Today, most Americans assume that children's food can't have much of a history because they assume that children are naturally picky eaters. Who can blame them? Picky eaters are everywhere. Yet for all their ubiquity today, picky eaters were vanishingly rare in earlier times. In fact, before the mid-20th century, virtually no Americans thought that children were biologically picky.
Strange as it is to imagine, many of our most basic beliefs about children’s eating are unprecedented, and that's why I’m so interested in it. The question of what foods children can or can’t “naturally” enjoy falls at the intersection of biology and culture, and at the intersection of cultural history and the history of science. Picky traces changes in children's eating -- and changing beliefs about children's eating -- from the early nineteenth century through the early twenty-first century, as childhood itself underwent revolutionary changes.