Thursday, June 23, 2011

At the table

Yesterday for dinner le Petit asked for magret, or duck breast. Magret cuit au four, specifically, or broiled duck breast, in le Petit-speak. And potatoes. With rice.

I ignored the rice request because I'd already made Italian black rice for lunch. It was deliciously fragrant and went quite well with the smoked salmon and steamed zucchini I'd served along with it, but I'd spent the rest of the afternoon picking errant grains up off the kitchen and living room floors, noticing that they looked disturbingly like tiny insects. Potatoes, however, I could do, and the sautéed potatoes from Richard Grausman's "At Home with the French Classics" that I serve systematically with magret are pretty much the only potatoes that le Petit will accept to eat. My husband was out of town for the night, and I felt a bit silly going out of my way to make a meal much more complicated than pasta for just me and the kids. But le Petit had asked, after all, and after a couple of recent evenings with kid duty solo, I was on sort of a supermom trip. So I fired up the broiler.

Recently, le Petit has been uncharacteristically open to new foods. He'll sometimes take a few bites of broccoli or carrot, or grab a raw piece of zucchini off of a cutting board if he's especially hungry. He'll state with seriousness, "Autrefois, je n'aimais pas ça, mais maintenant je l'aime:" I disliked that before, but now I like it. Conversely, he'll suddenly spurn some things he used to adore, saying "Autrefois, j'aimais ça, mais maintenant je ne l'aime plus." You win some, you lose some.

I estimate he's still getting only 0.9% of his daily serving of vegetables, but still, there's new variety.

He's not nearly as open to new foods as his sister is, of course. Now that Mademoiselle's six months old, we've launched into the solid food adventure, and she precipitates into her mouth anything that I place on her high chair tray. Yesterday at lunch she eagerly made disappear the same steamed zucchini her brother haughtily pushed off his plate. I found half on the floor and on the seat cushion, of course, but the rest was greedily devoured.

By the time the duck breast and the potatoes were ready last night and I'd managed to herd le Petit to the table, Mademoiselle was too fussy to stay in her play pen, so I popped her into her high chair beside us. I thought she might be happy just observing dinner, but she took one look at le Petit's plate and then looked at me, indignant.

I pulled apart a chunk of potato and dropped in on the tray in front of her. Her gaze dropped, her arms flew out in front of her, and with careful concentration, she started zeroing in on the target. She closed the potato chunk in her fist, brought it to her mouth and looked happily startled. Mmmm. As I dropped more chunks, I noted with satisfaction that I had two happy kids eating a home-cooked meal, both with such enthusiasm that neither one was using a fork. I must be a pretty good cook. Then I remembered that Mademoiselle will actually try to eat anything these days, including paper (!), plastic wrap (!!), and cloth napkins, provided it falls within her grasp. As a good friend remarked recently, she'd try to eat nuts and bolts if I put them on her plate.

I got up to get le Petit's dessert from the refrigerator, a bowl full of freshly cut strawberries with a dusting of sugar, his favorite. As I disappeared back into kitchen I heard him say to himself, his mouth full of strawberries, "This is a wonderful meal!"

What's that? My son, complementing my food? I went back to the table and asked him to repeat himself. Then, sure that I'd really understood, I planted a kiss on the top of his head and told him how happy I was to hear that the dinner I'd prepared was appreciated by the people I love.

"And, Mommy, what's your meal?" he asked oddly. Uhh... I'd been eating the duck and the potatoes with him. Was I even sure he knew what the word 'meal' meant?

Maybe he knows he has me figured out, because today, encouraged in part by the rave review I'd gotten the night before, I made le Petit's favorite risotto for lunch. (OK, Mock Risotto -- but I honestly can hardly tell the difference.) I steamed up some broccoli for myself and Mademoiselle, and le Petit even nibbled at it a bit after declaring "Autrefois, je n'aimais pas ça." Mademoiselle munched away as I handed her stalk after stalk, throwing all caution to the wind about what it might do to her poor unsuspecting digestive system. After all, this may be the last time she begs for broccoli, so I'd best take advantage of it.

I encouraged le Petit to use his plastic knife to push the risotto onto his plastic spoon, and I pretended not to notice when at the end he shoveled fistfuls into his mouth. "I like the wine in the risotto," he commented. Yes, my little food critic with the primitive table manners can tell when I have some white wine on hand to add to the chicken broth.

When lunch was over, the floor was littered with sticky rice kernels, tiny broccoli buds were spread all the way from the back of the high chair to the threshold of the kitchen, the sink and counter were covered with dirty pots and pans, and both kids were in desperate need of a good wipe down with a wet wash cloth. I wearily trekked off to start cleaning and came back to find le Petit trying to push one last broccoli stalk, salvaged from his own plate, into the mouth of one very surprised Mademoiselle.

"But Mommy, I'm trying to help her eat her broccoli!"

I intervened quickly and explained why we don't force feed vegetables.

And to think that in five hours, it'd be dinner time again.


the milliner said...

DS loves confit de canard. LOVES it. We keep confit'd duck legs on hand in the freezer (easily re-heated in the oven) and it makes a nice quick meal with a simple green salad. When we feel like splurging, we'll have potato slices fried in duck fat too. The thing I don't get is that DS won't eat the potatoes (in all their salty, ducky goodness). The only potatoes he eats are french fries. Perhaps it's the ketchup (with french fries) that make them appealing? Who knows.

Anyhow, I hope his adventurousness with meat and proteins in general continues. If it would lapse over into veggies and fruit (other than bananas) I'd be even happier!

Jac. said...

We're fortunate to have an adventurous eater over here too. We frequently ask DS what he wants for dinner because he has an encylopedic memory of every meal he's ever had and is good for shaking up our menu. At the moment, he is really into curries - green thai curry, and butter chicken are heavy on the rotation around here.

I'm really not much of a cook (at all!) but that was one thing I decided to work on this mat leave and I'm having some success. I've found lots of great beginner recipes at Jessica Seinfeld's new website. I haven't screwed anything up yet. DS will eat her Kale Chips like other kids eat smarties.

"And to think that in five hours, it'd be dinner time again." Ugh. This touched a tender spot for me. It feels like I am constantly either planning for meals, shopping for meals, making meals, or cleaning up after meals. It's relentless and sometimes it gets me down. This is the one area where I really feel the drudgery/monotany of two kids. I've been compensating by feeding DD pretty much whatever we've been having (sometimes mushed up, sometimes not) because I really can't cope with preparing her separate food (my only concession being her breakfast oatmeal - which is the iron fortified baby cereal). When I started feeding DS I was so careful about introducing foods but DD just gets whatever. DS didn't have a french fry until he was two. DD (7 months) had one today.

Cloud said...

I am really impressed that your son will eat duck! Although, to be fair, I haven't tried that on Pumpkin. But since she has refused just about every meat except bacon (which quickly fell out of favor) and chicken nuggets (sigh), I would be shocked if she'd eat it.

hush said...

Duck is something I order all the time in restaurants - esp. Peking Duck (yum!) though it didn't occur to me until now that I could also be enjoying it at home. I bet my kids would like it, too.

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

@the milliner - yum, confit! I always forget to serve it, though I love it. Le Petit only just started eating french fries occasionally. I thought that potatoes were one of those things that all kids would eat in every possible form, but no, apparently. The fruit and vegetables are a hard sell for us, too, though it's getting a bit easier, and we can always count on applesauce.

@Jac. - I know how you feel. I don't mind the meal preparation per se, but I hate trying to think up meal ideas, and I especially hate feeling like I spend all my time doing dishes and cleaning the floor and high chair. In fact, as I'm writing this, the dishes from lunch are sitting neglected in the sink and there are still bits of sweet potato on the floor. Sigh. Also, I dread going to the supermarket with two kids, even if it's only a block away from our apartment and le Petit is suddenly very cooperative and helpful on shopping trips.

I know what you mean about being low-key about solids introduction the second time around. I never would've given le Petit the potatoes at Mademoiselle's age. Now as much as I possibly can, I'm giving her the same things we're eating. I'm lucky because we don't have any allergy concerns in our family, and although I'm certainly not offering things like honey or raw milk cheese or obvious choking hazards, I don't feel like have to be too careful with all the "one food at a time" introduction rules. I'm a tiny bit stressed because I'll be going back to work in September and I'd like Mademoiselle to be getting a bit more of her nutrition from other sources than my milk so that I can keep up more easily with pumping.

@Cloud - le Petit seems to be coming out of a particularly picky period, just when I (thanks in part to reading your wisdom on your blog) started easing up on my own guilt about it. I figure my goal is to keep him from eating junk, and make sure that he never loses the ability to stop eating when he's full, so as long as I offer healthy stuff and not pressuring him, who cares if the only plant matter he eats in one day is often applesauce.

@Hush - duck used to be impossible to find in the US, but when I left 8 years ago, we were starting to find it in places like Whole Foods. The best duck breasts are the ones that come from ducks used to make foie gras, I hate to admit.

caramama said...

I heard the French were connoisseurs of food, but I didn't realize it started so young!

My girl is starting to try more foods too, and she's really eating a lot. I suspect we are starting another growth spurt. My little boy, however, is really turning out to be quite a picky eater. At least I know not to worry (thanks, @Cloud!).

Basically, you're doing the baby-led feeding with Madamosielle. It was the perfect thing for us to do with our first who really does enjoy foods. There were many reasons we decided to go that way, but a large reason, as you are seeing, is simply that it was easier. :-)