My mom made these meatballs when I was growing up, and they were fricken awesome. As a matter of fact, I was reduced to tears by the craving for Mom’s meatballs during each of my pregnancies. They weren’t of the Swedish or Italian varieties. They were in this rich tomato sauce. As in orange, not red. And had bread crumbs. And enough onion to barely taste. And she would make them in this huge crockpot. Nobody can do it. I’ve tried. I can’t either. Becuase there was a secret involved. I wasn’t permitted behind the curtain of the secret, but rather stumbled and landed behind it as I overheard Mom on the phone one day.
Mom’s meatballs? Fuckin’ meatloaf. Rolled into balls. And called meatballs. Because her “girls” wouldn’t eat meatloaf, but would eat “meatballs”. Meaning me and my equally bitchy sisters. We were duped. Clever, clever woman she was.
I thought of that day when I learned her secret today, as I was getting some ground meat out of the freezer to thaw for dinner. We switched to ground turkey in place of ground beef a long time ago. I use it for tacos, enchiladas, pasta sauces, and more. Evan insists he doesn’t like turkey, so I mainly am limited to using it in dishes where he can’t tell the difference. But John and his big mouth! Mentioned getting turkey out of the freeer, and Evan’s ears pricked up and he insisted that he isn’t going to eat dinner. I had to fake swapping out the turkey for beef in order to make him think it is now safe for him to eat dinner. This was relatively easy, since I transfer all of the meat into portions for meals in separate freezer bags upon returning from the grocery store. But that’s not all I have to do. Since I am making enchiladas for dinner tonight, and Evan insists he doesn’t like them, I will take the same exact mixture of enchilada innards and bake it on a flat tortilla and call it a “quesadilla” for Evan so he will eat the same thing we will for dinner and I won’t have to make something special for him. (I know, I know…What I make should be what he eats and that is that! But as a side effect of his ADHD meds, he has a very limited appetite, and so I do what he can to get him to eat and not lose weight.)
I have other secrets, too.
Ev loves penne and rigotoni, but claims he hates lasagna. Despite my protesting that they are the same friggin’ thing, he won’t eat lasagna. So I make a lasagna by layering a pasta he will eat like I do lasagna. Every once in a while, I’ll make it with traditional lasagna noodles and just boil a serving of the other stuff to top with sauce for him. He hasn’t figured out my trick.
While I can make awesome homemade mac & cheese, I don’t do it often. Instead, I use Kraft Deluxe Reduced Fat. But I throw it in a pan and bake it like it’s mine, and we tell Evan it is homemade because he insists he doesn’t like boxed mac & cheese.
Those muffins I bake from time to time? Ground up squash and zucchini in them. Shhhh.
The apple juice he loves? Well, I really buy the kind with veggie juice added. When I get home, I pour it into a washed-out bottle with the plain apple juice label. Otherwise, the kid would never eat any veggies at all.
Those orange fries? They aren’t “seasoned” like curly fries. They’re strips of sweet potato baked in the oven.
Yeah, I have my own tricks up my sleeve.
Somebody out there is going to shake their head that I lie to my kid. That honesty is the best policy. Bullshit. They haven’t juggled career and family and education while trying to ensure that their kid gets nutritious meals.
And I will lie my head off in order to get Evan to go along with what I think is best for him, so long as it will work.
Except we are choosing to not call them lies. They’re Mommy Secrets.