To my children’s consternation, I had just announced chicken for dinner. Internally, I prepared myself for the clean-your-plate dance that I knew the evening would entail.

No one likes chicken in my family.

Well, perhaps “no one” is a little strong.

But outside of Chick-fil-A and the corresponding magical Polynesian sauce, the individuals in my family prefer beef, every time.

Complaints have crept in, becoming an undertone for every meal that includes chicken.

This afternoon, over a meal of coconut milk baked chicken, we had a great chat about embracing the reality on your own plate in front of you.

Sometimes you have to eat chicken.
Sometimes you can’t control what someone serves you.
Sometimes you just have to get through it.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t think:
“How could I tweak this so that I at least don’t hate it?”
“Is there something I can take away or add to make this more enjoyable?”
“How can I make this something that I might enjoy?”

Over our meal, I asked the kids: “So. What would you add to this dinner to make it something that you would potentially enjoy?”

We made a list of favorite ways to enjoy chicken. (Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets made the list, of course.) We made a list of least favorite ways to eat it. We brainstormed things that could be added to the current meal to make it more enjoyable.

The winning answer? Ketchup.

Impressive amounts of ketchup were consumed in the communication of this message. With ketchup squirted over every square inch of their diced chicken, the conversation moved on from strident complaints to a follow-on conversation about things in life that we can’t control.

Every occupation includes hard things.
Even a dream job has elements of distaste in it.
We all have responsibilities and chores that are just plain work.
No job is perfect.
Sometimes we just have to eat chicken.
We all need ketchup.

I don’t enjoy running. When I run, I get to listen to an engrossing audiobook.
Mondays are hard. We created “Adventure Days” where the kids and I go to a museum to launch the week.
Cleaning the house from top to bottom is a stress that hangs over me. It has been much happier to boost my freelance hours a bit so I can hire a housecleaner to come help with the essentials once a month.
It’s no fun to pick up the house. But we can blast the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack to make it more fun.

Embrace the need for ketchup in your life. Or barbecue sauce. Or swap to grilled instead of poached. We all have things that we can tweak or change to make our present commitments more enjoyable.

Some day, my children will develop a classical palate that eschews saccharine sauces and savor the flavors of a dish. Some day, they will learn to cook their own chicken and make healthful choices. But until then, there’s ketchup and the reminder that you can make a dish your own, even if you have to eat it.

Bonus: This recipe is currently our favorite kid-approved version of the ubiquitous fowl.