“As I like it”

(we all might have been like this at one point or another in our lives)

As always, when we have house guests over we almost always cook. Life sure could be easier with takeout of course, but I prefer to just make something for the sheer fact that the person is a guest in our house and it’d be great to give something a little closer to the heart.

Every now and then and understandably so, there will be a person who will ask for a little something to go with their meal. One guest asked for hot sauce while we were eating a roast chicken I made, and that of course we gladly provided for them. I myself am not a fan of spicy, but am willing to accomodate for those who are. But one particular guest captured my attention of them all…

It wasn’t a matter of spicy or mild, flavorless or not, but this one visitor had the tendency to douse ketchup and cheese over EVERYTHING that we made. Sure, perhaps it is a teenage way of life (the guest was 17) and it’d been a while since I’d had the company of a teenager. But one couldn’t help but feel … just a tad if not more, insulted.

At one point though, our beloved teen guest was confronted about this questionable behavior towards our food that became an epic ongoing discussion. They didn’t fully understand why it would come off as “insulting” that the food we graciously prepared, was now becoming a new dish on its own with all the works they were putting into it. After exerting long, LONG exhausting exchanges of words, the young guest concluded to us: “I just like food the way I like it.”

Having been a much pickier eater myself for a good 3/4 of my life, I could relate to this statement. However, since I crossed over into my adult life, I now had to raise my eyebrow at this one.

How many times have we heard this referral in a movie? In the movie “Remember Me” (2010) there’s a scene where Emilie de Ranvin’s character is ordering in a restaurant and tells her date (played by Robert Pattinson): “I like to have my dessert first.” Her reasoning? it’s what she really wanted in the end and why wait? Also, who could forget the classic introduction to the neurosis of Meg Ryan’s character in “When Harry Met Sally”:

Now of course, I had to excuse the fact that this teen was young: they had yet to realize a lot of the etiquette we now know as adults. But just as I had been trained over and over again in my life, I took this as their own kick in the butt.

HOWEVER … there was one point that stood out, if anything, from dealing with this matter. This young person couldn’t understand at all why it was a crime to eat something exactly the way they wanted it, how they liked it, and why it’s somehow acceptable to do this in restaurants (they claimed to do it all the time, as they saw many also do while they worked as restaurant staff). Trying somehow to dictate the rules of guest etiquette was starting to become a tad uncomfortable as the real answer lay: “because it’s just not something you do.” It became really clear that this person never learned Grandma’s rule (as Bourdain so-put):

“I often talk about the ‘Grandma rule’ for travellers. You may not like Grandma’s Thanksgiving turkey. It may be overcooked and dry – and her stuffing salty and studded with rubbery pellets of giblets you find unpalatable in the extreme. You may not even like turkey at all. But it is ‘Grandma’s Turkey’. And you are in Grandma’s house. So shut the eff up and eat it. And afterwards say, “Thank you, Grandma, why, yes, yes of course I’d love seconds” —ย Bourdain, from his book ‘Medium Raw’.ย 

We told her simply that if she’d gone to a La Bernardin in NYC, and covered her food in cheese and ketchup, she should expect a sneezed-on fish. Unlike Burger King, sometimes, ya just can’t have it your way.

Look, if a salt and pepper shaker exists on your table, take that as one of the only indications that perhaps permission has been granted to make it more geared to your own tastes.ย BUT … unless the ketchup bottle is on the table or they’ve laid out actual cheese and a toaster for you to add to your meal… don’t do it.ย Taste it for whatever it is, and move on.

Reflecting – 6/16/11

It’s been a few months now with these blogs, and I think now it’s a good time to reflect.

When I started LittleTreats, it was something that began as a second try to get out there again and write about what I was passionate for: food and life. Sure, it still remains the great foundation for any writing of any sort, but it actually took me a little while since then to realize there needed to be more meaning for me than that.

Thus came the next two: Caro’s RECIPES & Each Time. One documenting how one could make food, and one devoted to my love of the arts. Both of them pretty much captivated by the need to educate. As I consider myself both an educator and an artist, in a way I felt that this truly what I was more passionate about the need to help people learn… and here’s why.

Just as we need to eat? we need creativity. We NEED an outlet for whatever ideas may come about, and we NEED to know how to keep our eyes open to what’s around us.

And as I love teaching, I will definitely try to do my part to continue on with that l’il mission statement. These two somehow, I feel, have become two of the things we’re losing touch with in our ultimate education for life. We depend much on what we’ve learned from school, but always saying we need more, more, more … I’ve come to determine that where schools really can only do so much, in the end it’s up to us to keep that fire going. We’re a very culturally-rich nation, America. But what everyone else seems to have a hold on us is their values outside of their school life.

I’ve come to realize that the need to feed your senses needs to just be one constant walking ground. Just as the arts are important, so is the need to educate folks about food. In the efforts made to better our health in this lifetime, we need to take the steps to be willing to explore, and just be in the know.

That said, I don’t think I’ll lack the inspiration to keep writing. ๐Ÿ™‚

Many, many thanks and hoping for the best yet to come ~~ Caro

A “Foodette” Book List

As promised … I made out a little list of some of my favorite books with food for young foodettes and grown-folks alike. Books with food, like movies with food, give a great sparkling fascination (or craving) to what we already know, balanced with what could be our next great taste!

Like many, I remember trying Turkish Delight after reading The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe. The descriptions alone were enough to make me want it bad enough, but I gotta say.. somehow, for myself, the descriptions were a tad more appetizing than when I actually had it ๐Ÿ˜‰

Since then, I still of course marvel at the new stories with food for children, and love how much the genre has expanded!

Here are some of my personal favorites:

I Will Never Not Ever Eat A Tomato (Charlie & Lola series) – Lauren Child

Pete’s A Pizza – William Steig

Pizza At Sally’sย  – Monica Wellington

Apple Farmer Annie – Monica Wellington

Bee Bim Bop! – Linda Sue Park

Little Pea – Amy Krouse Rosenthal

The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food – Stan & Jan Berenstain

The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle

Pancakes! – Eric Carle

Blueberries For Sal – Robert McCloskey

Strega Nona – Tomie De Paola

The Popcorn Book – Tomie De Paola

The Tale of the Pie & the Patty Pan – Beatrix Potter

Growing Vegetable Soup – Lois Ehler

Eating The Alphabet – Lois Ehler

Stone Soup – many different versions of this folk tale, but try the one by Marcia Brown

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs – Judi Barrett

The Poky Little Puppy – Janette Sebring Lowrey

The Tawny Scrawny Lion – Kathryn Jackson

Birthday Soup (a short story in the book, Little Bear) – Else Holmelund Minarik

If You Give a Mouse A Cookie series – Laura Joffe Numeroff

First Book Ofย  Sushi – Amy Wilson Sanger

Yum Yum Dim Sum! – Amy Wilson Sanger

Mama Provi and The Pot of Rice – Sylvia Rosa-Casanova

The Little House On The Prarie series – Laura Ingalls Wilder

Charlie & The Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

Chocolate Fever -Robert Kimmel Smith

Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White

The Boxcar Children seriesGertrude Chandler Warner

How to Eat Fried Worms – Thomas Rockwell

Amelia Bedelia seriesPeggy Parish

A Day At An Indian Market – Catherine Chambers

Green Eggs and Ham – Dr. Seuss

Pigeon Finds A Hot Dog! -Mo Willems

Chicken Soup With Rice – Maurice Sendak

In the Night Kitchen – Maurice Sendak

Goldilocks & The Three Bears

The Little Red Hen

How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? – Jane Yolen & Mark Teague

Pinkalicious – Victoria Kann & Elizabeth Kann

Thunder Cake – Patricia Polacco

Curious George Makes Pancakes – H.A. Rey

Fanny at Chez PanisseAlice Waters

How My Parents Learned to Eat – Ina Friedman

Bread and Jam For Frances – Russell & Lillan Hoban

Allie the Allergic Elephant – Nicole Smith & Maggie Nichols

Potluck – Anne Shelby

and of course, the many wonderful children’s poetry books by Shel Silverstein!!

On a sidenote: For the past 2-years, I’ve actually grown quite tickled reading cookbooks like literature. It’s really the most fulfilling, fascinating, and enriching experience anyone could ever have. I highly recommend it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Power Struggle

(still one of my absolute favorite Calvin & Hobbes strips ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

So as I mentioned previously before, up until about age 20 I was shamelessly one of the pickiest eaters known to man. Perhaps running off seven-hours from home in college is what did the trick to get me to try other foods. I was no longer shamed into eating or trying something, but somehow, something clicked inside my brain and the ball began rolling. Sure, I still don’t like certain foods and some continue to follow a similarity to me for what would be Satan’s navel piercing, but alas, I’m not a kid anymore and with age came SOME wisdom if any. *Yay*

Though credited as the weaker one of the five senses (crazy, huh??) we’re all driven by taste throughout our lives. That said, I started to wonder if this is really the reason that children are seen as the “picky eaters” in life. But this is pretty much as it goes: as the receptors in our brain are changing, so are the taste buds … pretty highly sensitive things to rely on when you’ve really only got a couple years of life on your roster. The appearance, the smell, just about every bit counts!

So of course with the sensitivity comes the toss-up: Will kids eat it? Or not? Pretty much somehow driving course to becoming a battle to the death at the table.

The familiar scenario: The little Foodette won’t eat it. Something they love is on the table, and they still won’t eat it. You make deals, you bribe, you threaten, you throw up your hands and wonder what’s it gonna take to get this kid to eat?

I’ll tell you what they’re gonna eat: nothing. And they will be sure of that. So give it up.

There’s literally no reason to stress about it. Basically, it boils down to having a choice: You can have your blood pressure rise and fall continuously over this constant power struggle, or you can surrender to the fact that children, as much as you’d like to think are the inferior party, know the hold they have over this part of their lives. You could argue until you’re blue in the face, and one of you is in tears, or you can both agree upon 2-bites of something, drink up whatever’s in your cup, and move on. Not to dessert (unless they ate!), but just moving on in general. The kid will get hungry, but they certainly won’t starve.

Look, just as you wouldn’t want someone to shove food down your throat, don’t do it to them. I don’t think I’d have grown up with half the issues with food that I had throughout my life if I wasn’t guilt-tripped, scolded, and forced into eating stuff I just didn’t want to. Find a balance, talk to kids, see what they’re interested in.

By all means, I’m not saying we should still limit children’s choices in the full-circle of eating. Chicken nuggets are great and the ones shaped like dinosaurs sure make it more exciting, but they’ll be capable of more interesting food if you keep having it make a special guest-star cameo in lives. While making guacamole, I once had a student who decided to snack on an entire handful of cilantro! ๐Ÿ˜› saying it “tastes like coffee”. Hey, you never know ๐Ÿ˜‰ We also had a student literally RUN from the guacamole because “it was green”. But lo n’ behold, they ate the most of it of anyone.

A few things I noticed that might help out a bit …

– Eat what everyone else is, and by “everyone”, it’s everyone at the table. Unless someone’s got allergies at the table, hopefully there’s already a good justice system in seeing everyone’s eating the same thing.

– You get what you get, and ya don’t get upset. The same goes for the consequences: you don’t eat? you don’t get the good stuff either (dessert). Tough break, but there’s always another day tomorrow. Try, try again. If there are tears? talk it out. If there’s protesting screaming, they’re asked to leave the table and go find something else to do.

COOK IT TOGETHER. If they’re not gonna eat it, at the very least, they’ll help with how it’s made and they’ll see just what goes into it.

– And again, the 2-bites Dealbreaker is a pretty classic take, with a drink of whatever’s in their cup. In the end, everyone’s gotta eat to feed the body. You need food to be healthy, and food to grow. They’ll be able to put 2-and-2 together after a while.

– oh yea, and ps, read a few books about food too! Perhaps it’ll get a few sparks flying here and there. (I’ve got a few personal favorites, and will definitely post them later)

– and again, no need to make eating a battlefield. It’s supposed to be a fun, joyful thing to do, for both adults and kids alike. And hey, it’s a privilege if you’ve got plenty of food at your disposal (but don’t despair if your kid doesn’t seem to care about that concept. It doesn’t mean they’re heartless! but most likely just something they probably can’t relate to)

Continuing on to promoting a hopeful, great future for the Foodettes?

I hope so. ๐Ÿ˜‰

*BANG!* For Your Buck$

And so, it is time for some more delicious things, but with the lovely zinger of a bang for your buck$. Why? because somehow in the midst of crazy weather, we managed to get some benefits with seasonal fruits and vegetables. So, let’s do what we do best and use the motivation of well, being hungry! Remember, these are all just suggestions and feel free to use your own creative take on everything. You’ll be amazed at what you can make out of this great situation ๐Ÿ™‚

* GREEN BEANS

Steam ’em, grill ’em, whichever way you want ’em? Get them now.. because most likely at many places right now? it will cost you $.99 per pound! (as opposed to a few weeks ago when it was nearly $3.99 per pound) I totally invaded the Fruit & Veggie vendor around the block and got PLENTY for the week.

Alright, I confess. It took me almost 22-years to appreciate vegetables and another 6 to figure out which ones I’d actually try to eat every day. In the end, green beans were the winner. Why? I honestly just find them to be simply good on their own, and simple to prepare. For some reason chopping up and eating a bowl of lettuce just seemed like too much of a commitment (unless of course my sister makes it, and she makes a pretty durned good salad)

Of course, Green bean casserole is fantastic, however if you’re looking for a flavorful take with less calories involved, here’s what I usually do: a ROASTED GREEN BEAN MIX. It’s not the same, I know, but hopefully it might still leave a smile on your face.

Moving on ….

* ORANGES

An apple a day keeping the doctor away? Honestly, maybe I’m doing something wrong but I always found Vitamin C to be the one I and everyone else seem to run to. Right now, there is PLENTY citrus in season and amongst them, Navel and Blood Oranges which one could totally take delight in for the sweet scent alone!

I’ll admit, I tried my first blood orange from the supermarket just a few weeks ago, and it was … interesting. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. The best part of it being, I kept eating more and more pieces of it to help determine my decision. Consensus? If it’s in season, try it! You never know what new things you could look forward to.

A great time I’ve found, to test out the response to new creations is, of course, parties. People want something to drink? Fresh fruit will give you a good running start. E was going on a Fanta Orange Soda kick for a while, and although the taste of childhood is a doozy of competition, I promise you that squeezing juice fresh and creating a refreshing sparkler on your own is just as promising, if not more delicious and frankly, just better for you. (E loves everything I make of course, so the ultimate test came on this past Super Bowl Sunday. Sure, I was rooting for the Steelers and we lost, but my food was durned good and everyone sure enjoyed this!!

Try it out. A fresh drink never hurt anyone: A SPARKLING, BLOODY ORANGE PUNCH (IN THE NAVEL)

and finally …

* KIWI

Right now they’re hot, hot, hot! Everyone needs a little color into their life, particularly with their food. Case in point, Kiwis are currently on sale in many of your local food markets, so snag ’em up while you can.

Growing up, since Kindergarten I was told “close your eyes and a kiwi tastes just like a strawberry.” The funny thing is, as I got older of course this was starting to change along with my taste buds. Maybe it’s just the picky in me, but the texture and taste of kiwi I find to be one of its own. (and not to mention, a gorgeous green at that)

In a sense, kiwi kind of has a foot in several categories with good food, particularly in its great talent as a meat tenderizer AND and a great partner for savory dishes. If you’re up for it, try this one on for size with your next batch of grilled chicken or pork chops! SPICY KIWI & PEAR COMPOTE

(all recipes available on the blog. And if you ever, EVER have any questions, feel free to email me)

PHEW..!!! (ps, I was stupid and decided to create the recipe blog at the same time while trying to write this one. It’s been about 5 hours but I made it!)

well, eat up, and enjoy all that you can. ๐Ÿ™‚

The “Foodettes” – Where it all begins

Last June, I had the pleasure of attending Tony Bourdain‘s book signing at Union Square Barnes & Noble. I was actually teaching an art lesson on the upper east side that day, and literally dashed out right after to go down and wait on the 4th Floor for a good handful of hours. Armed with my copy of Kitchen Confidential (ernstwhile deciding to buy his new book as well) and a ham & salami sandwich which I continuously snuck quick bites ofย  (pork-on-pork, I figured only he would really approve of such a thing). Needless to say, the wait was totally worthwhile and thank god I decided to wait, because although he had a signing on Wall St. that morning, the place was PACKED to the gills and spilling downstairs to the cafe’. It really was great hearing him speak, finally meeting him, and hearing all that he had to say regarding his crazy life, his travels, the restaurant industry, but more so, his endless respect and love for food. And truly, Bourdain has nearly seen and had it all as he apparently travels over a good 300-days a year for his show, ‘No Reservations’ on Travel Channel.

During the Q&A, I nudged E to ask him what his favorite pork was (which Bourdain misheard as “porn” and it was quite the awesome moment indeed) so that really, I could ask my question which was a bit burned on the brain.ย  Back around March 2010, there was an article posted last year in the NY Times by Nicola Marzovilla (owner of I Trulli in Gramercy Park). Basically, he made the point that children’s menus in restaurants aim too low, and how such easy selections couldn’t show just how capable children could be in trying new things with more exposure to different food. Sure, he too put up with the ever-present power-struggles with his kids that most parents have, but he brought up a great point that I’ve seen many parents question. I decided to ask Tony Bourdain how he felt about it as a father, himself. It was a great answer, for the most part, which was that he agreed with Marzovilla’s point but also added (as I will paraphrase): “But going to McDonald’s with not make you a [idiot].”

So thus brings up the question to us all: Why is it that we love food and what is the connection to it that we truly have? for most, if not everyone, a lot of the time food will provide for us the nostalgia of things we loved throughout our lives from the earliest days. Perhaps it all lies in setting up the blank canvas in the beginning but never being limited to what goes on there. We live in a country where we can seriously be majorly educated on great food from all around the world, yet somehow we still seem somewhat still limited?

Now, I’ll be the first to admit the huge ironies in me even writing in favor of advocating children’s exploration with food:

  1. I was the PICKIEST, PICKIEST of eaters from age 7 pretty much up until I turned 20. and of course, rejection of Korean food was a given at the time. I truly hated it.
  2. In a restaurant, I expect to have an enjoyable meal. I don’t care how old you are. When you’re in a restaurant, you have restaurant etiquette, period. Case in point, going to get Italian with my cousins in the East Village and an actor (whom I will not name) arrived with a large entourage of people and lo and behold, one of them had a small child dressed up as a pirate with a hook. Everything was fine and despite the kid running around, we were able to tune the kid out until something flew in the air and knocked the side of my glasses. Lo and behold, little Pirette had thrown up her hook in the heat of the moment and it smacked me in the face. Um, no. I picked up the hook, calmly went over to her table (actor staring at me) and looked DIRECTLY at little Pirette (not the mother, but definitely loud enough so she and the rest of the table could hear) and said, “Excuse me sweetheart (holding up the hook) but you threw THIS at my head.” The mother of course apologized and the customers around us lauded my effort to get that kid sitting once and for all. But of course, no, little Pirette couldn’t be tied down and once again ran amuck in the restaurant while her apologetic mother chatted on with her table. Unbelievable.

In the Reggio Emilia philosophy of education (originated in Reggio Emilia, Italy), cooking is actually a large part of a child’s education. They view it, as is with the rest of their philosophy, of using curriculum to help show children their own full potential and expand their creative thinking. Cooking itself, is a great part of the curriculum that offers a full blown all-around lesson in science, math, social/ emotional development, enhancing fine & gross motor skills, language, etc. As well, the emphasis is placed heavily on community, so essentially there are groups of children who are making lunch for everyone in their class! Sounds crazy eh? but I personally find it to be great. I loved cooking as a kid, and had it not been for cooking as part of learning in school I would have never known what a potato latke was nor what sumac tea tasted like (thanks, Mr. SanMarco!)

For me, my favorite part about the cooking in my own house is how I can re-live the scents and tastes in my own now. Frankly, the scent of sesame oil from my kitchen is unmistakeably comforting, and yet still, eating kalbi in a loud, Korean restaurant is still something a bit pleasurable to the senses. Our close family friends made THE BEST Italian food I’ve ever had in my life, and it definitely set the standard high from early on. You just can’t uphold the love you have for certain food in your life, because it’s always been in there since you were a “foodette” yourself!

And ps, you can’t deny the joy it brings kids when they’re finally learning about making some of their favorite foods. I recently taught children how to make chicken nuggets and oven fries (at their request in a discussion around a lunch table) with fresh chicken breast and red potatoes. Everything from smelling and touching the herbs, to showing how cornflake breadcrumbs could be made, to the chicken itself (a lot of them thought the chicken felt much better before they had to put it in the eggwash!) to tossing the chopped potatoes in olive oil, salt & pepper, it was great to hear one say with a smile, “Well, in cooking, you sometimes do need to get a little messy.”

It’s interesting how in the giant “foodie” movement, there’s a new wave of people so interested and fascinated by food. The preparation of it, the experimentation, upgrades of the original. I wonder to what extent how much of that truly stems from one’s childhood. I find that in this day and age, fewer and fewer parents cook and it’s no wonder why. There really is a lot going on in the new family dynamics in America, and time and money are quite something to behold. Ps, the old-school system just doesn’t work anymore. The old-school mentality in which the woman of the house cooked and that was that. Sure, there are plenty of women still like myself, who do like to cook, but the system was overthrown by many, and somehow home delivery spread like the plague. Inevitably, things have changed and so have we, so we all gotta make the effort. I do love my pizza from across the street, but learning how to make it really did kinda change everything.

** And for the New York parents, here is a great source of ideas if you ever need them: TimeOut New York Kids.ย  I’m a huge fan of TimeOut New York in general, but once I found out they had one specifically made for kids’ restaurants and activities it was a great tickle. A great source for finding great food, and even seeing what places even offer up free and discounted eating for kids (Mr. Marzovilla’s restaurant included, on Sundays).

I really can only hope that when I have my own kids, that we’ll have the fun as a family exploring not only great food in our kitchen, but the great restaurants everyone has to offer. God forbid they should ever be like I was, but we’ll tackle those hurdles (hopefully, successfully) one morsel at a time.

Perhaps until then, good memories are great sources to rely on. ๐Ÿ˜‰