I read Grist almost every day and constantly discover resources I knew nothing about. One of them is this new book by Ali Benjamin and Beth Bader, whose purpose is “to help bridge the sustainable food world with the reality of exhausted parents who are trying to put food on the table.” A noble goal and one whose time has come, as many working parents know all too well.
As Ali and Beth explain it,
We began with the premise that most parents are trying pretty hard on behalf of their kids — food-wise, and in every way. But that even when healthy calories are affordable to parents — less and less the case, these days — they need a little help. Consider:
Plenty of parents don’t actually know how to cook. Judge me if you will, but when I first started using whole foods, my intentions and abilities were wildly out of sync. My farmers market garlic turned brown and bitter in the pan, my lettuce wilted tragically in the refrigerator, my CSA green beans were stringy and inedible, my co-op beans chalky and half-cooked. Real food doesn’t come with directions, and for those of us who grew up eating mostly packaged foods with directions, it can be an uncomfortable transition.
It’s bigger than recipes. Never before in the history of humanity has it been so easy to find a recipe. There are millions of recipes online, and some 100 million homes get the food channel. And yet cooking remains largely a spectator sport. Even when armed with a great recipe, chances are good that parents are missing other things – knife skills, or a sense of timing and rhythm, or the confidence to say, “I can have that made before my kids have melted into the floor.” If we can help parents master techniques — not just recipes — we can make home cooking more intuitive. And more likely.
Good food isn’t about what happens in the kitchen. When my daughter was born, I realized I didn’t know anything about feeding her. How, for example, did her taste preferences form, and how should I respond when she pursed her tiny lips? Why was it that every time I stepped into a grocery store, I had to pry Barbie Froot Snacks from her fingers with a crowbar? How could I deal with her donut-wielding auntie? Which of the conflicting pieces of advice I received from fellow parents — Keep them from sugar! Withholding treats will only make them want it more! — actually helps? And for heaven’s sake, was it really, truly necessary to play that goddamned airplane game at the dinner table?”
As you can tell from this excerpt, the book is not only practical–it’s FUNNY (extra bonus points!) And though it is written for parents, there are sections like the one on “meeting your veggies” which would be useful for anyone mystified by the unfamiliar veggies that periodically turn up in their weekly CSA box.
The Cleaner Plate Club: Raising Healthy Eaters One Meal at a Time is available at Amazon.com for only $11.53. This seems like a pretty good price for field-tested advice and 100+ healthy, kid-approved recipes, guaranteed to work for even picky eaters. If any of you have already purchased and tried it out, please share how it’s been working for you.