Holiday read - Hungry Monkey


This whimsical pick during my Amazon shopping has been on of my absolute favorite recent finds, and if you have a kid, are thinking about having a kid, or just appreciate good food, I want you to run out and pick up your own copy. I've already sent one to both my brother & his wife (about to adopt a child), and to my sister-in-law (dating a guy with kids). Now it's time for you to buy one.


As a father, there's been little that has brought me more pleasure than sharing the joy & discovery of food with the kids. This morning, the Critter helped me make candied bacon to go with our oatmeal. Last night, the Boy helped me stir peas and our homemade pancetta into our risotto. From the time that they can sit upright and hold onto a spoon, they're pretty much ready to help in one way or another in the kitchen.

The author of this book dedicates a whole chapter to, "You fed your child WHAT?". It goes along with what he lays out as Rule #1 - (and I believed, even before I read it here) - 'There is no such thing as baby food'. It can't be too spicy, or too raw, or too seasoned once they're over a year old. (The singular exception, which I will go along with, is honey - not because they won't love it. But it can carry a bacteria that causes infant botchulism.) Generally speaking, if you can eat it, they can eat it. Not only have I always been glad to let our kids try whatever was on my plate as a way of broadening their palate, but I can't imagine the stress of being one of those parents that specially prepares a separate meal for the kid, and packages plain white chicken cubes or ritz crackers everywhere we go, just in case.

But most of all, this book rang true for me because I have found the same connection with our kids in the kitchen that the author does. No matter how irritating the small, noisy and often smelly people that live in our house are, and no matter how much pre-bedtime whining or "Holy crap, kid, would you please pick up your bedroom!?" arguing there is, there are two things that the kids & I always agree on. Reading to them at bedtime, and food.

It's a whole set of traditions you'll come to love with the kids. When I pull out the meat grinder, the Critter knows it's time to make chorizo. She won't let me buy tortillas if we have time to make it ourselves. And she will always prefer home-made pizzas to the crap you get at Domino's. Don't get me wrong, she's still picky about some things (why on earth would anyone make macaroni and cheese that doesn't come out of a blue box?), and she'll never say no to Taco Bell, but she also chose sushi for her 7th birthday dinner, going right for the fatty tuna and the toro roll. The boy isn't so much a picky eater, he just rarely eats. But we found that just like when he gets to stir the risotto - he's a lot more likely to eat something he helped pick out of the garden, or helped make in the kitchen.

When I grew up, I wasn't exactly a picky eater, I just was less-than-adventurous. It wasn't until I moved to California (and specifically, when I started dating the beautiful lady who later agreed to marry me in a moment of weakness) that I really started trying out new foods, and discovered the joy that comes from vegetables that aren't boiled with a piece of salt pork until they're dead (although, I still like them that way too), or the hidden culinary mysteries behind a dim sum brunch. I don't think I could have been any prouder than when my two-year-old asked for, and then ate a half dozen quail eggs for breakfast this week, or when my daughter helped me cure and hang our own hams with the same apparent enjoyment that most kids reserve for their Wii.