Operation whole wheat bread *link fixed*
Over Thanksgiving break I read a funny story in the New York Times Magazine called Dad’s Weird Suppers, about a dad, who when his wife is away, cooks his sons eggplant with sauteed mushrooms, or bacon-slathered fish confettied with kale; everything is made from scratch and dinners don’t contain the easy crowd pleasers that his wife would select–baby carrots, yogurt cups and fish sticks–those foods “that the boys will eat without extensive litigaton.”
The author, Pete Wells says: “I have sometimes accused (my wife) of pandering to the voters. Baby carrots, for example. Aside from being orange and vaguely oblong, do they have anything in common with their namesakes? You can’t tell which end the tops grew from and from which dangled the long whip of a root. Rather than golden at the core, they are the same unnervingly bright color throughout, one that might well have been patented by Sunkist.”
Wells serves his “weird suppers” knowing at least one child will balk. After a meal of lamb and eggplant, in which no one touches the eggplant, he says “No doubt, my numbers would have been higher if I had avoided the eggplant and gone with baked sweet potatoes, so popular with the electorate. But that would not be leadership, and I am a leader.”
When I first started making yogurt Col would beg for the “store yogurt.” “I don’t like your lumpy yogurt,” he’d whine. Rose was simply pleased to get the green light on unlimited yogurt consumption (now that it only cost $1/quart). But enough time has passed without a single carton of “store yogurt” appearing on a fridge shelf, and guess who now requests daily bowls of those white clouds of dairy?
Two summers ago, we watched our friends John and Sue lower tongfuls of salad onto their daughters dinner plates. “They eat salad?” I asked incredulously, as if their daughters were actually cooking and serving the meal while reciting Shakespeare sonnets. And sure the lettuce leaves were buried under a slurry of dressing, but those girls, 2 and 4 at the time, approached the salad like it just belonged with dinner.
We have a lot of weird suppers around here. Last night it was roadkill deer backstraps (which just that morning the kids watched Dan peel from the spine of a crushed deer), carrot-beet salad heaped with sprouts, sauerkraut and whole wheat bread.
It wasn’t a wildly popular dinner with the little people, not as crowd-pleasing as say, cheesy pasta, even with the inevitable bits of cheese-lodged chard to contend with. But these days (now that we’ve long passed the biologically-driven Keep Baby Alive Stage) introducing the kids to a wide variety of food seems ultimately like the mountain we’re trying to climb, rather than lingering at the basecamp of pasta and crackers.
Plus, Dan and I love to cook and because we spent much of the past autumn amassing stores of local food, we’re climbing that mountain sponsored by the belief that if we keep serving say, beets (because there happens to be 30, dirt-covered rubies rolling around our crisper drawer), the kids will begin to love them (or at least accept them).
And yet there are the realities of feeding people under age 7. No one cheers at a plate of greenhouse chard seared with sesame oil and tamari. Soups are archeologically probed for weird hiding bits. Broccoli is a bargaining chip, like, “if I eat all my bwoc-coli can I have dessert?” The green lushness of an avocado, which put ten pounds on Rose’s thighs her first year of life, has never slid fattily down Col’s throat; and the chanterelle mushrooms we hunted for lustily in September, Rose would toss to the chickens.
Every week I bake a couple loaves of dense, chewy whole wheat bread. And sure the kids would trade me on ebay for a mom who serves puffy, white flour bread, but I don’t feel great about the chemical bleaching agents, or about first removing all the nutrients and then fortifying them back in. So we eat whole wheat bread on the side of the mountain, with lots of butter.
Read about how the book The Red Tent compelled me start baking bread on this week’s San Juan Table.
*How do you approach mealtime? Does everyone eat the same thing at your table? Do you think picky eaters are born or made?