Category Archives: food

harvest

At the end of spring this year my family and I attended an heirloom tomato event. We love tomato season here, and heirloom tomatoes hold a very special place in our diets this time of year. My wife and I purchased six different varieties of heirloom tomatoes. We gave one to my parents and nursed the rest along in big black pots, even through our move from the nightmare house to here.

Once we moved here, they had to go in a funny spot on the side of the house in order to get enough light. Unfortunately, our summer arrived late and was ushered in with obscene amounts of rain. Our poor tomatoes weren’t doing well. It wasn’t until mid summer when they started to show signs that they might fruit. The most prolific early on was a sungold tomato plant–a yellow/orange cherry tomato that is so wonderfully sweet that we eat them like candy.

Well, we don’t eat them like candy. Our son does.

A month or so ago, when the fruit started ripening, our son began stealing our tomatoes. They would ripen one, two, three at a time, and he would snatch them up, shove them in his mouth, and come back around to the backyard, dripping with tomato juice, grinning with such pride. When he ran out of truly orange tomatoes, he would go back and pick the ones that were slightly orange, carefully plucking off the stems and popping the tart little orbs in his mouth. And when that wasn’t enough, he would go for the lightest of the green. Somehow, he has an innate sense for the cycle of tomato ripening. We never taught him this.

While my wife and I were a little bummed that we weren’t getting to experience this sweet little harvest, we were also delighted that our boy was so fond of them. I have never seen this boy move so quickly as when he remembers that there are tomatoes that may be ripe. When we go outside, he bolts for the side of the house chanting, “One tomato! One tomato!” (because we have told him one tomato is all he can have). There have been just a few occasions when he has brought “one tomato” to me or my wife, and we have relished the tiny tastes we’ve been offered up. But there is no mistaking these are our son’s tomatoes, and we have accepted this. He has eaten 97% of them.

Now, however, the bigger varieties are starting to ripen. We have a beefsteak plant that is dripping with fruit. They certainly aren’t beefsteak size, but they are going to be good. We know this because our son has already picked two of them, eating them like small apples. Both were still just blushing, not quite red, but he buried his face in them like they were his very own ambrosia. How could we deny him such a pleasure?

Still, we have hit a point at which we would like to begin enjoying a few of these tomatoes as they ripen. This means getting out there early, picking them before they’re ripe, or keeping our son locked indoors, away from the tomatoes, which seems just cruel these last weeks of summer.

Just yesterday, we discovered that our first pineapple tomato was ripe. I ran toward it, racing my son who had spotted it at the same time. I plucked it from the vine and carefully carried it into the house, placing it high out of his reach on the kitchen windowsill–because it needed just one more day before we ate it.

Later that day, I wanted a photo of it (this may very well be the only tomato that makes it into the house), so I placed it on the table. Only moments after snapping the photo, a little hand popped up, ready to grab it. I rescued the poor thing and put it back into the window, offering BG a consolation prize of his choice of any tomato from a whole box of romas his grandparents picked us from their garden.

I have kept this one tomato, our one tomato, safe until tonight, when my wife and I could no longer resist. Our son was in bed, and we looked at the thing. Its size is far from impressive, but it was the perfect color and firmness. I knew it was time. We sliced into it, and ate it one succulent bite at a time. It was worth the sacrifice of every last one of those sungolds and even the two small beefsteaks. It was heavenly and sweet and complex.

But you know, while my wife and I relished every moment of that tomato, I can’t help but think that my son would really have loved this one. There are only four on this plant. Maybe I’ll let him beat me to just one of them.

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Filed under Boy Genius, food

parenting: it’s personal

My wife and I were just having a conversation about parenting–this was before I saw the responses to my last post about television. We were agreeing that nothing in the world does a better job at showing one’s values and who one is as a person than parenting choices. This is why, we postulated, that when parents discuss their own choices, people who have taken different paths are so inclined to become defensive about their own choices. Those decisions are so utterly personal that any potential of someone else attacking or disapproving of them seems either threatening or condescending or is otherwise unwanted.

In my post about television, I was talking specifically about one child (mine) and two parents (my wife and I). For our family, a family who does not watch much television (although my wife and I enjoy it plenty after our kid is in bed), TV is not a necessity. My wife and I spent a good amount of time working in media reform, studying western media and its effects on children. We’re academics, and all of our choices about our parenting stem from research, observation, and finally our own values. We are choosing to limit our son’s access to visual media until he has stronger reasoning skills, until he has the ability to process it without simply taking it in as another reality, until he can question what he is seeing. There is nothing wrong with this. Fortunately, we live in a community that supports similar choices. Unfortunately, we live in a larger society where no TV generally equals freak. What can I say?

But when I say I’m not judging others, I’m not. My sister shows her daughter a fair amount of TV. She’s a very spirited three-year-old, and my sister is a single mom. Showing her daughter educational videos has been necessary at times. I’ve turned television on for my niece at my house because for her, it works fine. But when we saw what this did to our son (who was actually well-rested when he watched), my wife and I didn’t like it. Shouldn’t that be enough? We didn’t like how our son behaved when he watched television, and we didn’t like the constant begging for it every five minutes after showing him. We didn’t like it when his books and toys were suddenly not enough. Nothing else had ever done this to our son. That’s a pretty powerful force, and in our opinion as his parents, this is not something to be taken lightly.

When I equate this to our choices to feed our son what we consider “healthy” food, I am doing so because this is yet another very personal parenting choice based on our research, observations, and values. We have seen what happens when people with my genetics eat foods that are overly processed and high in refined sugars. They become morbidly obese–every last one of them. We would like to avoid that in our child. This is our personal parenting decision. We don’t like how our son’s personality responds to sugar, nor do we like how his body responds to low-nutrient, low-quality food, so we aim to feed him real, wholesome foods as much as we can, much as we aim to make the media he consumes as high quality as we can, and, at present, in the form of print and music.

As parents, we are charged with the task of determining what our kids consume, from the food they eat, to the media they view/hear, to the toys they play with, to the social circles they engage in. It would be so nice if we could be supportive of the choices other parents make, but that’s sadly not the culture we live in. If there is anything I’m judging about parents, it’s that. I’m so tired of mothers looking one another up and down and searching for something to be cruel about. It’s hard enough being a parent, but to be a parent in today’s hostile mother culture, where we see this beautiful role as something to compete over, is just really beyond me. So yes, I judge the hell out of that.

But show your kid TV or not, feed your kid sugar or not, let your kid play with his food or not–these are your choices, with your very own reasons behind them, just as ours are ours. There is no need to get the two confused.

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Filed under food, media, parenting

when all else fails, make muffins

We are experiencing a sleep strike around here. Our boy is going through some crazy teething, and as a result, he can’t sleep. He tries to wake up for the day before 5am. His naps have gone from two luxurious hours to 45 minutes if we’re lucky. And the boy is a disaster. By 3:30 or so, he is melting down all over the place, and we are doing everything we can to keep him going for another two and a half hours before we can start his bedtime routine.

Today was a beast of a day with only a 35 minute nap, which made BG a little crazed but oddly manageable for awhile. But as the day wore on, he wore out, and we had to do something to stretch him to something close to his bedtime routine. So we decided to make muffins.

I should point out that my son is a muffin connoisseur. He loves muffins of all kinds, and we make them on a weekly basis. He regularly begs me to make muffins, even when a fresh batch is sitting on the counter, simply because he loves the ritual. He goes to the cabinet, pulls out about six different sizes of mixing bowls, grabs the canisters of flour, oat bran, etc., repeating the name of each ingredient as he hoists the canister onto the counter.  He pleads with me to pull down the agave syrup, the cinnamon, the baking powder, and so often, I have to say, “Oh, son, we just made muffins yesterday!” or “I’m so sorry, sweetheart, but we’re out of eggs.”

But today, my wife went to the store for eggs, and as she was about to return, I told our son, “It’s time to make muffins!”  The boy was elated. He readied everything he could, and when she arrived home, and he couldn’t contain himself for all the excitement, she sat him on her lap at the  kitchen counter where they watched while I peeled and cut pears from our tree. We all squealed when I found a live worm, and BG couldn’t wait to stand on the chair next to me and finally help measure out ingredients and dump them into their respective bowls.

This can be a frustrating process. On days like today, he doesn’t have any patience, and he’s convinced he’s an expert (he really sort of is), so the boy can get a bit carried away with measuring extra agave or emptying the baking powder onto the counter or stirring a little too vigorously such that half of the flour flies around the room. Today, I needed to refill one of the canisters, and as I was filling it, BG grabbed me. Whole wheat pastry flour poured all over him, all over the floor, and all over my foot. I was so frustrated for a moment, and my wife said to me, “This is one of those moments you could remember forever. Just take a deep breath.” And I did. I proceeded to paint my son’s face in flour, then my own. Then my wife and I threw it at each other. The kitchen was covered in flour, and we were all laughing.

Those muffins came out beautifully, and they saved the afternoon. By the time they were coming out of the oven, our happy, exhausted boy was seated at the table enjoying his dinner, and we were a mere bath and story away from his bedtime. This isn’t the first time a muffin has saved the day in the Reproducing Genius household, but my wife was right, this is one batch of muffins I will never forget.

**Bonus: Here’s my pear muffin recipe:

Combine in a large bowl:

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup oat bran
  • 1 Tbs. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1 Tbs. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ginger

Combine in a separate bowl:

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup agave syrup
  • 1/2 cup applesauce (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 cup of ginger tea (just steep a ginger teabag in 1/2 cup of water for five minutes)
  • 6 Tbs. canola oil or melted butter
  • 1 cup of diced pears

Carefully fold the flour mixture into the wet batter until barely combined. Don’t overmix! Pour into muffin cups (either lined with papers or sprayed with canola spray). Place in an oven preheated to 400 (Fahrenheit). Bake for 18-22 minutes, until golden–and a toothpick comes out clean. Makes about 12.

Note, these are not excessively sweet muffins and won’t give your kids a crazy sugar rush, but they are very tasty. If you like more ginger, I sometimes chop up about a third of a cup of crystalized ginger (or more, depending on your tastes).

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Filed under Boy Genius, food

chomp chomp

Baby Genius is working hard on his first tooth. For the most part, this just means chewing on things with a little extra fervor. (Just last week, we went for a walk with a friend of ours who allowed him to chew on her finger for a good half mile.)  He’s such a laid-back baby that even teething pain doesn’t get him down most of the time, but he has had some really sad bouts of crying in the last couple of days, and as he cries he says, “Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma! Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma!” It’s the saddest little sound, and both J and I feel terrible for the guy. So far, Tylenol and Hyland’s Teething Tablets work pretty well to soothe him and ease the pain, as do cold washcloths and cold pacifiers. The funny thing about this last item is that the boy would never take a pacifier until now. Now he loves to chew on them, and it amuses us to no end that he chews on most parts of the pacifier except for the nipple. We’re hoping like mad that the tooth comes through soon. Poor boy.

On the subject of placing things in Baby Genius’ mouth, he’s been doing quite a bit of eating lately. We started him a month ago on bananas and applesauce, but now his repertoire has expanded to butternut squash, carrots, pears, yams, avocado, and now rice cereal. We wanted to avoid giving him rice cereal, hoping we could continue giving him foods that were homemade (steamed or roasted and spun through the food processor) and fresh. Unfortunately, his iron levels are bordering on low, and his doctor wants us to deal with this by adding iron-fortified rice cereal to his diet. Adding this has been admittedly rather fun. He enjoys it with some of his favorite fruits mixed in, and we’re finding it to be a good thickening agent for particularly ripe fruits like pears.

It has been pure joy seeing Baby Genius explore foods with their different textures and flavors. I admittedly feel a little pride each time he enjoys a food I have prepared for him, even if that simply means I have roasted and pureed a squash. As someone for whom cooking is a passion, seeing my baby boy’s palate develop is wonderfully exciting. I know we potentially have picky toddler years ahead of us, and that is a challenge I welcome as well, but for now, seeing him enjoy each new food is an absolute blast.

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Filed under Baby Genius, food

the family banana

Yesterday was a big, big day in the Reproducing Genius household. It all started in the morning when were all lounging around in bed, and Baby Genius decided very nonchalantly to roll from his back to his front. He’s rolled from front to back a number of times, but we’ve always had to move him onto his side and then coax him to his front. Now he’s doing it all on his own as though he’s always done it. He was very proud of himself, and because we made such a big deal about it, he was positively beaming.

But later in the day came an even bigger deal.

Baby Genius has been watching us eat with great interest for some time now. We have given him his (very cool tractor) practice spoon to play with, and for awhile, that was enough. But soon it wasn’t. The other night, we were eating some pasta, and he was watching me eat with more and more excitement. He was leaning back on a pillow, but each time I would take a bite, he would try to sit up, and he would stretch out his arms trying to reach the food. Then he would mimic my chewing. At one point, J picked him up and put him on her lap, and he immediately lunged for her bowl of pasta with both hands, his mouth wide open.

So we talked about it. The boy was at that point only ten days away from his six month birthday. He’s been interested in food for some time, and we’re frankly very excited about introducing him to eating–one of our very favorite things. The only thing holding us up was that six-month birthday, and it was beginning to feel a little arbitrary. We decided that the next day (yesterday), we’d give it a go.

At some point yesterday morning, BG was in a great mood, and I suggested that we go for it. We pulled out a banana, and I mashed a small amount up in two separate containers so that we could offer him some mixed with a bit of breastmilk and some on its own. J and I wanted to eat with him, so we split the rest of the banana, and we began eating it in front of him. He watched us, and then J let him taste her fingertip, which had a little banana on it. He was interested, so I then gave him a fingertip full of mashed banana. He took it easily, made a slightly confused face, and then proceeded to swallow the banana, after which he flashed me a huge grin. He loved it.

 

We spent the next twenty minutes or so alternating between banana and banana with breastmilk using his spoon. Each time we began to offer him the spoon, he would grab it as well and pull it toward his mouth. He had some pretty incredible accuracy! It was such a lovely experience, the three of us sharing this banana, my wife and I seeing our son enjoy food for the first time.

I did find myself getting a bit emotional though. While I will continue breastfeeding until we’re ready to stop, this does mark a new trajectory, and it’s one that involves that connection less and less. It means my baby is becoming more independent, more able to live without me. Ultimately, this is what we all want for our children–it’s certainly what I want–but I couldn’t help but get a little weepy yesterday seeing my baby, who was so tiny and new not so long ago, sitting there so grown up and eating with a spoon. The time is going by so very quickly. Why aren’t kids equipped with pause buttons?

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mother’s milk

Never in my life did I think I would find myself googling the color and consistency of bowel movements, but that is precisely what I have been doing today. I don’t plan to share the gory details here for fear of driving you all away (let’s just say that “blood” was one of my search terms), but our son’s diapers–and one in particular– have given us cause for alarm, and now we’ve got to go see his pediatrician today.

My preliminary research tells me I may have to give up dairy soon–my beloved morning yogurt, the cream in my decaf, and even cheese. I was a vegetarian for years, but never vegan because I am a dairy fiend, and the thought of giving it up frightens me a little. Don’t get me wrong; I’m intimately familiar with all kinds of alternatives. Soy and rice milk have long been parts of my diet–but voluntarily. There was always the option of having cream or milk of the bovine persuasion.

Honestly, though, I’m hoping that a mere sensitivity to something in my breastmilk is all we’re dealing with here. I would far rather endure the challenge of giving up dairy than to have something horribly wrong with our baby’s GI tract. I’ll subsist on oats and sprouts alone if I have to. It doesn’t mean I’ll be happy about it, but I will if it means our baby will be okay.

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Filed under Baby Genius, disgusting things, food

a newfound loathing

I have always been a fan of food. I love to cook. I love to eat. I have never been a picky eater, although I do prefer good, real, whole, local foods. But lately, I have become my own worst nightmare. Not only have I become unpredictably picky, but I also now hate an entire meal: dinner.

I think the loathing is linked to meat. We don’t eat much of any meat throughout our usual days, but at dinnertime, we typically have some sort of meat for our protein. Now, the smell or sight of it cooking is enough to launch me into grimaces and an overwhelming ick.

I should provide a bit of history. I was once a vegetarian. As a teenager, I was eating pork or something and discovered that I thought it was disgusting, so I swore off meat for the next five years or so. Once in college, I would occasionally eat meat, but I never had it in my home, and I certainly didn’t cook it. Then J and I got together. She grew up with lots of meat. She knew how to cook it–and quite well–so when we moved in together, there was always meat served in our home. Over the years, we have become far more selective about our meat consumption, working to eat primarily ethically grown meats, but now, I just don’t know.

Part of it, honestly, is the texture of the stuff, but it’s also the smell,  and frankly the taste. Whereas chicken was once a standby for us, now I can barely choke it down.  It sucks.

It sucks for a few reasons. First, my wife and I have always shared cooking duties. We tend to trade from one night to the next, and often we’ll cook together, but I can’t cook now. I have no inspiration. Often, I just want a potato or a salad. My wife is accustomed to me being creative and making whole meals, so you can imagine how disappointing a lonely potato might be in comparison to a lovely grilled salmon, rice, and mixed greens salad. As a result of my loathing, my wife has tried to take over more of the cooking duties. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know what to do with this new picky eater who has taken over her wife’s body. She tries so hard to disguise the meats in good, healthy sauces, but it’s no use. I might as well be a two-year-old.  Before, the scent of garlic might have made my stomach growl; now it makes it turn.

So maybe it isn’t just meat. I really do think it’s dinner. Dinner is overwhelming. It’s too much flavor, too much prep, too much food, and just too much to think about. Perhaps if I just ate broth, it would be better. Suddenly, gruel sounds particularly good.

A couple of weeks ago, when I told J that I now hate dinner, she said I didn’t have to have dinner anymore, that I could just have dessert. I liked that idea, although I didn’t really eat dessert. Nevertheless I would revel in a tasty orange, perhaps some popcorn, maybe even some yogurt or an almond butter and jam sandwich. However, I think my wife grew tired of eating alone, of not having our usual evening meal tradition, and she has been making dinners for both of us, and it’s not ever easy. I feel terrible about it really. She offers to make me a vegetarian option of something she’s making, but I’d rather she didn’t go to the trouble for a meal I don’t want anyway. I would rather just have my potato or almond butter on toast.

I’ve been doing my best, though. I’ll eat a few bites and try to fill myself up. If we have a salad, I’ll reward myself with a bite of that only after I’ve had some of the protein on my plate. I feel like I’m negotiating with a toddler, and it’s weird because this doesn’t feel anything like me.

I don’t think I’m going to declare myself vegetarian again. I still like the idea of a nice piece of free-range, grass-fed beef–just not for awhile. I’d like to think of this more as a first trimester sabbatical from meat. Yes, that sounds just fine.

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Filed under food, the P word

Happy Friday

Our oldest dearest friends are due to arrive at our home in a couple of hours. We haven’t seen them since we moved, so we’re very excited. I’ll post when I can this weekend. The subject of food during this visit should be VERY interesting because one of our friends has been diagnosed with crohn’s disease, and her diet is more limited than any diet I’ve every encountered (no fresh vegetables/fruits, no fiber, no fat, no wheat, no everything that we cook!). I’ll write about those adventures at some point.

Thank you all for reassuring me that I don’t appear to be a grandmother yet. I’m still giggling about that.

Have a good weekend!

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Filed under food, friends

Farmer’s Market with J and T

Farmer’s Market last night was fantastic.

Yesterday was extraordinarily hot. I think our high was around 105. Needless to say, J and I were not exactly looking forward to sitting outside in this heat. Nevertheless, we got ourselves together, took a quick trip to the gourmet market for cheese, bread, and wine, and we made our way to our town plaza. Once there, we found a nice shady patch of grass, spread out our blanket, poured a glass of wine, and waited for our friends. We were immediately happy.

As I described yesterday, the farmer’s market in our town is a very festive atmosphere. Last night, there was a great jazz band playing in the little ampitheater on the plaza. There were huge groups with long tables set up with full dinners to serve. There were others like us who were sitting on blankets enjoying some cheese and wine. It was incredible.

J and our friends

J and our friends

Our friends were just as much in the spirit of at all. They had at one time done this regularly, but had gotten out of it, so they were glad to get into the Tuesday night picnic again. We polished off a good amount of wine, enjoyed our cheese and bread and chocolate, and shared all kinds of stories. They also gave us a gift. the woman is a massage therapist, so they gave us each a gift certificate for an hour massage with her. We’re stoked.
 
Of course, we also spent some time walking around looking at everyone’s wares. We bought tomatoes and strawberries. The blueberries were out in full force, as were the sunflowers.  

We have plans to do this again with these new old friends. We’re loving feeling part of the community finally, and even though we’re still considering leaving next year, we’re finally starting to enjoy where we are.

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mysterius leafy goodness

Have you ever had purslane? J and I stopped at a local farm, and one box looked particularly intriguing. I should mention first that at this far, there are always unusual foods, so we’ve grown accustomed to asking the young farmer guy who seems to run the store what things are, and he’s clearly accustomed to identifying the mystery boxes. In our few visits to this farm, I have learned so much!

So we asked the farmer what it was, and he informed us it was purslane (I couldn’t remember the name when I got home, and I had to look it up based on its characteristics. It was hard.) and urged us to taste it. I have never tasted anything quite like it. We didn’t buy any, but I’m going to have to go back for some. It was wonderfully sour and smooth and crunchy. The fatty acids in it lend this silkiness to its texture that is so unusual for a green. It was so very good! Along with all of that, it supposedly has the highest concentration of Omega-3s second only to fish. Wow! If you can get your hands on some, try it.

I just love finding foods I’ve never tasted.

Are there any rare or unusual foods you eat that you would recommend?

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