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hungry monkey

Some women while away their pregnancies worrying about things like jogging strollers and day care applications. Not here. What I want to know is what the little person is going to eat, and how to diversify beyond chicken fingers.

Looks like there are several schools of thought from which to choose. There’s the laissez-faire approach, which concedes that kids will eat what they eat, aka mac and cheese. There’s the sneaky parent approach, which involves baking vitamins into chocolate chip cookies. And then, once in a while, you find those kids who seem to eat everything. Like my friend Denise’s children. During our last visit I witnessed her first grader snacking on veal sweetbreads, a food most adults won’t touch. Denise’s husband happens to be a chef. What’s the approach there?

Could there just possibly be a correlation between children who love to eat and parents who love to eat, too? That’s my hunch, and I’ve set about trying to learn more. Luckily, there are dozens of books on the topic. But most of them don’t quite do it for me. There’s the cute Petite Appetit cookbook, which doesn’t get much beyond boiling water. There’s Ruth Yaron’s Super Baby Food, a strident guide to maximizing child nutrition, never mind actual enjoyment.

Enter local food writer Matthew Amster-Burton‘s new book, Hungry Monkey, an eating adventure that involves the author’s now five-year-old daughter Iris. Amster-Burton claims that Iris has been eating pad thai and sushi since age 1. It’s a story I want to believe in, a story that has the power to put all of those raging mommy debates about cloth diapers and nursing bras into context for me.

There are many things I look forward to about parenthood, and one is sitting around a table with my family and sharing good meals together. What I especially like about Hungry Monkey is that most of the recipes are ones I’d like to cook and eat myself, which makes them recipes a family can eat together. Sure, not every ingredient is seasonal or local. Sure, it’s not Jerry Traunfeld’s Herbfarm Kitchen. All the same, Hungry Monkey gets at the idea that food isn’t just fuel. This author appreciates eating as a form of culture, and that’s a good reminder right now.

What are your tips for eating with kids?

Well, it’s not really the mission here at Eat Local Northwest to keep things uber-current, to stay up with the rest of the blogosphere just to prove we can. For example, I just finished reading Ruth Reichl’s memoir Tender at the Bone, a mere ten years after it was published. It’s the story of Reichl’s unconventional food education, including her mother’s erratic cooking, dinners at a boarding school friend’s estate, a kitchen gig at a hippie restaurant in Berkeley. You’d be hard pressed to find a sentence here where Reichl isn’t eating or cooking. For her, food is a way to connect, a way to communicate love.

And in that vein, I recently enjoyed Calvin Trillin’s hilarious Feeding a Yen. Trillin’s a world-class eater, but no food snob. And the book is barely five years in print.

Eat Local Northwest

A food blog documenting the adventures of two friends trying to cook and eat sustainably in Seattle and in Anchorage.