The Monday Lunch Club

I've mentioned before that Kent is a picky eater, and I've admitted my complicity in it, feeding him the same boring or processed things I know he'll eat when I'm feeling lazy, uninspired, or too hungry myself to fuss with something new that he'll probably fight me on. I decided a few weeks ago to set a goal of cooking together with Kent at least once a week, and I figured that if we did it for lunch, we could experiment with different kinds of meat, chicken, and seafood. I tried to make a chicken and pasta dish for us a couple of weeks ago, but I got a little carried away and added wine to the sauce while I was cooking. Kent loved the chicken, but he wouldn't eat the pasta. I gave him a choice of soybeans or green beans to put in the pasta, and even though he chose soybeans and normally loves them, he didn't want to eat those either. So I felt a little sheepish about our first attempt but vowed to try again.

Kent and I went to the grocery store by ourselves yesterday. It's a rare treat to go without Dean, even though it sounds lame, because if I don't have Dean strapped to my front, I can relax a little more, and Kent gets to help me push the cart and walk by himself instead of having to sit in the basket. I decided to talk up something new to him and have him help me shop for it: homemade fish sticks. I saw Giada do it and thought it might be just mild and simple enough that Kent would eat it. We bought a tilapia fillet and buttermilk, and Kent randomly got excited about the broccoli in the produce section, so we bought some broccoli to go with it. This morning we marinated the fish in buttermilk for a few minutes, and Kent helped me pull the pieces of fish out with tongs and put them in the breadcrumbs and then into a baking pan. He was getting super excited. It helped that he was also getting super hungry. I cut and peeled the broccoli, then steamed it while the fish was cooking, so everything was ready all at once and we sat down to eat. I was reminded of how much Kent likes eating his food at room temperature, when after deeming his lunch too hot, he played for a few minutes, then came back to try everything after it had cooled.

He liked the fish from the first bite, and he ate all of what was on his plate. Insert Mom jaw-drop here. He didn't want to dip it in the marinara sauce, because he's not much of a dipper, despite what all the child nutrition experts say about how much kids love to dip things and how it's a great way to get them to eat veggies. The fish had tons of flavor on its own, and I loved it too. This dish got a big exclamation point in my meal-planning notebook, meaning "Please cook me again!" The broccoli didn't go over so well, unfortunately; Kent keeps wanting to try broccoli, but he never likes it as much as he seems to think he will, sort of like the cherry tomatoes he picks from our garden. I'm happy that he keeps trying it and am hopeful that someday he'll actually enjoy it.

We don't always eat dessert, but since I had been baking that morning, we had some dessert together too: chocolate hazelnut biscotti. Biscotti is something I love, though my one attempt to make it several years ago ended in kind of a flop. I found another recipe this time (with a simple substitution of hazelnuts for the almonds the recipe calls for), and it came out beautifully. It goes perfectly with my coffee. Biscotti is kind of dry because it's twice-baked, starting out as a crumbly dough that you bake in logs, then slice and bake again. (What did I ever do before I had a Silpat??) When I cut the ends off before slicing it, I set them aside rather than baking them a second time, because I figured Kent would enjoy a moister cookie if I was going to share any with him. And to tell you the truth, now that he's tall enough to see over the counter, I pretty much have to be prepared to share desserts with him anyway, or give him a very good reason why he can't have any. He has recently discovered the pleasurable perfection of dipping cookies in milk, so he dipped his once-baked biscotti in milk and I dipped my twice-baked biscotti in coffee. Grand success all around.

I'm excited for Dean to join our Monday Lunch Club. He's an auxiliary member now, since he sometimes nurses during part of lunchtime but hasn't eaten any of our food yet. He's really eager to get started with the whole solid food thing, though, and I'm eager to see what he'll like. Incidentally, the first time Kent ate fish, it was a puree of fish, broccoli, and cheese sauce that I made for him, and he gobbled it up. Maybe Dean will like it too. I noticed a few days ago that Dean was jealously eyeing my water glass as I drank from it, so I offered him a few sips and he did a great job of drinking from the glass. We tried giving him pumped milk in a glass this weekend, and it went much better than any of our attempts to give him a bottle. Thankfully, I haven't had to be away from him for any length of time, but I'm starting to feel the need to see movies and do other things without him — Kent has now seen Toy Story 3 without me twice, and I'm dying to see it! — so I think this new discovery about drinking from a glass is going to make me feel a lot better about leaving him. And soon he'll be gobbling up veggies and fruit and getting things all over his face and the floor. I can't wait.

I told Jack a couple of months ago that I was feeling really dejected about my attempts to cook for Kent, and he cheered me up by reminding me to take the long view. He said that someday our kids are going to be out of the house, and when they come home, they're going to ask me to cook all of their favorites that they will have grown up eating. That made me feel a lot better. In the meantime, I'll take the little victories like today's lunch, and I'll keep hoping for more exclamation points in the notebook.

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Wow, what a great idea! That sounds like a really fun tradition.
I'll send Mimi a reminder to read your blog, so she'll know that Kent actually eats on occasion!

Love, Mom

P. S. Is anyone else having trouble with the Word Verification? The graphic doesn't display the first time through, but if I just enter nothing (or random letters), it works OK the second time. Also, my password is never accepted the first time, but it always works the second time.
Hey, and that from a man who ate french fries and p-nut butter sandwiches for more meals then I can remember.lisrai
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