As I’ve noted before, Olive will eat anything and everything. She’s eaten (and enjoyed) beef liver, sushi, whole containers of lettuce and raw cabbage for breakfast.
Before you think this is obnoxious mom bragging, please understand that dressing this child rarely requires less than an intensive fifteen minute negotiation process and leaving the house is so torturously slow (between the getting dressed and picking “aminal” guests to accompany us and decisions about whether to wear the red rainboots or black rainboots [it’s always rainboots ] and whether or not to bring her doll stroller) that sometimes we simply don’t do it at all.
But! The girl can EAT. (Let me have this, OK?)
So, on grocery store trips she’s usually allowed to choose something special to buy. I let her do this because she never chooses crap. Seriously. It’s weird. Case in point, on this most recent grocery store trip she asked for spaghetti squash. My two favourite dishes to make with this are jalapeno-infused spaghetti squash mac and cheese and spaghetti squash chow mein. I wasn’t sure which one I’d make, but I had the ingredients for both, so she picked a big one and off we went.
Later that day she got bored and asked if she could draw a face on it. The squash. I was on deadline and at that precise moment I would have let her eat beeswax if it meant a few minutes of silence, plus I figured we just end up composting the outside of the squash anyway – what did it matter?
“Go ahead!” I replied, “Just keep the markers off the couch.”
I had no idea what I’d just begun.
Internet: Meet Squash Baby.
Squash Baby has gone for rides in the stroller, made the shortlist of Olive’s preschool show and tell options, and gets tucked into a cradle each and every night.
We do everything with Squash Baby. Except eat her.
We are not allowed to eat her.
A week after she first drew the face, I sat Olive down.
“Olive,” I said gently, “You know that we’re going to have to eat Squash Baby soon, right?”
“What?!” she cried, ” You want to EAT her?”
“It!” I amended, “I want to eat it! The spaghetti squash! That we bought from the grocery store! For dinner!”
“Please don’t eat her, Mummy!” she cried, immediately distraught, “Don’t eat my baby!”
Don’t eat my baby. Seriously? Where the fuck do you possibly go from this, when your adorable three-year-old is clutching a three-pound monstrosity and pleading with her giant blue eyes that you not eat her baby? What do you do??
Well, if you’re me, you stall and cross your fingers that the toddler attention span will do the work for you, she’ll lose interest, and life will go back to normal. In the meantime, you let Squash Baby accompany you on walks and for bedtime stories, and continue popping up in random locations around the house; perched on the couch one day, supervising my writing at my desk the next.
It’s been a few weeks. She has not lost interest.
I’ve contemplated several different courses of action, but each one seems cruel and unnecessary. I mean, cooking Squash Baby when Olive’s not home? Feeding it to her without telling her what (who?) she’s eating? It seems almost…cannibalistic. I can’t do it!
Goddamn it, she’s turned me, too.
Today, as we cuddled Squash Baby on the couch, I talked to Olive again. I pointed out a few dents and dings in her bright yellow skin.
“Olive, if we don’t cook her soon she’s going to go bad and have to go into the compost without making something delicious for us.” I said, quite seriously. “Squash Baby will go to waste. I don’t think she would have wanted that.”
Olive seems to be considering this impassioned speech, and I think I just may have won her over. She strokes the squash’s smooth skin and traces the brown scribbles as she thinks.
“Yes, I know” she says quietly. “We’ll eat her. But not yet, OK?”
OK. Not yet.
Congratulations, Squash Baby, you live to see another day.