Feeding the Animals

by Caroline

All of these posts are always about feeding animals, of course, but today I’m not writing about the one who complains about quesadillas again or about whom I wonder if he’ll ever eat a cooked vegetable again.

Today, I am writing about my favorite creature of habit, our hamster, Waffle, a sweet, fluffy little critter that has become a quiet and unobtrusive member of the family. She eats like a bird — literally, a mixture of nuts and seeds (although her habit of stuffing them, six or seven at a time into her furry, elastic cheeks is not very bird-like.) We augment with fresh vegetable scraps –apple peelings and the ends of carrots — and she holds them delicately between her paws and nibbles them, a tiny compost machine.

It never occurred to any of us to do more for her (and honestly, I might have shot down any requests for more elaborate hamster meals, given the energy it takes just to feed the other animals in the family) but then a friend gave the boys this:

And we were all so charmed, we did this:

Making one raw vegetable pizza and one parsley bouquet:

And Waffle took it all apart and ate it like this:


by Caroline

What I love most about eating out is not having food brought to me, piping hot, and having my water glass refilled without my having to rise from the table. It’s not even avoiding the prep, cooking, or clean up. What I really love about eating out is the variety, a full menu of appetizer, salad, and entree options to choose from. We cook pretty well at home, but we fall often into the easiest possible routine of one pot, one dish meals, a simple something-on-grains/flatbread/pasta.

So among all the many ways I was inspired by our glorious ten days in Turkey, from the street food to the markets to the freshly-caught fish for our last lunch, I was most inspired by meze, that ever-changing, always delicious, predominantly vegetarian array of dishes to start (and in some cases, fully comprise) every meal.

I should note that the kids were not huge fans. Ben gamely tasted a variety of meze (and quite liked the little bulgar wheat patties cooked in pomegranate sauce), but Eli thought even Turkish rice was “weird.” But they did not starve or get cranky, so while I can’t now remember what they ate every day, they must have eaten.

Meanwhile, the rest of us feasted. The five of us traveling in Istanbul and then the nine of us staying together on the coast ate out, often, for the price of burritos all around. And when we cooked at our rental house we did pretty well, too:

So I have been trying to remember the pleasure of eating small tastes of many dishes now that we are home in San Francisco and recently cooked a batch of kisir, a bulgar wheat and pomegranate molasses salad we encountered in various forms throughout Turkey. I followed a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi gorgeous cookbook, Plenty, which is helpfully posted at his website but do check out the book; it is absolutely inspiring.

Once the salad was made, I filled out our meze platter (which skewed a bit Italian) with roasted artichokes, a simple grated carrot salad, caprese salad, steamed green beans, salad greens and sliced radishes. It wasn’t Turkey by any means, but it felt like a brief return, and it was delicious.

Four Things We Learned About Food in Istanbul

by Caroline

  • Turkish chocolate-hazelnut spread is every bit as tasty as Nutella:
  • Yogurt drink — ayran — is not milk! But it actually tastes delicious on muesli:
  • You can’t have too many ways to make coffee:
  • And street food, as in many cities, can be varied, healthy and delicious. But some of these were new to us:
  • roast corn

    rice and chickpea pilaf

    roasted mussels with lemon

    popcorn popped over a brazier

    more roasted corn on the cob, chestnuts

    little nut cakes

    Family Food in Paris

    by Caroline

    My children have been to Paris four times.

    I have to pause after writing that sentence. My children have been to Paris four times? How did that happen? How did they get so lucky?

    Well, first there was the wonderful boat trip, a week exploring rivers and canals in southwestern France, that my parents took us all on to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Tony and I considered the consequences of jetlagged children in a confined space and (twist our arms) decided to stop in Paris first. Subsequent summers brought my sister teaching in Oxford, a friend living temporarily in Portugal, other friends on sabbatical in Paris and– through it all — a convenient nonstop flight from San Francisco to Paris bringing us closer to people we love. So now here I am, the mother of two children who have a fair amount of experience in the City of Light.

    The City of Cheese,” Ben might say, with a grimace. “The City of Sauces,” Eli might add, shuddering.

    It seems churlish to complain, but the world’s food capital doesn’t do very well by my vegetarian family. And honestly, that’s ok with me; we eat what we eat and don’t expect people — or countries — to accomodate our habits. But it has made staying in beautiful Paris a little more difficult than it might be for families whose kids will happily tuck into steak frites or a cheese crepe. We find ourselves challenged in a city where restaurants don’t want to make adjustments to the dishes on the menu (just try ordering plain pasta!) and don’t like to accomodate a child who can’t make it through a full three-course meal. In one of my favorite small guides to the city, Karen Uhlmann’s Paris for Kids, she writes, “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.” She then goes on to describe her children eagerly trying duck for the first time (and loving it) or a place that offers an oyster ice cream that her children are still talking about (I bet they are!) I aspire to her experience, and keep her recommendations on the shelf for a time when my kids have expanded their palates.

    For now, since Parisiens don’t expect (and don’t really want) children at restaurants, we make like Parisien families and try to stay out of them. In the past, we’ve rented apartments and cooked for ourselves, using the glorious produce available in the various markets. But this year, we weren’t staying in Paris long enough to justify an apartment. We didn’t pack food; we stayed in a hotel. It offered a spectacular breakfast buffet that kept us going for hours; we ate salads from the wonderful Monoprix for lunch; and then we collapsed in the hotel while Tony fetched us take-out for dinner. We wound up eating a lot of Italian and (perhaps weirdly) sushi in Paris, and it worked out just fine.

    Our hotel picnic dinners gave us some nice downtime together before we headed back out into the beautiful night.