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Time For A Book Review: For Foodies and Mamas

I first heard Emily Franklin read her book excerpt on NPR. With equal amounts wit and truth, she relayed her son’s dislike of peas, comparing his reaction to someone experiencing a traumatic event such as death:

“In fact, Daniel’s reaction to knowing he’s going to have a big pile of peas just like the rest of the family is very similar to the five stages of grief.

The first stage is denial.  Disbelief takes over and he shakes his head at the warm dish I’m preparing.  ‘I just can’t believe it.  I can’t believe you’re making me eat peas!’ He mutters to himself, confounded and confused.  ‘I don’t get it.  I can’t believe this.’

On national radio she confessed her child’s Olympic worthy skills in fit pitching. Particularly over food. She mentions a similar reaction to the peas when she slices his sandwich. (He likes it unsliced, just in case you meet her and make he son a sandwich one day.)

I sat in the car outside of the grocery store and laughed out loud and thought how fitting the metaphor of the stages of grief to my children and food.  My son’s issue begins and ends with beans. All varieties. And chicken. And milk. His sister denies that salad dressing exists, also lunch meat. His older, older sister-well, she actually likes most things(which is what keeps me holding on with similar hopes for her siblings as they age).

Within a few hours I requested her book from the library-not quite sure what the book would be like beyond the brief sound clip, just knowing she and I had something in common.

It turns out that Too Many Cooks: Kitchen Adventures with 1 mom, 4 kids, and 102 Recipes is set up in the recently popular style of foodie books: each chapter consists of an essay followed by correlating recipes.

It also turns our that her one excerpt on pea grief is only one of the many, many stories that made me laugh over the true situations that arise from cooking for (or with) kids. She’s not cooking in ideal situations that arise only in photo shoots for a Mom and Me cookbook. She’s got baby Will at the breast, kids with unwashed hands, and ingredients that have to inspire me to move outside the macaroni box(monkfish, anyone?). I don’t want to give too many stories away but I will mention that there’s a vomit situation on a flight to Indiana. We’ve had that flight(to florida).

So why does she cook salmon, thai food, fresh bread, and tarts despite the fact that it might mean opening up to a bit of chaos and a whole lot of “That’s gross, I’m not going to eat that.”? First of all, it’s clear she loves food in the same way that I love books and can’t pass a used books store without filling two bags(she was previously a chef). But she also wants to pass on her wide palate to her children. Not her exact palate, but one willing to try. And I have to admit by the end of the book, I was just as happy as she was when Daniel started eating food that was combined into one dish and instead of separated into non-touching piles. She goes to all of the trouble because she’s pretty sure she’ll eventually hear “Wow, I like this” as a regular phrase(as opposed to the swear words that the 8 year-old brought into the house from his camp counselor), and she’s right.

Although we are generally one of those whole-wheat, organic-when-we-can-afford-it, eat your veggies family, you can still read this book if your family is not. In her introduction she lets you know that she doesn’t have a food agenda other than “get your kids to try a lot of things”. She’s generous in giving options with flour in her recipes(whole wheat or white) and she includes recipes that use rice crispies. And she’s humorous with her recipe titles including the Gross-looking But Very Delicious-Tasting Red soup.

Her passion for food is obvious, but so is her love for her kids, fits and curse words included. The world could stand to read more moms who love their kids in this way. While her kids grieve the coconut she made them try, she grieves the end of babyhood for her last child. (Which is another way I felt a connection to her-see photo below.) She takes food writing into the world of family, and I cheered for both throughout.

So I connected to Franklin through her four kid circus complete with spit-up and her recipes that offer something wholesome and tasty with a touch of exotic. I only felt distant from her when she was feeding her kids in Italy and Martha’s Vineyard, and serving them cheeses that cost a quarter of our weekly grocery bill. Those chapters reminded me that we’re not going to be living next door to each any time soon.

As I sat in my car outside the grocery store again today, after a week of reading her essays, my taste glands wandered toward imported cheeses and wild salmon and then I looked at my real list and decided Buttery Apricot Bars and Wheat Oat Bread would be a fine start.

Note: I’m just beginning to try the recipes. The Hamburger, Macaroni, and Peas(which I happened to have on hand during the week) was surprisingly satisfying even though it was one of her most simple, comfort food recipes. The Mummy Nuggets are chicken nuggets that are all-natural and can be made in bulk and frozen, a good staple. Only the two-year old like the 10 Minute Unplanned Bran Muffins.

 

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