Learning to Eat

A New Passion

I’m back. It’s been awhile, but trying to practice minimalism in this new house has been…difficult. I know, living in a smaller house should help, but it’s not. All I’m really doing is putting things aside for when we leave this rental and have a “real” house.

You don’t have to tell me, I’m sure it’s not a healthy mindset, but it’s the one I have. And while I’m still passively working toward minimalism, it’s very slow right now, and very boring to write about.

But, I’ve found a new passion. Food.

Quick background. When my son was a baby we discovered he had several allergies (dairy, eggs, and nuts). Add to this that he’s always been small, the doctors (obviously) pushed me to get him to eat more. But, on top of his allergies, he was (and is) a very picky child, and he’s also clamped-lips-nothing-passes-them-unless-I-say-so stubborn. So his diet morphed into one of crackers, cereals, bacon (a big favorite), and a few other allergy-friendly, kid-type foods.

It drove me nuts, but I didn’t know what to do. His allergies limited us, and I—frankly—am not a great cook.

Fast forward to today. Both my kids eat like kids (my son’s diet hasn’t improved much), my husband isn’t much better and, yeah alright, I admit, my taste buds aren’t that mature either–they might be in their teens. Maybe. I still avoid a lot of things like fish or basically any kind of seafood, and as far as cooking goes, working with bones grosses me out (go ahead and laugh, it’s ok).

Anyway, completely at the end of my rope, and certain my kids were going to grow up eating nothing but goldfish crackers, I picked up a book called French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon. (See her ten rules here.) Inspiring, I tell you, but also scary. How could I ever do all that?

This in turn led me to finally watch Julie and Julia, the story of Julie Powell cooking every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. (I’m not a Meryl Streep fan, but she was a brilliant Julia Child). I enjoyed the movie, but it only made the idea of cooking scarier because, unlike Julie Powell, I don’t like to cook. I love to look through cookbooks, even buy them, but I think looking and cooking must be two completely different hobbies.

So how do I make this manageable for me–the woman who can follow a recipe, but doesn’t a) enjoy it, and b) have much experience?

Spoiler – there’s no way I’m cooking through Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Well, my plan will morph and change as I go, I’m sure. But for now, I’m taking a few rules from Karen Le Billon meaning:

1. I’m in charge of my children’s food education.

2. Ditch the constant snacking and fill up at meal time.

3. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to taste it.

That last one has already helped get my stubborn son’s lips parted enough to slide in a drop of something he didn’t want.

Instead of French Cooking, I have a small list of more familiar (to me) cookbooks I’m going to use—though I did get a couple of Jacques Pepin’s books. I really do like Jacques Pepin.

Anyway, the list (for now) is as follows:

America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook. There are lots of pictures and it makes cooking seem possible.

-Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here for the Food, and I’m Just Here for More Food. Because I love Alton Brown, and if you’ve never seen Good Eats, you should.

The Professional Chef put out by The Culinary Institute of America. Ok, this will probably only be looked at in fear and reverence, because there are a lot of scary pictures of meat and bones.

To be clear, my goal isn’t to cook through a particular book, it’s to try new things and get my kids (and husband) to taste them, and keep tasting them until they hopefully realize “Hey, this is pretty good.” While I’m going to attempt to cook through the America’s Test Kitchen book, a lot of recipes will have to be skipped due to allergies, because expensive ingredients don’t always fit into our budget, and because some ingredients just aren’t available in our little middle-of-nowhere town. (And, truthfully, because I’m going to have to get over my queasiness around certain things)

As a starting point, I made a sort of beet/zucchini puree last night. Both kids tasted and didn’t like it (shocker), and my husband made his own horrible faces, but he ate it.

Personally, I thought it was pretty good.

Well, here I go. Wish me luck.

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