Wednesday, November 3, 2010


My mother-in-law Carolyn tells the story of her father Charles going to the store with his grandson, my partner, Ted, when he was a toddler. Ted began screaming for something, and wouldn’t let up, and frustrated, Charles brought him back home and told Carolyn about it. “What would you do?” Charles asked her.

“I’d just give him the goddamn thing,” Carolyn replied.

That more or less sums up Ted’s parents philosophy on dealing with a toddler, and by extension, ours. You can and should certainly say no sometimes, but you pick your battles. Thus, when we were at Target recently, and Mikey saw a box of these organic yogurt rice crispy bars from Earth’s Best, we thought, “Sure, could be worse,” and we gave them to him.

Needless to say, it wasn’t the organicness that attracted Mikey, or the calcium or brown rice grain, or event the vanilla flavor. It was the image of the Sesame Street star Elmo, or “Melmo” as Mikey calls him, on the box. The insidiousness of fictional character promotion. There is no doubt of Mikey and Melmo which one is the puppet.

Much like the monster of Dr. Frankenstein came to be called Frankenstein himself, the organic yogurt rice crisp bars have become known as “Melmo” in our house. I don’t know why “organic yogurt rice crisp bars” isn’t as catchy, but that’s the way it is. And Melmo, I must tell you, is toddler crack.

On the plus side, there is nothing that Mikey won’t do for the promise of a Melmo. He could be in the middle of the biggest snit, and we murmur, “If you have a bath, change your clothes, comb your hair, and pick out a book for bedtime, then you can have a Melmo,” and he will rush to the bathroom, ripping off his clothes. On the minus side, the minute he is finished devouring the last delectable morsel of Melmo, the next two words out of his mouth: “More Melmo!”

We are experimenting with giving him half Melmos with mixed results. There may need to be an intervention.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

On A Roll

The Sprog has been eating pretty healthily recently, but there’s always the danger of getting into a routine and not branching out to new cuisines. We’ve given him tastes of different regional fare, but we’ve been holding off on Japanese. We love sushi, but we know The Sprog’s immune system isn’t quite up to dealing with raw fish. We also know that he is far too antsy for the most formal of restaurants, but that’s part of what this blog is about: helping develop a tot’s good food habits all around, including in restaurants.

For lunch, we were going to go to IHOP. True confession, I’ve never been. The whole notion of going out for breakfast has always seemed a little strange to me. I know enough to know that it is the least formal meal at the least formal of restaurants, so we figured today being Saturday, we’d take him out and expand his horizons. We missed IHOP on Reseda Blvd., and since we were going to the mall in Northridge anyhow, we decided to go to the nearby restaurant chain, Marie Callenders.

It was terrible. I couldn’t eat my omelette hardly at all, and Ted, who can eat anything, only ate a bit of his frittata. The Sprog, on the other hand, gorged. Most of the blueberry muffins brought to our table went down his gullet. A pancake. Six or seven slices of melons. Some of Ted’s egg, potato, bacon, and sausage frittata, and the bite or two I could bear to give him of my omelette, plus some hash browns. He was a gut bucket.

He also behaved beautifully. After we arrived and before the food arrived, I took him out on the lawn for a walk around to burn off some energy, and he flipped back and forth between my side of the table and Ted’s, but he was in great form. Inspired by that, we decided that for dinner, we’d take him to our favorite sushi dive, Akari Sushi in Woodland Hills.

We got there at six thirty, and there were a couple people inside, but not many. Perfect. We settled him in and he devoured his edamame. Score. We tried feeding him that before and he didn’t go for it. Now he ate plate after plate. Avoiding the raw fish temptation, we ordered baked crab roll, spider roll, and hamachi kama, which is baked yellowtail collar, one of our favorites. The Sprog ate it all, and was given a pair of “Chinese chopsticks” to practice with. He broke two pairs, so he ended with regular ones.

He gave the waitress high-fives, fist bumps, and kisses.

“Come back next week!” she called after us as we left. We would, but next week is The Sprog’s 2nd birthday, and we have plans – some of which involve food.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Smear Campaign

I’m British, and while there are plenty of quite outdated jokes about British cuisine from the days before Nigella Lawson, Gordon Ramsay, and Heston Blumenthal made it delicious and chic, there are still some controversial culinary traditions. In addition to teaching our son to love fresh, healthy food and have excellent dining room manners, I want to him to know and perhaps enjoy the food of his British heritage. Today, I came home earlier from work, hungry because I hadn’t had any lunch. I made myself a slice of bread, butter, and Marmite and came out to the backyard where my partner and the Sprog were playing.

“Please,” said the Sprog, eyeing my bread.

“I don’t know if you’re going to like it,” I said, giving him a small chunk. I am unable to resist a “Please.”

He woofed it down. A moment later, his hand came up again. “Please?”

So that was it. Two small morsels of bread, butter, and Marmite, and then I said “All gone,” and he agreed, “Ga ga.”

For those not familiar, Marmite is a by-product of beer brewing. It is very salty and yeasty, and the slogan for the company has been “Love It or Hate It” – which is not something most brands would embrace. Here in Los Angeles, it is available at a couple specialty British shops, but I try to pick some of it up when I’m in the UK, and I ask my friends visiting to bring some back for me. One friend arrived with a jar of it, and told me that he was asked at customs, “Have you brought over any food, or Marmite?”

Nutritionally, sodium content is quite high, not surprisingly, but so is Niacin, Folic Acid, and Vitamin B12, even in the tiniest 2 gram smear on a piece of bread. The amount the Sprog had was negligible.

The point of giving my son Marmite is not the nutrition, though it used to be advertised as “the growing up spread” because it was a way to get children their B vitamins. Looking at the label of ingredients, it is good stuff, which is welcome after I took a moment to read the label of the YoBaby yogurt I had been feeding him and seeing that the second ingredient was sugar (I have since switched to Greek yogurt with fruit, which he seems to like as well or better anyhow).

No, the point of giving my son Marmite is sharing something with him that I love. That’s as nourishing as any vitamins and minerals.

Now I have to go look up my other childhood favorites, Heinz Apricot Rice Pudding and Farley’s Rusks, and see whether they’re as good as I remember.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pasta & Peas, and Leeks & Please

Today, the Sprog had a playdate with an older woman (7 years old) and her mother who made him broccoli-stuffed ravioli, which he devoured. It was his first pasta, and it was very good – turns out it’s an Italian brand called Garafalo she got at Costco.

She also gave him lots of her famous croutons, which made him happily stink of garlic.

We’re trying to all eat the same things for dinner, and eliminate the distinctions between food for kids and food for grown-ups. Tonight it was roast chicken, mashed potatoes with burrata mozzarella, and pureed peas and leeks. Everything except the chicken was new to him, and he loved it, though he didn’t quite finish the peas and leeks. Still, it’s good that green isn’t an automatic turn-off to him anymore.

I haven’t mentioned this before, but a couple points on manners: we tell him whenever he reaches for something, he has to say “Please” first. It’s become a comical elongated “Peeeeeee-eeeeease” with giggles. At least fifty percent of the time, we get a thank you or its equivalent (“Dank doo,” “Eeep oh,” “Zzzxhmqt!”) as well. And the moment he starts to play with his food rather than eat it, it gets taken away, only to be returned with more Peeeeeee-eeeeeases and Dank doos.

After all, in less than a month, he’s meeting Grandma and the manners better be spot on.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Some of the Good Stuff

Some things the Sprog has had over the weekend and today:
• Salmon
• Pizza crust
• Explorateur Cheese

• Quiche (he picked the spinach out)
• Mushrooms
• Crepe
• Yam
• Oven-roasted kale

Saturday, June 12, 2010

From The Mouths Of Babes

Now that we have the Sprog used to eating some green things like his spirulina-infused oatmeal, we are moving on to others. Last night, with his sausage, chicken, and eggs, we gave him pureed spinach with cous-cous and his favorite hummus. (I know, we did hummus with quesadilla, and now we’re doing it with cous-cous – it’s early fusion cuisine.) It went down the gullet in no time.

He still loves blueberries, and today after breakfast (eggs, toast, blueberries and strawberries), I gave him a couple blueberries in a snack cup. He disappeared into his nursery and we heard soft babbling baby talk. Peering around the corner, we saw him feeding the blueberries to Woof-Woof, the stuffed dog he sleeps with every night. He was doing all the things we do to him, saying “Whee!” and “Yum yum!” as he pushed the berries into the sewed up mouth.

In more ways that one, from the mouths of babes.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sneaky Greens

The Sprog is always starving at breakfast time and has eaten everything – pancakes, oatmeal, Weetabix cereal – we’ve put in front of him. Today, I made him his traditional “super” Weetabix, thick enough to stick on his uncertain spoon, with milk, protein powder, and brewer’s yeast, and added a teaspoon of powdered spirulina which is rich in amino acids and beta-kerotene. We were a little concerned that he would be put off by his cereal being a very vivid green color, but he woofed it down as usual.

For dinner, I made a quesadilla where pureed broccoli was hidden between the layers of cheese and tortilla, and he could dip it in hummus, his favorite sauce (where we have hidden spirulina before, by the way). He never drinks juice during the day, only water and milk with breakfast, but I made an exception tonight and gave him a glass of Naked “Green Machine” juice in his sippy cup and he loved it. I suppose I could have juiced apples, bananas, kiwi, mango, pineapple, together with spirulina, chlorella, broccoli, spinach, garlic, barley grass, wheat grass, ginger, and parsley, but sometimes a little convenience is nice.

Also introduced him to blueberries to go with his much-loved dessert of sliced strawberries. The bowl was cleaned out.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Let The Feeding Begin

My partner and I started this blog almost a year ago, when it looked like we’d be getting 11-month-old twins to foster and (we hoped) adopt. That fell through, and then six months later, we began fostering a 5-month-old baby. He ended up leaving us after a month, breaking our hearts. A few more months went by, and we were given a 21-month-old boy but again, he was moved to another foster home after only a week and a half. 24 hours after losing him, we opened our doors to a new child, a 20-month-old toddler. My partner Ted has blogged in some detail about all this in his blog

This brief history is to say that we have gone from having no children and no reason to blog about the feeding of them, to being busy with three different little boys at different times, and no time to blog. Now that we’re getting a handle on it, I wanted to revisit this blog and start contributing to it regularly.

“Baby J,” as we call the 5-month-old in the public world of cyberspace, didn’t have a very demanding diet. We gave him formula and occasionally a bottle of water. “Baby A,” as we called the 21-month-old was a real gut-bucket. When we took him to the pediatrician, he was weighed in at the 75th percentile for his weight even though he was only in the 40th percentile for height. Not an obese child, yet, but certainly a little porker. He would eat everything we put in front of him, devouring broccoli, squash, tofu, everything that wasn’t moving.

“Baby M,” the 20-month-old in our care now, who we fully expect to adopt in 6 months time, is a normal toddler. He’s exactly in the 50th percentile for weight, and 50th for height, so the foster home that had him before didn’t overfeed him, which is good. And his appetite is hardy: he asks for food (“More! More!”) a lot in between meals. There is a lot he does eat, and a few things, mainly vegetables, that he tries and then spits up.

Our theory is that it’s a textural thing. I served him steamed squash in little cubes and he did the spit up thing. So I took it away, and came back it mashed up with carrots, and he tried it again and spit it up. So I took it away, and blended the carrots and squash in with yogurt. He scraped the bowl clean.

I love the fact that he always tries.

I don’t know what he was used to eating at the old foster home. “Baby A,” I know, was used to eating a lot of junk, as evidenced by his reaction in line at the candy shelves we passed in the grocery store and the fit he had when he didn’t get any of it. We haven’t had that same reaction from M. But we know one thing about toddlers: they are always unpredictable.

Figuring out what works and doesn’t work is the purpose of this blog. Input from parents who have faced the challenges of the dinner table, from menus to manners, would be greatly appreciated.