brussels_sproutSometimes change tastes just as bad for the change leader. This is a true personal flashback from May 2010.

Change management has meddled in my family life. That brings us to our current change crisis, one we change managers call “Desire.” After one is aware of a need to shift behavior, he or she needs to Desire the new end result, providing them the necessary impetus to change.


Sharing details like this is risky. One time, I told my friends at lunch that one of my culinary frustrations was accidentally burning some pine nuts. (It had been a case of “Cooking ADD” …you look away from the pan for mere seconds and POOF! A smell far worse than burnt popcorn permeates my home’s aura for hours.) Considering that a rather humble admission, imagine my surprise when said friends persisted in teasing me about pine nuts for years afterwards and refusing to invite me to eat at their house again! (Who knew that when this happened 15 years ago, I was the only one in my circle who had actually touched a pine nut?)


Or, there’s the other extreme. Once, after a trip to Tokyo, we returned to foist a multi-course Japanese dinner for Thanksgiving to our unsuspecting extended family…most likely to show off that lovely tableware we had trudged through the drizzle in Kappabashi-dori to buy (Papagamer, my husband, has still never forgiven me for that rainy evening!). Seriously, the family accepted the feast, hook, line & chopstick. This un-traditional offering has become part of my family’s lore. My mother introduces me to her friends like this: “This is my daughter, Karen. She’s the one who made a full Japanese dinner one Thanksgiving.” In her eyes, what can I do culinarily to top that?!


That brings us to our current change management crisis, one we change managers call “Desire.” After one is aware of a need to shift behavior, he or she needs to Desire the new end result, providing them the necessary impetus to change. This has been important to know as my kids cut through their culinary cycles. They’ve traipsed through the mono-diet (milk) to the ”anything goes” diet (“I’ll eat it, no matter what color, as long as it is comes in a baby food jar”) to the “Yellow 5” (applesauce, chicken fingers, fries, macaroni & cheese, and corn). Now, their little palates are beginning to be open to other things, especially if they show up in books or TV shows and their favorite characters like to eat them. That’s how the whole sprouts thing got started. Apparently Brussels sprouts are funny.


Yet I hate them. Typically, vegetables, herbs and I are fast friends. They are healthy and colorful and textural. Aren’t they what God originally intended us to eat? Nonetheless, there are a few members of their family that I simply cannot abide.


Like eggplant. I don’t care WHAT you do with it. I have never found an eggplant I could enjoy, not from any of the amazing Italian restaurants where we’ve sampled them, nor from trying my own hand at replicating Mario Batali’s famous Eggplant Parmesan recipe. Yes, I have tried very studiously to desire eggplant—I mean, that shiny aubergine flesh simply adds artistry to any garden palette.


On the flip side, I have never even tried to Desire Brussels sprouts.


Unlike my sister Kasi, who could happily eat large platters of them at a sitting, the very thought of Brussels sprouts is enough to strike fear in my nostrils. Like the afore-mentioned burnt pine nuts, smelling these homely orbs while they are cooking gives me the willies. (I’m not sure what “the willies” are, but I suspect they stink.)


And then, last week at our recent family mounted a grocery expedition (that’s what you call a nearly 3-hour run that involves 5 family members, 2 grocery carts and 3 calls for a Manager to rescue the clerk in the Martin’s check-out line who doesn’t know how to manage our coupons), I was a little surprised that my eleven-year-old would request that we purchase inedible miniature cabbages. I mean, shouldn’t he be forced to turn in his ‘tween card for said behavior?


Then, waves of spinach and mushrooms and red peppers and scallions and snow peas and endive and edamame and fresh cilantro, each of which I had foisted upon my three angelic offspring recently, flooded my thoughts. Each time they tried one of the new, possibly offensive veggies, I gently reminded them that it takes 13 times to train your palate to like something new, so they needed to try just one bite. To my surprise and theirs, their palates are gradually changing.


So I widened my eyes, shrugged my shoulders and said, “Um, sure!”


I delayed cooking the offensive dish until my eldest specifically requested B.S. one night. (Requesting them the second time should definitely put the nail in the coffin of having his ‘tween card revoked.) I steamed the midgets quickly—no one likes soggy veggies!—in butter, garlic and fresh-snipped dill weed, with a little sea salt and freshly-ground pepper.


There was one stray leaf in the pan—so I nibbled it and…Voila! Delicious! Could this be true? I couldn’t wait to have the kids beg me to eat one, so I could pretend to be scared to death, yet ceremoniously gobble it down happily.


As we served the evening’s food, I offered everyone an optional Brussels sprout. To sweeten the deal, I offered a powdered sugar doughnut hole for every sprout eaten. (Sphere for sphere, get it?) Predictably, our two boys reversed the tables and challenged me to try one. I reluctantly agreed, then ceremoniously popped the whole thing in my mouth.


And that’s where the change process derailed.  Biting through the whole sphere sent a sensory twinge from my mouth to my brain, triggering bells ringing in my ears. This was not how this story was supposed to unfold…a retch formed in my throat, while I reached for my sparkling orange juice to wash it down. But the globe had grown to the size of a rat trying to go make its way through a baby boa. I was going to have to bite that thing again.


Doing so, I felt my abdomen heaving in an unhealthy way. A mental picture of my sister reacting to her first bite of sushi  or taking a bite of my heavenly sweet potato souffle’ (“I know you don’t normally like sweet potatoes, Kari, but this is sooo much better!”) wafted into my mind. I graciously told my startled family I felt ill and had to leave the table now. No lie. I ran straight to bed and stayed there for the evening, nursing cramps and sipping ice water, determined not to end up heaving over a toilet.


Fast forward to tonight, when I introduced linguine with wilted kale, grilled polska kielbasa, scallions, fresh parmesan and pine nuts. I realized my tots might not offer me a standing O. But as it turns out, Papagamer pronounced the new dish “delicious” and the eldest called it “pretty good.” After a bite or two, baby girl agreed to eat only the linguine, while middle son picked at the sausage. But that was juuust fine with me. A new, gentler type of change manager has entered this Mommy.


One who is praying her kids won’t remember she has a dozen times left to try those sprouts.