Today’s Morning Cuppa Jo brought to you by: The Truth About Tilapia

I have a confession. I’ve been feeding my kids tilapia. “So what” you say? Well for starters, this clever, deceitful mommy passed it off as home-made style Chic-fil-A nuggets. The first time I tried that trick (using the standard Heinz ketchup packets from Chic-fil-A) I got this response: “Three cheers for Mommy!” I’m not kidding. Both my girls cheered two rounds, with fists pumping in the air and I may as well have just rescued a pet from a building burning or run a marathon because the endorphins were going off like crazy. I felt like I had on a superman cape. Damn, it felt good! And they ate every bite. Win for mommy!

But since that time my oldest daughter, age 7, has become a vegetarian. In Kindergarten she and a friend decided they would be veterinarians when they grew up because they loved animals so much. Somewhere along the way she also started learning where food came from.  So it made perfect sense that she would not want to hurt an animal by eating it. Except for Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets. And since the girl has her daddy’s disdain of healthy food (thanks, dear) I call a protein meal with applesauce a healthy meal at our house.

With laser-sharp focus, it wasn’t long before Sammy even gave up Chick-fil-A. You’ve got to admit- the girl is dedicated to her cause. For the record I am not a vegetarian. And looking back, I can remember the day at the grocery store when Sammy saw meat in the refrigerated cases and cried out, “dead cows!”  Repeatedly. Loudly. It was pretty obnoxious. And embarassing. And in a lame attempt to shut her up I pointed to the poultry and said, “well, guess what? That chicken there came from chickens, too.” She looked at me a bit shocked with wide round eyes and yeah, I’m pretty sure that sealed the deal on her vegetarianism. (Oops?)

So what’s a mom to feed her carb-a-tarian who doesn’t eat vegetables?! On a good day: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cottage cheese, apples, watermelon, strawberries, raisins… I’m too embarrassed to complete the list and more embarrassed to admit that that’s pretty much it as far as the “healthy” items go.

This deceitful mom tried another tactic. I started making the home-made “Chic-Fil-A” nuggets the same way I learned from my friend, Eliza: I cut the fish; rubbed olive oil on it; rolled the pieces in panko crumbs and flour; and fried them in the skillet. But this time I served up Ellie’s as “chicken” and Sammy’s as “protein nuggets.” The vegetarian gave a half-hearted attempt at eating her dinner. No more “three cheers for Mommy!” No more fist pumps. She ate about half of her dinner.

Since milk was steadily becoming Sammy’s main dinner protein source I tried the nuggets a few more times… until one night our observant second grader asked, “Why do my protein nuggets look the same as Ellie’s chicken nuggets? They must both be chicken!” I even kept up the façade a few more weeks by cooking the fish in two separate pans! One “chicken” pan and one “protein nugget” pan! But I think she’s on to me and it’s time for me to concede the win to Sammy. It was good while it lasted. Maybe one day I’ll receive great accolades for my cooking again, but it’s going to be hard to beat “three cheers for Mommy!”