A child deprived of blueberries? Well, that's not quite how it was

The woman seated at a nearby table in the tearoom frowned repeatedly in my direction. But why? Both my three-year-old and I were nicely dressed. Christine, well behaved, waited patiently as I prepared her muffin.

The woman continued to frown in disapproval.

The waitress brought our lunch. Methodically I removed the decorative wedges of pineapple and cantaloupe from Christine's plate and put them on my own.

The frown grew more intense.

Later, as the woman was leaving, she hesitated, then stopped at our table.

''Children deserve good things, too!'' she said. ''I saw you take all the blueberries out of your little girl's muffin and eat them yourself.''

I was speechless. The woman was not.

''And,'' she continued, ''you took her two pineapple wedges and her cantaloupe ball.''

She'd been keeping score.

I tried to explain that Christine doesn't eat blueberries, in or out of muffins, and considers pineapple and cantaloupe unfit for human consumption.

The woman was not convinced. ''Selfishness is punished,'' she warned, and left.

She could not have been a mother.

Mothers know that children are not rational about food.

A year later, Christine still doesn't eat berries - of any variety - and shuns the rest of the family after we've eaten shortcake. She doesn't like our ''strawberry breath.''

Cheese, however, is another matter. She doesn't eat ordinary cheese - shudders at the sight of a Velveeta slice - but has a passion for imported cheeses. She favors Fontina and Havarti plain or for sandwiches, and a ripe Camembert or Brie on crackers.

Her brother, Steven, who is 11, eats no cheese - unless it is on a pizza, in lasagna, or mixed with macaroni.

He loves raisins in rice pudding - but carefully picks them out of his granola cereal.

Steven orders salami pizza, then removes the salami and stacks it at the side. I've suggested he order plain cheese pizza. But he insists that the salami juice gives it flavor.

Fortunately, his brother likes the stack of juiceless salami.

Michael, who is 9, raises tomatoes to sell - but would never, under any circumstance, eat a plain, naked tomato. Yet he loves spaghetti and lasagna, both of which contain large quantities of tomatoes.

Never fond of meat, but a mustard enthusiast, he used to startle waitresses with his order, ''I'd like a hot dog without the meat, please.''

My sons have had a lifelong disdain for beans - any kind.

While traveling last summer, we stopped for a snack in a little French restaurant on the northern coast of California. The menu was unusual. The children played it safe and ordered chocolate cake and milk.

Feeling adventurous, I decided to try the black bean chili. After I ordered, there was a chorus of ''Yuck!'' ''Gross!'' ''How could you?'' ''Black beans? That's disgusting!''

The children's servings of cake were small. So, still hungry, they cast interested glances at my chili - which had arrived with a dollop of sour cream, grated cheese, and a scattering of cilantro leaves.

As an experienced mother, I knew absolutely, positively they wouldn't like it - after all, it contained beans, lots of spices, sour cream, Muenster cheese.

Steven was first to try my incredibly delicious chili. Michael watched with interest, then, summoning all his courage, braved a spoonful of chili. Three bowls of chili later, they were pleading with the waitress for the recipe.

Recently, in a supermarket, a woman noticed the contents of my shopping cart and asked, ''What in the world do you do with all those black beans you are buying?''

''I make black bean chili,'' I replied.

''Oh,'' she said, ''my children would never eat anything like that.''

Several years ago, traveling with a two-year-old, I went equipped to provide her usual breakfast: scrambled eggs with BacO's sprinkled on top. In the hotel dining room, a little boy at an adjoining table noticed the jar of BacO's in my open purse.

He said to my son, ''Your mother carries BacO's in her purse?''

''Sure,'' said Michael. Then he looked at him sympathetically and said, ''Doesn't yours?''

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