Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Breakthroughs in culinary variety

A few weeks ago, I went out for lunch with my lovely friends Tigger and Piglet. And all our children. Five children in all. The little Tiggers and little Piglets are pretty good with food, or it certainly feels that way when compared to my LittleBear, but then I have a sneaking suspicion that other children's eating habits always look better than your own. So, we went to Pizza Express, with a little trepidation on my part. My last two visits with LittleBear have resulted in him eating a cherry tomato, two sticks of red pepper and a bowl of ice-cream. Because the thing about pizza, as many of you are no doubt aware, is that it has a tendency to have a certain tomato-ish theme to it. And the thing about LittleBear, as I may have mentioned, is his utter, steadfast, unwavering determination to eat nothing that contains cooked tomato, or that may in any way be considered to have "sauce". Pizzas (and most pasta dishes) are thus rendered Unacceptable.

So... I took a punt and asked it they would make a pizza for LittleBear with just cheese. No tomato. No other topping. Just cheese. More of an Italianate cheese on toast than anything else really. And do you know what happened? LittleBear hoovered it up. He liked it so much that we have now taken to making our own pizza bases at home and having cheese pizza. It's hard to over-emphasise what a profound effect this breakthrough has had. We are now able to go out with LittleBear! And eat moderately civilised food! There's now something different we can cook for dinner at home! One inching meal at a time, the repertoire of meals is increasing. At this rate, by the time he's 18 he might be eating as many as a dozen different meals...

Last weekend we went out again! This time we took some friends to Prezzo, as a thank you for giving us their 4" reflecting telescope. (Because, yes, those are the kinds of friends I have. The kinds who have a spare telescope that they are happy to give away). And in Prezzo, LittleBear consumed garlic bread and more cheese pizza. And this wasn't any old garlic bread - when I went in to his bedroom on my way to bed later that night, his entire room reeked of garlic. That child was keeping away the entire population of Transylvannia single-handed. Or single-breathed. An actual, real, strong flavour has finally passed my son's lips.

Actually, I do him down a bit on the food front. He has a quite surprising repertoire of vegetables that he will eat. It's simply that nowhere serves just vegetables. Certainly not the kind of places that welcome children. Places that welcome children generally have a children's menu.

This is a Venn diagram of how it works in most places:

But in this brave new world of the Cheese Pizza, we have taken a massive step forward to this new situation:

I can't honestly say that I blame any of these places for not serving the kinds of foods that LittleBear wants to eat. I don't get the feeling that there are many other children whose first choice of food often includes cabbage and cauliflower for instance.

And now I am about to write possibly the most middle-class thing I have ever considered writing. In the past week LittleBear has happily devoured for the first time curly kale, adzuki beans and mung beans. He actually had second helpings of kale. And he asked for mung beans for dinner tonight, but grudgingly accepted pinto beans instead. On the plus side, he tried brussels sprouts today, and like all right-thinking people he didn't like them. So there's hope for the lad yet.


  1. I try to believe it all evens out some day. Dr. S was the world's pickiest child with the world's least food-adventurous parents (they think paprika is an exotic spice) and now he will eat anything on this earth (except shredded coconut). And Bug was anti-pizza, meat, hot dog, and mac & cheese as a small child, but he's mostly gotten over it`. Still fervently opposed to soup in any form, whole beans, and a long list of Things With Mushy Textures.

    I have to say though, as a previous brussels-sprout-hater for a good 30 years, I finally found a couple recipes that render them edible. Tasty, even. One is 'roasted until crispy and almost incinerated, with lots of salt and powdered garlic' and the other is Smitten Kitchen's one with mustard and cream (I have to leave out the cream but it is doubtless delicious) and... wine? I use wine. Also, I never have shallots in the house (because when I do, I fry them until crispy and eat them plain) so I use onions. I just mention this in case you might one day discover the deliciousness of a fresh sprout. I mean, maybe you haven't cooked them in one of the two acceptable ways? I KNOW, sometimes I don't even know who I am. (Maybe you have tried these things and still hate them.) I eat lima beans now too. I blame the spouse (and the farm share that featured fresh lima beans one week, which are, it turns out, amazingly superior to the frozen sort). http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2011/11/dijon-braised-brussels-sprouts/

    What do you... do.... with mung beans? Like, sprouts? Is there anything ELSE to do with mung beans??? Cooked mung beans? School me!

    1. The whole brussel sprouts thing is a bit of a family in-joke. Back in the mists of time, when I was about 7, I declared firmly to my grandmother that if she made me eat brussel sprouts, I'd be sick. I duly fulfilled my side of the bargain and have never let anyone forget it (despite actually being at least comfortable tolerating them these days). But mustard and cream sounds like it could be an improvement, as does garlic. Both may be experimented with in the Bear household soon...

      Mung beans. Hmm. They're pretty uninspiring, but LittleBear will eat them, so I start with the dried variety, and then simmer them in water for ~30 minutes, by which time at least 50% have split their casings and oozed out squidgy white innards and the rest are pretty soft and mostly whole. Stir in a big lump of butter and mix the whole lot with cooked white rice. LittleBear then sometimes chooses to add handfuls of finely grated mature cheddar. And then gobbles the lot. I've tried it too, and as a substrate for butter and cheese it's OK! I'm going to try sneaking onion and garlic in soon, both softened to oblivion in butter first, obviously. And I'm thinking of trying this:


      I might omit the hoisin and just ladle more butter in, given LittleBear's lack of enthusiasm for anything with flavour or sauce. And I'll make proper pastry, not vegan.