A Million Meals

Caring for children in today's confusing food environment

What's Their Secret? Parents Who Love to Feed

How some parents truly enjoy feeding their children

Do you have friends whose way with food makes you jealous? Friends whose children happily eat every exotic food under the sun, or who genuinely seem to enjoy cooking for and feeding their children? Recently, I decided to interview a few of these admirable parents and try to gain some insights from their thoughts on feeding children. Here we go!

This summer my husband and I reunited with friends who live across the country, with whom we shared a hometown for all of three months (fourteen years ago) and somehow still feel deeply in tune with. They now have three wonderful children as talented and charming as they are. What drew us to them from the start was not merely their sterling qualities, but how much we enjoyed the same things: certain movies, outdoor activities (to a point), cultural references, a specific sense of humor. This summer, I also realized how much a love of food forms a strong connection between us, one that's somehow more obvious now that we're all parents. The husband, in particular, shares my quasi-obsessive love of new flavors and cuisines, and in his family he's become not only the primary cook but also the cheerleader who encourages his children to broaden their appetites.

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I get asked all the time, "Did you really cook what you claimed to?" (yes) and "How much of what you cook do your kids really eat?" (about half). Sometimes I feel as if the real, underlying question is "Why do you cook so much?" or "Why do you spend so much time thinking about, preparing and then writing about food?" In an attempt to find the answers to these questions for myself, I thought it would be helpful to explore the point of view of someone much like myself, though he's a father with a full-time job, so in some ways he's battling much stiffer odds and spending more precious (limited) time on his quest to feed to his children the way he wants to.

Q:  When did you get interested in food-and was it first about eating or cooking?

First, eating. I started cooking after college on a post-graduate year in the U.K., since there were two burners down the hall, the restaurant food mostly sucked, and it was a social thing for the Americans to cook together (like for Thanksgiving). 

Q: Why do you think you became a cooking parent?

I loved cooking pre-kids, but then it also became something I could do with the kids and a way to try to get them to eat more variety. It also satisfies the primitive hunter/gatherer/provider instinct for me more than ordering takeout. 

Q: Did you grow up in a family that ate home-cooked meals?

Yes, mostly. 

Q: How often does your family eat dinner together during the week?

6 nights

Q: How many meals a week do you cook for your family (rather than order in, heat up or eat out)?

5 plus.

Q: Do you cook primarily for your own pleasure or for your family's?

70/30 for my own pleasure.

Q: How much do health concerns play a role in your cooking?

Substantial, but it is more about eating fresh good food. 

Q: Have you had (or continue to have) any issues with weight or eating?

No! I eat like a pig and have the BMI of an ICU patient. 

Q: Do you feel guilty about anything you eat? How about what your children eat?

A little guilty about eating meat from restaurants where I know it is factory farmed crap (especially ethnic places). And the kids eat too many sweets. 

Q: How much do you tailor your cooking to your children's appetites and preferences?

Modestly. Less peppers, anchovies and other fish than I would normally eat or cook with.  

Q: How adventurous are your children as eaters?

The older ones are pretty adventurous with flavors, spicy food, etc. The inverse is true for meat...okay, the little one really likes meat, but the others are almost vegetarian. 

Q: Do you restrict any foods in your own diet? What about in your children's?

No, but I try to avoid factory-farmed meat whenever possible. 

Q: How supportive is your spouse in your desire to cook for your family? Does he or she share your goals? Your feelings about food?

For the most part, yes, but she is more pro-vegetarian than I am and would like it if we did quick takeout a bit more often so there would be less cleanup and less time in the kitchen. 

Q: Are there any specific foods you hope your children eat one day? Any you hope they don't?

Anchovies, and fish of all kinds. Less frozen food, junk food and candies. 

Q: What are your goals for your children as far as food and eating are concerned? Do you want them to become eaters similar to or different from you? 

I want them to become exactly like me in every way!

Do you know any super feeders? What questions would you like to ask them? Let me know and I will pose them in my next interview with a mother who is truly a kitchen superstar.

What I cooked this week:

  • Pasta with Frankies' Tomato Sauce (The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual)
  • Roast Chicken with Roast Cauliflower (toss florets with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast on a baking sheet in a 425 degree oven until browned and wilted--the best way ever to cook cauliflower)
  • Pasta with Bell Peppers and Sausages (Marcella Hazan, The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)
  • Mrs. Sebastiani's Malfatti (The Essential New York Times Cookbook
  • Tomato Sauce with Sauteed Vegetables (The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)
  • Maple Walnut Ice Cream (Melissa Clark, In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite)
  • New Year's Eve (!) Farro with Porcini Mushrooms and Pancetta (New York Times

 

 

 

 

Zanthe Taylor, M.F.A., is a former dramaturg and English teacher who is currently raising two daughters in Brooklyn, NY.

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