Saturday, January 19, 2008

Redefining "Kid Food"

Every now and then I decide to seek expert advice for my dinner instead of winging it into a new recipe myself. I visit the "library," a small collection of nearly 200 cookbooks between my husband and I. Oh, the cookbook club people probably shed a tear the day I quit. I likely put someone's kid through college.

So, I pulled one off the shelf I had never cooked from, The New Way to Cook, a self-described revisionist look at Julia Child's masterpiece, The Way to Cook. It has lighter and healthier dishes in a very thick volume. I picked a butternut squash (yeah, we have few squash still around here) and garbanzo bean stew with saffron, cinnamon raisins and ginger. This was good.

From my cooking love, Mario Batali, I picked Pollo al Vin Cotto out of his excellent book Molto Mario. The translation is chicken in cooked wine. It also has raisins in it, plus almonds. The sauce is a wine and vinegar and honey reduction. Very good. You know the thing about not serving chicken to "company?" Forget that. Serve this one.

But, I wasn't cooking for company. Just my husband and child and myself. So, if you are wondering, did my child eat that? It sounds pretty "adult." The answer is yes, and she liked it. And yes, the alcohol cooks out of the wine!

Other than the wine, it's really not anything challenging. Kids like raisins, and cinnamon, and honey and almonds. Chicken? Sure. Butternut squash? Yes, unless you are in the throes of your own Battle Orange.

It's easy to buy into the idea of "kid food" with a whole marketing industry ready to sell you a ready-made solution. It's a myth, I tell you, a myth. If it tastes good, they will eat it. Might take a try or two or fifteen, but they will.


foodperson said...

I laugh. It's a myth, but not the way you think. It depends on the kids. My kid wanted nothing to do with fast food, but she also wanted nothing to do with any meat or vegetable between the ages of about 2 and 18. I think she may be a supertaster, because texture really offended her. Despite many tasty offerings, she lived off pasta (plain), cereal, peanut butter, dairy and fruit for many, many years. And her diet was probably healthier than many people's!

The Expatriate Chef said...

Heh. You'd think the texture thing would be a cinch after they've had to live on mush for the first few months. I tasted it all, and really, I don't get why mine would refuse anything at the table now!!!

mpg said...

I'm feeling frustrated about squash and pumpkin. Like you, I bought lots and am trying to use it up. But although my kids both like it, they haven't been happy with a lot of the recipes I tried. Curried pumpkin soup was a huge hit, but the Julia Child bean and pumpkin casserole was not (depsite the fact that both my kids love beans). Last night I made baked penne with butternut squash, leeks, bechemel, and parmesan - so mild and yummy - and neither of them liked it although it was delicious. I might try that one again using onions or shallots for the flavor instead of leeks.

My older son eats everything. Younger son is a problem, but I just kind of ignore it for now. He's two and I figure he just needs to catch on. Both of them are conscious when I make a "kids' meal" of something like pizza or macaroni and cheese, because it is different from our usual fare. But I don't think it bothers them too much that these meals are not routine.

Rachel said...

Holy Moly, that sounds yummy. You've tempted me into pulling out my new cookbook by Bill Granger Bill's Open Kitchen and finding something for tonight!

Jess is difficult to predict these days. I have to say that she'll always try everything I'll put in front of her, but second bites are a crapshoot and she can be very inconsistent as to what she will and won't eat. If you look at her diet from a weekly perspective, she does alright - some meals are pure protein, others carbs, others veg, so I try not to worry.

The other big issue right now is sitting at the table and using good manners. I'm a stickler on the subject, DH is not; it goes back to family upbringing. My parents really emphasized eating together, good manners, etc. DH's family, not so much. So there's an unevenness in application that Jess has totally sussed out!

Michelle Stern said...

Yeah!! I am always so happy when I hear about families who serve their kids normal food. Let's be realistic - who has time to cook two separate meals, anyway? Plus, we should model good and healthy eating for our kids instead of giving them mystery ingredients.

I started a company called What's Cooking a few years ago that offers healthy and seasonal cooking classes to children. People sometimes forget that when kids get into the kitchen, their excitement about eating their creations makes them forget all about their preconceived notions about disliking certain foods!

The Expatriate Chef said...

I read your site, Michelle. There is a similar company called Bistro Kids that does the teaching, and also does school lunch programs that offer local foods. Perhaps you should trade notes with them?

Ed Bruske said...

I also do not believe in dumbing food down to kids. That doesn't mean they'll eat anything. My experiencing teaching food to kids also tells me they are more willing to try things they may not otherwise if they've had a hand in the process of making it. Kids like to work with their hands, and they want to be involved.