A mother's secret, a daughter's surprise.
Girl eating spaghetti
Credit: JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

I'm not a deceitful person, but for years, I harbored a secret that jeopardized my children's trust in me. I wasn't alone; I noticed it on Facebook, on blogs, and in mom circles. It was almost impossible not to be sucked into the beguiling trend of hiding vegetables in otherwise common food. The recipes were abundant and decadent: chocolate pudding that's really avocado? Vanilla cake that's made of white beans? It was evil genius!

The guiltiest moms were the best moms. I wanted to be one of the best moms.

So while my kids were in school, I set a large pot (or magic cauldron, if you will) on the stove. I sautéed a chopped onion, a pound of diced carrots, and handfuls of hacked up mushrooms (cue the witch cackle). Then I browned some ground white meat turkey, added several cans of chopped tomatoes, some seasoning, and let it all simmer.

The truth is, the noodle doesn't fall far from the box: Like my daughter, when I was younger, my diet also consisted solely of slippery buttered spaghetti. So I wasn't foolish enough to think that this sauce, with its brown chunks of mushrooms and floating carrot cubes, would ever make it past my pasta protege. Luckily I had a few tricks up my Lululemon sleeve: Specifically my brand new immersion blender.

I stuck that slender, blending, beauty into my pot and whirrrr it went, the sauce popping and swirling like a magic potion. Red, hot, splashes splattered my face. In the end, it was glorious. Everything was pulverized; there was not a carrot nor a mushroom in sight.

That evening around our dinner table, my duplicity took seed. I watched as my children chewed, and although I knew that what they ate was not what they believed, I said nothing. When they asked for seconds, I kept my affect flat as I scooped mounds of sauce-laden spaghetti into their bowls.

My special sauce became their favorite meal. I would make giant vats of it (when they were not looking) and freeze portions in Tupperware containers so they could have it on demand. The secret satisfaction I felt every time they ate it was incomparable. I had become one of "them" — one of the best moms. One of the guiltiest. Until it all went to pot.

It started like any other night. We sat down, our steaming bowls topped with parmesan cheese. When my daughter loves her food she has an endearing habit of humming while she eats. So there she was, humming along, taking outrageously large forkfuls while I — by now comfortable in my lie — smugly watched.

And then. The humming. STOPPED.

"Mom?" She said, putting her fork down and staring into her bowl like there was a roach crawling along the bottom. "Is that a…MUSHROOM?"

After two years of successfully feeding my kids homemade, healthful food, I let my guard down. I should have cut the mushrooms smaller. I should have sautéed the carrots longer so they weren't as crunchy. But when I look back on that evening, the moment I regret most of all is that I did not take the time to thoroughly emulsify the sauce.

"There are mushrooms in the sauce!?" She yelled at me, tears of betrayal welling in her eyes. "All this time you've been feeding me mushrooms? I hate this sauce! It's disgusting. I won't take another bite." And she pushed the bowl to the center of the table.

I didn't know what to do. I panicked: "WOW!" I said to my family enthusiastically, feigning excitement. "Mackenzie got the winning bowl! She got the one mushroom in the whole batch!" I looked around to see who would catch on. "It's like a Mardi Gras King Cake," I continued…spinning a tangled web, as they stared baffled. "You know? Where there's a tiny plastic baby baked into it?" (They didn't know.) "The person served the piece with the baby in it wins?" I was losing, but it was too late to stop. "Mackenzie found the mushroom! She gets the prize!" I anxiously scanned the room for a prize, and spotted a decorative bowl with change in it. "A quarter!"

Her tears were real and big now. She did not want her quarter. She wanted her favorite food to be acceptable to eat again. Of course, this entire situation was hilarious to her big brother, who more than anything, enjoyed watching his sister in distress. He apparently knew about the sneaky mushrooms and carrots all along.

"Fine," I said, realizing the rouse was up. "It's true. There are mushrooms and carrots in the sauce." I looked over at my husband who nodded encouragingly at me. "But you've been eating it for years, and you love it. So maybe you really like vegetables?" There was nothing else to say. I laid it all on the (proverbial) table. I sighed with relief, and began eating again. And guess what? So did everyone else.