If you ever want to understand how birth order affects personality without the hassles of earning an expensive degree, introduce a new food to your kids and watch what happens.
I recently had the opportunity to hear Jack Agati, a birth order expert, speak at a PTO meeting. He is a dynamic public speaker, and would probably engage even the most scattered listener; however, like most things psychological, I gave it 15 minutes’ thought afterward and moved on with my life.
I host most holidays at my house, and it’s a tradition we’ve all come to enjoy. I usually like to vary the menu a little bit every year just to keep things interesting. Also, what better way to find out if a dish really works than to serve it to a captive – but brutally honest – audience?
Anyhow, this year I decided to jump off a vegetal bridge by serving the heretofore evil sprouts. I don’t really like them. My husband doesn’t like them. My kids think they don’t like them.
Still, I persevered. We would eat sprouts, and be better people for it.
Dissecting the sprouts' success as a side dish over dinner proved almost all of Mr. Agati’s points about birth order, particularly how kids’ personalities, in a casual setting, assert themselves so naturally. In fact, it was so natural that I hardly noticed it when it occurred.
Me (only child): We are ushering in a new era. We are eating Brussels sprouts. They’re good for you! And I think they’re going to taste all right!
Teenager (oldest): Sigh. Mom, you know I don’t like trying new things …but …ok. (eats a sprout)
The Girl (middle): It’s not fair! I don’t like Brussels sprouts! How come The Duck only gets one and I have to have two? (pushes sprouts around on plate)
The Duck (youngest): Actually, Mom, these aren’t bad. (munching, reaching for a second sprout)
Teenager: What are you talking about, Duck? They are disgusting! (eats second sprout)
Me: Girl, put that sprout back on your plate or in your mouth where it belongs!
The Duck: I really like them, Mom. We should have these every night! (reaching for thirds)
Teenager: Duck! Shut up! She’ll do it, and then we’ll have to eat them again! (grimacing as he chews a third sprout)
The Girl: Look. Even the dogs think they’re disgusting.
Me: Dogs also eat poop. And both of you, watch your mouths. Girl, pick the sprout up off the rug right now!
Teenager: Finished. (displays empty plate with a flourish)
The Duck: Mom, I love Brussels sprouts.
The Girl: When I’m a mom, I’m never going to make my kids eat disgusting, poopy-stupid-shut-up Brussels sprouts. (poking sprouts, frowning when she realizes she has to eat them and they’re now cold)
Me: Sigh. Who wants fourths?
All in all, a successful venture. Next week: beets!
Well, not really.
A Halfway Decent Brussels Sprouts Recipe
- 4 cups fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Pour half the olive oil in the bottom of a saute pan, and place trimmed and halved sprouts cut-side-down in the oil.
Heat the pan over medium heat until sizzling. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt; add pepper to taste. Cover the pan and saute for 3 minutes.
Remove the cover and sprinkle the water over the sprouts. Return the cover and saute for 2 minutes.
Remove the cover again and sprinkle the sprouts with lemon juice. Leave uncovered, and vigorously mix the sprouts, and saute until caramelized (cut sides should appear browned), roughly 1 or 2 minutes.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper again, if desired. Serve immediately with a dash of luck or a deaf ear.