Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hungry Monkey (Matthew Amster-Burton)

Noah is just a few days away from getting his hands on some solid food. Well, except, technically he's already had his first solid food: a small chunk of the service program at the Unitarian church on Mother's Day. Oh well.

The "first" of what will be a lifetime of non-liquid foods can be a little stressful for well-meaning parents. Iron-fortified rice cereal? Jarred food? Mashed bananas? The intricacies of these choices are expounded upon in Web sites, blender-specific homemade baby food books, and pamphlets given out at the doctor's office. Do this (strain, steam, vegetables-before-fruit, wait four days between new foods). Don't do this (possible allergens, unsanitized cookware, vegetables with nitrates). Thank goodness for friends with second children and for Matthew Amster-Burton's book Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater.

Amster-Burton is a writer (also a blogger) who lives in Seattle with his wife and his four-year-old daughter, Iris. I got this book for my birthday (thank you, Sue!) because I had known a little about Amster-Burton's writing through the Web site Serious Eats, and I thought it might be handy for when Noah reached the solid-food stage.

When she was around one-year old, Iris would eat just about anything, loving especially very spicy food. Sushi, spicy Thai noodles, enchiladas, you name it. Amster-Burton was thrilled, thinking he had done all the right things as a parent. And then she got older. And pickier. Just like most other kids, he learned. But even then he still tries to make a meal everyone can enjoy at dinner time, with some modification, and he shares those tips in the book. A stay-at-home dad, Amster-Burton reads Working Mother, and Iris at one point isn't actually sure her mother can cook. (She can do that? She says, in disbelief, when the idea is mentioned.) This reminds me of my sister Betsy, whose oldest daughter once complained to her father that when he was away on a business trip, Betsy made them eat cereal for breakfast. Cereal.

Some of my favorite things I've taken away from this book are that, for Iris (and I'm guessing Noah given his current behavior at the dinner table), there was a very small window of time where Amster-Burton and his wife could eat their own meal while Iris at prepared baby food. She wanted their food. So he finely chopped a portion of their meal for her, with salt and spices. In preparation for the toddler years, I'm also going to try to keep in mind a quote from Ellyn Satter that Amster-Burton draws attention to (I'm paraphrasing here): once you put the plate in front of your child, your work is done. So Zenlike, and I'm sure so hard to follow given the behavior that follows.

1 comment:

Paperback Writer said...

"once you put the plate in front of your child, your work is done." I like that. Makes sense to me. Don't like watching parents scheme to get a kid to eat something. Kid is hungry, kid eats, not that complicated. ;)