The humbling domestic marathon that is cooking for children
A lot of you asked about food and recipes my kids like, which depending on the hour or day or month of the year would warrant a vastly different answer. Feeding kids is maddening, and feeding kids during a pandemic when you have to cook/provide somewhere between 98-100% of your family’s meals is simply exhausting, a marathon of domestic churn that it’s hard to truly imagine being pleasurable between the dishwashing, acquiring the ingredients, and the actual cooking.
My kids are 3 and 5 and in the history of eating—yes, they have tried scallops and mushrooms and kimchi and salsa and eggplant and green beans. But, on any given day they’ll likely eat none of those, beg only for snacks, and it doesn’t matter how many times you got their approval or prepared the food exactly the same way you made it the last time they ate it, the end result is fairly arbitrary.
Children are the definition of fickle, their requirements both extremely specific and strongly held, yet they have no ability to communicate this specificity in any way that’s both comprehensible to a parent and works with the very short number of minutes said parent has to prepare meal with actually available ingredients.
Julian will eat corn on the cob but not off the cob.
Ada will eat avocados in a sushi roll but not alone.
Julian likes beef but only if he thinks it is pork.
Ada likes blueberry pancakes but only if you sub chocolate chips in for the blueberries, she says.
Oh, and then there’s cheese:
Ada claims grilled halloumi (the weird, rubbery, salty albeit delicious cheese from Cyrprus) is her favorite food. LOL. She also claims to like pizza cheese, so she says. Her acceptance of mozzarella is reinforced by her love of string cheese. But it turns out there’s an additional specification of pizza cheese only on round pizzas. And oh, no basil. And not too much sauce. And definitely not any crumbly cheese (ricotta) mixed in. She also likes shell pasta with cheese sauce (macaroni and cheese), but not if you call it macaroni and cheese. And she loves quesadillas, but not with too much cheese, and only on a flour-not-corn tortilla.
Julian on the other hand doesn’t like halloumi or mac and cheese. He does like string cheese and supposedly likes pizza which appears to be the actual venn diagram of possibilities except the last 4 times exclusively consumed the pepperoni and left the rest for the family. So, shrug.
Basically at this point we’re at quesadillas with not much cheese, or pepperoni pizza that must be cooked just right and be round. A thrill. Thank god Ollie’s Pizza is nearby.
The entire experience is continually humbling and threatens to take all joy out of food preparation except that occasionally you present the kids with something and without any fuss or exertion of will they just try it and eat it and you feel enough momentary redemption to just keep going. In our house that’s quinoa bowls and senegalese peanut soup and ragu and pickled burdock root and yes, scallops.
Here are a few recipes our entire family eats and enjoys:
Jacob introduced our family to this Pasta al Limone that comes from Frank Prinsinzaro of Lil’ Frankies and Frank and requires only 6 ingredients, one of them being the pasta. Our kids like it with a side of roast broccoli or cauliflower.
This chicken + rice noodle soup with coconut lime broth was a surprising hit and is GF and easily made vegetarian, though we are neither. We put the shiitakes and the scallions/cilantro to the side for the grown-ups and the kids will slurp it up.
Jacob also cooks a Momofuku style pork butt with the sugar/salt glaze every 2 months or so and then it can be used for endless possibilities: for a recent taco night we added guac, a cabbage slaw and chopped kimchi for the grown-ups.
Two table-things that make our life better:
The Duralex Gigogne Tumbler is unbreakable and the 5.6 oz size is exactly right for a limited amount of some non-water beverage you’re treating your child to at dinner, while also being the right size for your wine. Bonus points that everyone is drinking from the exact same glass, so nobody has to fight over whose is bigger!
Xenia Taler’s bamboo plates are sturdy and cute and dishwasher safe and it turns out plates this size and constitution are also great for your snack-o’clock cookie when you’re fading during that 4 p.m. zoom call.
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