Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Foodie Book Review

This blog is mostly an exploration of the interplay between food and building a family.  But as you can see, my love of food is getting expressed here in many different ways including restaurant reviews, special events, and responses to food news stories.  In fact, there’s hardly a part of the food experience I don’t want to write about.  To that end, I offer my first foodie book review. 

I recently read Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater by Matthew Amster-Burton.  Before having kids I must admit that I saw parents relegated to meals of chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese as rather sad.  Why didn’t they make the effort to expose their kids to real food so they could eat real meals?  Do as my parents did…make what you’re making, and the kids can eat it or not.  If they’re hungry, they’ll come around to eating most anything.  And once exposed, taste will follow.  As a parent I see now that it isn’t quite that easy.  I still don’t believe we have to kowtow to every kids’ desires; we must expose them to variety, quality and diversity.  As a parent I want to know how to do this without fighting about food at home.  The subtitle of this book, A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater spoke to me.  How can I raise my two to be adventurous and ultimately to eat anything if it’s on the plate, even if simply out of having good manners?  How can I raise a couple kids who will eat anything with me as we travel, cook and experiment?
Photo from Amster-Burton's webpage, http://hungrymonkeybook.com/

Amster-Burton has a toddler, Iris, who appears at times to be a foodie-prodigy.  She has a vast foodie vocabulary, taste and knowledge of food beyond many college grads I know, and seemingly some kitchen skills.  Her father is a stay-at-home dad and food critic/writer.  They live in Seattle where they can walk to markets and restaurants and sample the foods of the world.  Amster-Burton clearly wants a little foodie buddy from the get go, and most of the time he seems to get that from Iris.  But he also humorously and honestly shares the constant flux that are kids’ food tastes.  What is their favorite one day is vomit-inducing the next. 

I was hoping for more of the actual process of parenting, but instead got a lot about food – recipes, sources, etc. The recipes sound great, and I will be trying a few.  The cooking techniques and tool recommendations are equally excellent for any parent who would like to cook with the kids.  He also spends much time looking at the parenting advice in mainstream books.  This he does with great, snarky humor.  His greatest target is Ruth Yaron’s Super Baby Food which he skewers in glorious fashion.  In fact, the humor of the book had me laughing out loud pretty often.  Both Amster-Burton and Iris are quick with the one-liners and Iris is just precocious enough to deliver the charming, snappy responses and observations that make adults roar. 

I strongly recommend this book if you are looking for two things – a great laugh and some foodie-parenting advice, or rather modeling.  There’s not a great deal of parenting to glean from this, but a lot of great suggestions for sharing food with the kids.  You will have fun reading it without a doubt.       
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