On Picky Eaters, Sneaky Sausages and Sunchokes

Image: Jerusalem artichokes (also known as sunchokes or earth apples) – Wish I liked them.

I should know better than to ask someone whose latest motto is “I like being a picky eater” what he wants for dinner.


When I ask, “um, how about sausages instead?” the suggestion is met with a fairly enthusiastic “ok”, and I feel that sense of relief that comes over me once I know that dinner is planned. What’s more, I have it in the house, it won’t take all night to make or clean up, and it’s something everyone will eat, which is no small feat in my household.

I generally disapprove of disguising healthy food in other more child-pleasing foods. This longtime tactic employed by parents of discerning diners has become a full-blown food movement in the past few years, made famous by the likes of the Sneaky Chef and Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious cookbook. I am skeptical about any significant nutritional benefits from putting say, puréed spinach into brownies (yes, she really does that), and remain unconvinced that this hidden exposure will make children more likely to accept the food in its unadulterated state. I personally tend to go a more laid-back route, hoping that just smelling different foods as they are being made will build curiosity, and that by gently encouraging kids to try new things, perhaps they will discover new favourites. That and I take comfort in small victories.

But sausages help. Kids love them, and there is now such a wide variety of healthy, interesting versions made locally that it is easy to get kids to try new things without even noticing. The green specks (herbs) typically disparaged in other dishes are ingested without a second thought. Nobody asks “what animal is this from?’ It can be pork, lamb, chicken or turkey, it all goes down with gusto. Last night, for instance, the sausages I pulled out of my freezer were Chicken, Rosemary and Preserved Lemon from Stage, (available at the Market on Yates). I also like to stock different Galloping Goose selections, as well as Terra Nossa and Cowichan Bay Farm brands.

As a side dish, I thought I could use up the local sunchokes that recently arrived in my organics box. Flipping through the 20th Anniversary Edition of the Winter Harvest cookbook, I spotted a beautiful recipe for Jerusalem artichokes with rice – beautiful because I had all the ingredients on hand, and also because it starts off so promisingly, as many good recipes do, with chopped onions and carrots sautéing in olive oil. I even had a backup side dish option (for those who might consider carrots, onions, sunchokes and rice too adventurous) in the form of leftover pasta and cauliflower cheese. Half an hour later it was all ready to come to the table. It made a pretty plate too, my Stage sausages and sunchokes.

I wish I could say it was a perfect meal. The sausages were delicious, and it gave me great pleasure to see my self-professed picky eater munching away at something containing rosemary and preserved lemon without any complaints.

“What’s the matter?”, my husband asked from across the table as I looked at my plate with disappointment. “I’ve just realized something”, I said. “I really don’t like Jerusalem artichokes.” The kids shot silent glances across the table that I read as “Is she ok? I thought she ate anything.” I’ve tried them a few times, each time prepared a different way, and I’ve reached the conclusion that I simply don’t like their flavour. Despite all my efforts to suppress it, I couldn’t help it. I was the picky eater at the table last night.

My eldest daughter made it better. She popped a forkful of the side dish in her mouth, smiled and said, “it’s ok Mom. I like it.” There you go.  Small victories.

Written By:

Rebecca Baugniet is a freelance food writer and editor living on Canada’s West Coast with her husband and their four children. The author of three published cookbooks, Rebecca has also written for EAT Magazine and for Montréal ...

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