Growing up, my mother made it clear that being a member of the Clean Your Plate Club was cause for praise. My parents were of the generation that felt that it was a sin to leave food on your plate. “There are children starving in China,” my mother would scold. The guilt was unbearable and did nothing to make the liver and onions more enticing.To this day, I am not sure how my eating every scrap of my dinner is going to keep a child in China from starving. My lifetime battle with my weight has also led me to believe that cleaning my plate is not an effective strategy for weight management. With those two things in mind, I decided long ago to not demand that my children be members of the Clean Your Plate Club. As for the starving children in the world, we donate to the local food pantry and make other donations to charity. I know that will not end world hunger, but it has to be a more effective strategy than all of us eating everything on our plates. Even when we are no longer hungry.
The rule around our house has always been that before you can leave the table, you must have at least one forkful of each food on your plate. However, you may only have something else after dinner if you complete your dinner. I have gotten much better over the years at giving my boys reasonable sized portions. The after dinner options are always things like fruit or yogurt. I didn’t want dessert to be an incentive to overeat. (Besides, getting the boys to bed if they have a sugary treat after dinner is a BEAST.)
Thinking that I had come up with a reasonable way to dodge the food wars and teach my children to recognize when they are full, I am surprised that Nic regularly cleans his plate. I mean, he is not just a member of the Clean Your Plate Club, he is the Grandmaster.
Nic has raised cleaning your plate to a whole new level. He not only eats every morsel of food, he leaves no crumb behind, either. Nic has actually developed a variety of techniques to clean his plate.
- The Page Turner: Named for those people who lick their index finger before they turn the page of a book or newspaper, this technique consists of Nic licking his finger to pick up food. No crumb is fast enough to escape the moistened index fingers. If the crumbs are from something Nic really likes, he has been known to use his whole palm. Very appetizing!
- The Bread Sponge: For a bigger crumb pile, Nic will sprinkle water or milk (whichever beverage he is having with dinner) on bread or a roll. The now moisten bread acts like a sponge and soaks up any missed little pieces of food. Soggy bread covered with crumbs…yummy!
- The Plow and Claw: This is by far Nic’s favorite way to clean his plate. Using his hand like the blade of a snow plow, Nic pushes all the crumbs and escaped little bits of food into a tidy pile. When he is satisfied that he has corralled each speck of food, he shapes his hand like a claw crane. He lifts the food and deposits it into his mouth. Usually, he finishes this up with a side of the hand Page Turner. Guess my cooking must be finger-licking good!
When Nic is done cleaning his plate, it is sometimes hard to tell whether or not he has already eaten. Until you look at his hands, the crumbs all over his shirt and the splatter pattern of food all around his chair.
Now, Nic knows that we don’t approve of his clean the plate habits. We have tried every way we can think of to make him stop. Nothing seems to have worked. At least he’s not picking up the plate and licking it clean. That move is owned by his little brother.