can get to that magical 10 (or 30) number a lot earlier. And I can't tell you how often my daughter said she didn't like something, merely from the look of it, and once she had her two bites ended up finishing it off. She now eats just about everything except hard boiled eggs (which neither of her parents like either). And I mean everything: anchovies, olives, capers, escargot, curry, all fruits and vegetables, blue cheese (she said to a friend yesterday, about a cheese being tasted at a local gourmet shop "mmm, nice and stinky!" - the other 4 year old looked at her like she was crazy).

                        1. re: LulusMom

                          My mom was in the "3 more bites" camp and it worked wonders. I muscled down the bites, and she'd feel less guilty about letting me leave the rest. Every so often I'd actually like the bites and polish it off.

                          To this day however, I thank my mom for not having a sweet tooth, because we didn't have dessert as a regular deal and as a result, I'm not a sweet eater. (whole 'nother thread I know, but related to moms, heh)

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            My son would rarely (as in once in a blue moon) try something before dismissing it. I couldn't wait it out, lose the entire meal time to waiting for him to swallow a forkful of something I was offering. He never cried or threw a fit, he would just ignore the mouthful. A food battle wasn't for me. Foods he loved he'd eat in greater portions and foods he didn't want got ignored.

                            When I've witnessed parents and children actually arguing over food it upsets me. And, while I can relate to having a fussing eater in my family, I can't see the point in fighting over mouthfuls.

                            Also, back on point, I've read the cookbooks referenced here with my son and as you can imagine he finds the entire concept confusing. He'd say, why not just accept that not all foods appeal to everyone.

                            1. re: HillJ

                              >>>>why not just accept that not all foods appeal to everyone.

                              Exactly

                              1. re: HillJ

                                I guess because I started the "two bites of everything" rule as soon as my daughter started eating regular food, it has never been a fight. She might sigh, but she does it every time. I was brought up the same way, and am grateful to my mother for making sure I knew what it was that I was refusing.

                                1. re: LulusMom

                                  It was a one taste rule in our house, no angst, no contentiousness. If she didn't like it, my child could get herself something else or eat around the offending food. No demanding she taste it again next time it showed up, and I tried to make sure there was something she'd eat or something easy for her to get herself.

                                  1. re: mcf

                                    exactly - as long as there is other stuff on the plate (or that the child can get him/herself) then it isn't a big deal to just ask for a bite or two and let them leave the rest if they don't like it.

                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                      I found that it actually led to more willingness to try new things, many of which were accepted and enjoyed, because there weren't any control issues involved. She always was and is a very adventurous eater, but her preferences varied with age and experience.

                                      1. re: mcf

                                        Control issues are a baaad idea with food, aren't they? Especially girls, I'm guessing. At this point Lulu (almost 5) actually loves it when people come up to her in restaurants and praise her for being so adventurous.

                                        1. re: LulusMom

                                          Sounds like you both have it much easier than I did with my son. I don't believe it's gender specific boys or girls tho. Some kids, some adults are just fussy beyond understanding. In my sons case early on, no meant no...and although his eating habits are still evolving as he grows up, I'm quite willing to accept his food limits and focus on his overall well being. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

                                          1. re: HillJ

                                            Often that intense fussiness is due to texture issues, a not uncommon reason for food fussiness. I have a grown niece who, before college, ate nothing but bagels, cream cheese, mac and cheese, never a veggie, piece of fruit, meat... she now branches out a bit to chicken, but she has described the issue as sensory. Her aunt, my SIL, ate nothing but McDs (FIL would have to take her out for it before meals) or white bread or a roll and turkey with salt til after college, now she's an adventurously eating adult. The sensory issue is very common. I don't think it's got anything to do with parental issues or even food attitudes. It's how it makes them feel to put it in their mouths.

                                            And you're right to just respect his process and just love him. :-)

                                            1. re: mcf

                                              mcf, quite true about the texture aspect of food. Smooth or rough, our son has always mentioned the feel of food both in the hand and in the mouth was the culprit.

                                              1. re: mcf

                                                I prefer to *cook* things whose texture I like. I don't much care to touch raw meat, so I don't cook it that much. I don't avoid it completely because there are things made of meat that I like to eat, but if I never had to touch it, it wouldn't bother me.

                                                Somehow, touching fish doesn't bother me, except for lobster and calamari.

                                            2. re: LulusMom

                                              My litte one use her first four teeth for calamari and garlic bread. :-)

                                              1. re: mcf

                                                calamari is a BIG hit, isn't it? Fried and tasty - what's not to like?

                                                I agree that a lot of people have textural issues with food - things like okra and eggplant can make some people very nervous. I personally love both, but I do get it. What I don't get is stuff like people who have to have only white or tan food on their plate. Now THAT, to me, is just weird. And I've seen it in action.

                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                  Calamari marinara or fra diablo, more like it, not fried. :-) Have you seen folks who have to smell every bite of food before tasting?

                                                  1. re: mcf

                                                    No, thank goodness. That must be incredibly gross to watch. Every single bite? You know, I probably do some weird stuff when I'm eating alone (I used to lick all my chips before eating them - why???). I hope I never carry that stuff over to public eating.

                                                    very good on the marinara or diablo! Lulu hasn't tried those yet, but I'm sure it wouldn't be a problem. The fried stuff is on her favorites list. Sushi (salmon roe with quail egg) and kalamata olives top the list though.

                                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                                      Impressive palate!

                                                      I think the licking is about the salt..

                                                      1. re: mcf

                                                        Probably (the salt) but still, would never want to be seen doing it in public! I've stopped now but can imagine in a moment of stress doing it without thinking.

                            2. My husband hated bananas as a child, and his mother more than once added overripe bananas to pancake batter and served the pancakes to him, assuming he would not notice the bananas. Of course, she was wrong. Bananas are still an item on my husband's very short list of things he will not eat.

                              On a rather more grisly note, there a number of myths from various traditions in which someone kills his enemy's child and feeds the flesh to the unwitting parent.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: jlafler

                                Bananas -- especially ripe bananas -- have such a strong, distinctive scent that it's almost impossible to disguise them -- that's why they use banana oil to test the fit respirators: because it's detectable and identifiable in very small concentrations (and harmless).