My children are reasonable eaters; at least, in the intersection between one who eats everything and one who is picky in that typical kid way ("I like this and this and this, but I do not like them TOUCHING"), I consider them to be fairly typical. And I cook whatever I feel like cooking and they can eat it or not. I don't prepare separate food for them; I don't fret if they refuse to eat something; and I give them multivitamins and call it a day.
The internet chatter about Jessica Seinfeld's new cookbook, Deceptively Delicious, is sweeping across the parenting blogs. The book's premise is simple: Various kid-friendly foods can be "secretly" enhanced with fruit or veggie purees to up the nutrition, with junior being none the wiser. The implication is that this is every mother's dream, right here. Delicious, good-for-you recipes where the children will never have to know that they're eating well!
Color me... skeptical. For a variety of reasons. But I started reading and some folks do, indeed, declare Deceptively Delicious at hit.
Over at The Opinionated Parent, MuchMoreThanaMom gushes:
I tried a couple of the recipes and plan to try many more. My faves so far are the french toast (with pumpkin puree in the eggs), scrambled eggs (with pureed cauliflower that you totally can’t taste) and pita pizzas (which we make all the time but now will be spreading spinach puree on) and macaroni and cheese (with butternut squash). The four recipes I had time to try all took just a few minutes and hardly any work. And yes - they were delicious! When I have some more time, I can hardly wait to try the coffee cake and some of the muffins!
Wait, did she say she loved the mac and cheese? I've been following Melissa Summers' series of posts on trying Seinfeld's recipes, and her opinion of the mac and cheese was not so favorable:
I like squash and I adore macaroni and cheese and somehow this recipe has managed to ruin both these things for me. Perhaps permanently.
My son Max is a fellow macaroni and cheese lover, we often share some for lunch, homemade or from a box. I thought he might like this because he likes almost every version I’ve ever made. He did not like it at all and if he knew it was from the same book which ruined chocolate chip cookies and banana bread he’d probably want to pull Mrs. Seinfeld’s hair as well.
(You can read Melissa's account of the cookies and banana bread here, at which point I think you'll agree that even continuing to try recipes from this book was quite brave of her.)
Over at The Full Mommy, Amy from Binkytown details her objections, most of which have nothing to do with how the recipes taste.
There's the ideation of hiding vegetables:
I can see this approach if you are dealing with an infant, yes, it makes sense, but for a six year old? Can you really equate blitzing and hiding food as something that is deemed habit changing for your kids? I want to prepare real food in a way that is appealing to my little one, thereby acclimating him to the taste or texture of a vegetable in hopes that we will build healthy eating habits for a lifetime. No, it usually doesn't work, but at least I've tried. By the time he's ten I hope he'll be somewhat familiar with a carrot. Picky kids reject things dozens (and more dozens) of times before they give in and admit they might like it. I can't imagine the fight I would have on my hands if I first started introducing real vegetables at age 10.
There's the time involved in prepping all these extra ingredients:
Then there's the practicality. I have exactly 30 minutes from the time I walk in the door to prepare dinner or everyone spontaneously combusts into a wild explosion of super crabbiness.
And finally, she doesn't like the cover much, either:
Then I just couldn't help it, this is just my style preference but I was totally turned off by the kitschy 50's-esque June Cleaver design. Last time I checked, being a woman of the '50s serving up martinis to your husband and vacuuming was not my ideal.
BMGmom -- like Melissa -- prepared multiple recipes from the cookbook before she ultimately had to concede defeat:
After eating Turkey Chili (with carrot and red pepper puree), Tortilla Cigars (with yellow squash and carrot purees), Banana Bread (with cauliflower and banana purees) and Scrambled Eggs (with cauliflower puree), my family announced, “Sorry, but this stuff is honestly awful.” Rats! I was really looking forward to making Gingerbread Spice Cake (with broccoli and carrot puree).
Seriously (or truthfully), I wanted to like this food. Of course, I wanted my kids to like it, too. It seemed like such a great idea!
She points out, however, that she didn't take that crucial step of hiding the "secret" ingredients from her kids. She showed the recipes to her kids, and her son had his own opinions of the notion of deceiving your family to feed them better:
He didn’t like the idea of moms deceiving their kids. Then when he tried a few of the dishes, he sounded like a food critic from the New York Times (or maybe just a son who felt angry at the notion of parents trying to pull a fast one on their kids). “Mom,” he said emphatically, “I’d much rather have real carrots in this Turkey Chili than this orange…goop you put in it.” Then he told me he would rather eat brussels sprouts than anything I made using the recipes from the cookbook.
And finally, the Yummy Mummy wants to rename the book Deceptive and Completely & Utterly Ridiculous:
Why completely and utterly ridiculous? Because Jerry’s wife wants me to spend a couple of precious hours a week, standing in front of the food processor in my bathrobe, cutting and prepping vegetables, steaming or roasting them, pureeing them into baby food and then, washing up all those dirty dishes (mind you, all this work and I haven’t even cooked a meal the family will eat yet) all so that when my kids turn their tiny, little, innocent, mommy-worshiping backs to me, I can squirt some bland, palate-numbing, over-processed beet puree into their cupcakes…is she high on crack?
She continues on to present a well-reasoned and -- if I may just put it this way -- utterly kick-butt list of ten reasons why the book is ridiculous, and you should absolutely read the entire thing, but number one pretty much sums it right up for me:
1. Hiding veg in your kid’s food does not teach them to love and savor and enjoy food. It does not teach kids to enjoy gathering at the table. It does not teach them to try and experiment. It doesn’t develop their palates and make them healthy eaters. It’s a short cut and a quick answer to a more provocative and time and energy-consuming challenge. It makes cowardly eaters, not brave ones.
Amen. Want your kids to eat more and different and healthier foods? Here's an idea: Invite them to cook with you, and explore new recipes together. Is that really so hard? I guess it's pretty hard to get a book deal based on that principle, given that it's just plain common sense....
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