picky eaters

A Tale of Three Restaurants

posted by Caroline

In Paris, we rented an apartment, went to the market and fixed nearly all our own meals. But we wanted to take the kids out for a meal, just once, pretty much just to say we did.

We carried several guidebooks that included sections on kid-friendly restaurants, but too often kid-friendly meant a chain like Le Hippo, which has a kid’s menu offering (for about eight euros) a choice between steak, burger, ribs, chicken nuggets or fish filet, plus drink and dessert. Not bad, but not so great for vegetarian kids. (The one exception to the kid friendly = fast food thinking was in Karen Uhlmann’s wonderful Paris for Kids, where the Restaurant section begins: “I use my museum method for taking children to dinner in Paris (one museum, then one park). One pasta night for you; one bistro night for me.” I like the way this woman thinks! Maybe when the kids are older we’ll manage this, too.)

Although our kids actually handle restaurants pretty well, we were a little worried about the pace of the typical Parisian bistro meal, the need to order courses, the inability to make substitutions. So we went for Italian. In fact, we found pretty much the Parisian equivalent of our local Pasta Pomodoro. The boys ordered fusili with pesto, Tony had a pizza, I ate a terrific salade nicoise, and we all shared a couple bowls of excellent chocolate ice cream for dessert. It was quick, it was tasty. Everybody left happily.

The next night we gave ourselves a break from teaching anybody how to eat, and left the boys with my good friend Susannah so that Tony and I could go out on our own. We went for Italian, again, but this time a small and cozy place with tables far too small for our standard restaurant accessories of view master and coloring books. We walked past the beautiful seafood and antipasto bar on the way in:

And started with an antipasto plate and a rocket salad:

(The zucchini on the antipasto plate was a revelation: thin discs which seemed to have been dried slightly before marinating, to give it a fabulous chewy texture.) Then we moved on to a black truffle risotto and pasta with scallops. We had cocktails to start, wine with dinner, and lingered; we didn’t need to remind anyone to sit up, or not stick a fork in your hair, or to try three more bites because you’re three… It was peaceful and quiet, and the food was delicious, too.

Our next big restaurant meal was in the south of France, where after almost a week of meals cooked for us personally by Charlie the Chef (much more on this to come), we — the 4 of us, my parents, my siblings and their partners, my niece and nephew — all went out to a local auberge to eat.

We prepared for this meal as we’d prepared for our Eiffel Tower trip, making sure the boys were well-rested and fed before we headed out, for although by now our boys were thoroughly on French meal time (ie, dinner at 8), we still hadn’t asked them to sit through several courses. And in fact, we didn’t even arrive at the restaurant until 8, ordered half an hour later (yes, I was checking my watch), and the food didn’t come for thirty minutes after that. So the boys colored, and looked at view master discs, and Tony and I took turns taking them out for walks, which — given the scenery–was actually quite pleasant:

When our meals arrived, we were delighted: scallops and vegetables for me:

a beautiful vegetable plate for Tony:

And pasta for the boys. It had only been a week since they’d seen the stuff, but they fell on it like… well, like picky eaters who’ve been denied plain food for a week. I didn’t take a picture of their plates, but scribbled on the side of my menu Ben’s response: “I am going to delect this pasta!” Eli scooped it up into his mouth by the handful. I wasn’t about to spoil his happy reunion with comfort food by insisting on a fork.

There was dessert, and there was wine, and maybe there was coffee, too, but I really don’t remember, I was so distracted by my growing sense that yes, they would make it, we would make it, and two and a half hours after we sat down, we were heading home again, tired, contented, and well-fed after our family dinner out.

The Food (and friend!) that greeted us: a post about cheese

posted by Caroline

In Paris, I was looking forward to meeting one of my long-time computer friends, Susannah Pabot, whom I met in an on-line writing class two years ago, and with whom I continue to exchange writing. The apartment we rented turned out, by great coincidence, to be only a short walk from her apartment, so she offered to meet us with a few groceries: bread, milk, fruit, cheese.

The bread was baguette, which we all loved (though by the end of the trip, Eli was definitely tiring of chewing baguette. “Why this French bread so big?” he complained, gnawing away at it.) The milk was full fat, which I haven’t bought since Eli turned 1 (and haven’t drunk myself since I was a kid). In all the markets I visited, I never did see low fat milk; I expect in France there’s a law against the stuff. The fruit — a brown bag of cherries, a handful of apricots, and a melon — was fragrant and perfect. And the cheese… well, I had forgotten, somehow, what to expect with the cheese.

Currently, my children eat Baby Bell cheese (Eli), Monterey Jack (Ben), good freshly grated parmesan (Eli), and the generic grated cheese served at Pasta Pomodoro (Ben). That is to say, as far as the French (and anyone with an even slightly-refined palate) are concerned, they do not eat cheese. And although Susannah brought a lovely soft chevre and a meltingly ripe camembert, she’s the mom of a picky eater and so she did also bring a mild, sweetish hard cheese, comte, which apparently French children like. That is to say, she tried. “It’s all good, the cheese man assured me, today,” she said. Ah, yes, I realized, we are not in Kansas anymore… here in France, the cheese is a living thing, beautiful and tender as fresh fruit.

Of course, my children did not touch it.

The next day, at the covered market, I stood in front of the cheese stall, nearly knocked over by the heady smell, and left empty-handed– a little wistful, but pragmatic.

At the Monoprix market, I bought a 12-pack of baby bell cheese and took it home to my boys.

We like bananas, coconuts, and …

posted by Lisa

My daughter Ella admits that apple bananas look awful, but taste really, really good. They’re best when they have a good number of brown spots, and they’re about half the size of commercial bananas we get on the mainland, and they taste just like, well, a banana should taste.

After nap today, I was looking for a snack, and cut open our first strawberry papaya. The kids had never seen one, and I’m not a particular fan, but we try things.

It looks otherworldly, bright orange, fleshy, fertile, The aroma is really earthy. Both kids and Kory used other words to describe it.

Even after scooping out the seeds, slicing out the flesh like a melon, it was not a hit. So I tried the passion fruit, which you can see for yourself is even more alien-looking to people who have not grown up eating tropical fruit.

You scoop out the seeds with a spoon, which are sweet and tart and bright tasting. It’s really good, but after the papaya, Ella and Finn weren’t trusting me so much.

I hate to waste food, especially from a farmer. So, I made smoothies. Which were a big hit.

Baby steps.

Feeding Finn

posted by  Lisa

Finn is my picky eater. As an infant, he ate everything, then one day, he refused everything green. And orange and red. For a year, he ate mostly rice and vitamins and fruit. I did what the books tell you to do–I offered him the same food we were eating, in the hopes that he would slowly reincorporate those foods into his diet.

It mostly worked, but he still had the habit of taking one look at something new and proclaiming: “NOT I like that,” and zipping his mouth shut.


Day 1 in Kauai, Finn and his sister spent hours in the ocean: swimming, snorkeling, trying to surf on their boogie boards, digging in the sand, collecting hermit crabs, feeding any number of tropical fish that swim around them. They’re easily engaged, generally speaking, but they’re in their glory when water and sand come together.

Dinner, Night One in Kauai: I set down in front of Finn a plate of ono, which is sweet, white fleshed fish and which lives up to its name in every way, and a small amount of seaweed salad.

The seaweed–ogo, I think, or ogi–was blanched fresh by our local market, and to it I added a few drops sesame oil, some soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar, and red salt. My husband and I love ocean salad, and this one was decent, but nowhere near as good as what we get at our local Japanese restaurant. This was fresh as the ocean, and slightly crunchy. Finn & his sister regularly eat nori strips, but that dried seaweed is more like a crunchy seasoned snack; it doesn’t look like a plant, and it doesn’t feel like a plant in your mouth. Especially not a plant with a whole lot of feathery tentacles in your mouth, which is what I put in front of him.

I told Finn, “This seaweed came from the ocean you were swimming in today.”

His eyes opened wide, he gave a little gasp of astonishment, then he actually popped the seaweed in his mouth. Then, as we watched, he gave it a thumbs up. “I LOVE it,” he exclaimed.