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No yucky veggies? Must be 'guy soup.'

This soup is a perfect solution for sneaking nutritious foods into teenage boys' diets.

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It's sometimes strange being the mother to one daughter and three sons. I have likened it to having an Angora cat and three mongrel puppies.

An Angora cat, fluffy and blue-eyed, will walk where she intends to walk, eat what it pleases her to eat, and obtain such attention and affection as she feels she needs.

The puppies, conversely, will move together in a loud pack, exclaiming over everything and alerting you to their misdeeds by their rare and guilty silences.

But in my experience, nowhere is the divide between male and female offspring deeper than when it pertains to food.

My daughter believes in vegetables. Even as a college student, she insists on eating several varieties of vegetables every day. Her brothers' tastes are more limited and pedestrian. They prefer canned vegetables to fresh ones, root vegetables to the green variety, and would not knowingly eat onions.

When they were growing up, that made mealtimes interesting, because no matter what I served, there would be a small pile of rejected foods hidden under the rim of each plate.

When my husband objected to the pile of food-filled napkins left at the table at the end of a meal, I reminded him of the joke about Lyndon Baines Johnson, the former president, who took guests around his ranch and continually pointed out mounds of manure – and asked them not to step in it.

At the end of the day, one of the guests turned to his wife and said, "Aren't you going to ask your husband to please stop mentioning manure?"

Lady Bird sighed and said, "Do you know how long it took me to get him to say 'manure'? "

I looked at the stack of sodden vegetables mummified in paper and asked my husband, "Do you know how long it took me to get them to use a napkin?"

But the truth was, I was discouraged. I took each discarded green thing as a personal rejection. There had to be a way not just to get the boys to eat vegetables, but to get them to enjoy vegetables – and even to ask for them. It became a goal.

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