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Life with Liz: Grown-up palates

The other day, G and I made our ritual stop at Dunkin’ Donuts.

I ordered my usual, but G wanted to try one of their new specialty coffees.

After a few sips, he rattled off his review of where it fell in the gamut of various coffee drinks he has tried. At 13, he’s quite the connoisseur. Early morning wake-up calls for hunting and fishing trips have apparently gone over better with a cup of joe in hand.

It got me thinking about the foods we despise as kids, and how they grow on us as we get older.

To this day, I am not a huge coffee drinker. I prefer tea, both hot and iced, with nothing added except a squeeze of lemon. Every once in a while, I enjoy a nice hot cup of coffee if we are at the right kind of diner, along with a slice of pie or cake, or sometimes, when the Wonderful Husband brews up a pot on a cold winter morning, it hits the spot, but other than that, G can keep the coffee for himself.

A few days after the coffee exchange, E sent me a memo to pick up some avocados for her when I went to the grocery store. She wanted to make guacamole.

Avocados were another one of those foods that I abhorred as a child. It wasn’t even their flavor; it was the texture. If they were not quite ripe, eating them was like eating a piece of hard green flavorless cheese. If they were just a hair past ripe, they’d just get mushy all over anything they were paired with.

It wasn’t until I was well into adulthood that I came to appreciate what they bring to a sandwich, or toast, or, of course, everyone’s favorite green condiment, guac.

I’m glad that at 10, E is a big fan. Less thrilling to me is that she was inspired to try them after she thought one of her avocado-based face masks smelled “yummy.”

Maybe if there is a liver and onions face mask, I might find myself appreciating that dish someday.

Since everyone has become so adept in the kitchen in the last year, we’ve ended up having a lot of conversations about the foods we eat, the menus we follow, traditional foods our families have made over the years, or for certain holidays.

The kids always take an interest in knowing what our favorite foods were, or here of late, they’ve been super interested in foods we didn’t like.

Now that they are masters in the kitchen, they seem intent on cooking up meals that we might not like and enforcing the “try everything on your plate” rule with us.

One of their favorite stories is when I walked into the house to what I thought was a big pot of stew bubbling away. Like most things my dad cooked, the smell was intoxicating.

I sneaked over to the pot, put the ladle in, planning to sneak a spoonful of whatever tasty dish it was, and as I stirred it, a giant cow tongue popped up and bobbed in the broth.

For me, food needs to have textural and visual appeal, and the idea of that big old tongue licking up whatever tasties were on the barn floor and then putting that against my tongue, nope. I just could not do it.

No matter how delicious it smelled. I dread the day one of them gets brave enough to try to re-create that recipe.

Cantaloupe is another one that I just do not like. As a kid, I always thought that it was another thing I would like when I grew up. Now, I love just about every other flavor of melon, but that is one that just does not appeal to me in any way. Of course, it is A’s favorite fruit.

I am so thankful that the grocery stores now carry it cut up in small serving sizes, because otherwise, I would never remember to buy it.

I always try not to let my own food preferences get in the way of the kids trying something new, so sometimes I just have to put on a good face and go for it. Other times, I will cook up dishes that I know I don’t like just so they can try them.

Of course, since I have no idea if I’m cooking them well or not, I think I inadvertently may cause them to think they don’t like them either.

Since I used to count on restaurants or travel to introduce my kids to well-made new dishes and we haven’t been able to do that lately, we’ve had to create our own adventures. G has worked his way through most of the “Everything Ketchup Cookbook,” with some surprisingly delicious additions to our permanent rotation of recipes, like shredded turkey barbecue and sweet-and-sour pork ribs.

E is still a fan of cooking and baking shows and will scour my recipe books or the internet to try to re-create something she found online.

The other day, E asked me to make macaroni and cheese. She informed me that “it had been forever since we had that.” I was surprised because for so long, it appeared on our weekly menu, sometimes with some vegetable mixed in for redemption. She was right, though, it had been months since we’d made a pot.

On a recent clean-out of the freezer, I found a freezer burned bag of chicken fingers. Apparently, they’ve been off the menu, too. Even the old standby, spaghetti and meatballs, now gets homemade sauce and hand-rolled meatballs. While we are far from worldly gourmands, I am not sorry to put the Tater Tots and taco days behind us.

It makes me wonder what foods are going to be left for my kids to acquire a taste for when they get older.

Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.