I recently read the book Hungry Monkey about a food writer here in Seattle and his daughter. The subtitle says it all: A food-loving father's quest to raise an adventurous eater. I found myself buoyed by his success, but also wishing him harm.
I have been trying to come up with and stick to a rational and realistic family dinner philosophy. (Have you noticed that I am all about philosophies? I missed my calling. After getting A's on all of my philosophy papers, how could I not become a philosopher? That has to be one arena without a glass ceiling; it just wouldn't make sense for one to exist. Existentially.) Anyway, I decided that we would eat at the table together, and eat mostly the same things, at least three times per week. Gradually, I want to work up to a special Sunday night dinner and eating together five nights a week. Also, Sam should have something to try nearly every night. "Trying" means he chews and swallows. Bribing is not off the table during the initiation phase.
I launched into my new plan with vigor.
To get him to try potstickers (not from scratch), I told him that he had to chew and swallow or he wouldn't have yogurt raisins for dessert. "That's okay," he told me. "I can have more tomorrow." Foiled! "No," I said. "No more raisins ever. Never ever. I will eat them all now." See, when you have a child and you decide to threaten, you must be prepared to follow through. I am not a huge yogurt raisin fan, but there weren't that many in the bag, so I was totally ready to see this threat to the end. I got the yogurt raisins out and grabbed a handful, dramatically bringing my fist to my gaping maw. In horror and desperation, Sam bit his potsticker and proceeded to gag and whimper as he chewed. "I want to spit it out," he said. "No," I hissed. "Swallow it." And I brought some raisins to my mouth again. Sam swallowed and declared, "I like it. That's delicious." He is nothing if not polite, because this was a blatant lie.
So one night I make this lovely noodle salad with tofu fritters on the side. I decide that Sam will try a fritter for his dinner, expecting that I will be eating his serving later. Lowered expectations have the potential to make you happy! He liked the fritter! He actually liked it. So, naturally, I am flooding the boy with fritters. I made a second batch a couple nights ago and snatched a couple out of Josh's mouth because "if Sam will eat these, then, by God, your portion will be strictly controlled." Josh begrudgingly gave up a couple.
The above noodle salad makes a lovely summer meal.
3T sesame oil, 3T soy sauce, 1T sugar, 4tsp. rice vinegar, dash of chile oil, 1 tsp. grated ginger. Make some noodles and cut up a ton of veggies. I like cabbage, bean sprouts, radishes, celery, and shaved carrot.
16oz. firm tofu, 2T minced green onion, 2 tsp. minced ginger, 1T sesame oil, 1T peanut oil, 3T miso paste of your choice (I like white or yellow). Saute the green onion and ginger for a couple of minutes over med-low heat in the peanut oil. Add the sesame oil for the last 20 seconds. Crumble tofu in a food processor; add the onion-ginger mixture and the miso. Blend until smooth. You can fold in edamame if you like. Heat your peanut or canola oil to 350. Then scoop little fritters into cornstarch to coat. Immediately (otherwise the cornstarch sinks into the tofu) add fritters to either a deep fry at 350 or a shallow fry of peanut or canola oil. Fry until GBD.* Drain on paper towels. These can be reheated later and last for a couple of days without loss of flavor.
*Golden-brown and delicious