Food is such a key part of who we are and how we function in our household. Our days are often dictated by what we want to eat for lunch/dinner. I have been thinking about how we eat as family. How I feed Kiki. How our eating habits are formed and how I can guide her better.
She is four and half years old now and is vocal about her likes and dislikes. It’s harder to get her dressed in the mornings and getting her to eat varieties of vegetables sometimes can feel like a losing battle. I have been forever back and forth trying and failing. Some days I am all guns blazing ‘you must eat all veggies or try at least’. Other times I am just glad she ate that big bowl of plain pasta without any quibbles and hope she won’t be asking for other snacks 10mins later. Oh yes, she has notorious habit of asking for snacks/treats. A real grazer. She is a carb girl and is happier when she is not offered/asked to eat that somewhat daunting vegetables.
When I was a little girl, wee bit older than her age, I don’t ever remember having a lot of snacks. We ate proper food. Snacks would be often just steamed sweet potatoes or corns. Fruits were always plentiful. Mum shopped at local market and would make sure we had whatever was in season. At dinner table, we would all sit down together and ate exactly the same stuff. We would have bowl of rice each. The table was accompanied with few different vegetable dishes, always with small dish of home fermented pickles or kimchi, some sort of soup or stew and occasionally piece of meat or fish. Everything was spread across the table for everyone to help themselves.
My parents never forced us to try things. Rule was very simple. We all eat same food from the same table and what we choose to eat from it was left up to us.
I use to hate it. I would often ask why we weren’t allowed sausages smothered in ketchup or fried chicken nuggets with our dinner, like all my friends. Mum simply replied, they are not real food. Very occasionally, on my school trips, she would buy a bag of those conveniently processed meat for my lunch box with a small can of Sprite. She made sure I understood this was an occasional thing but equally never made too much fuss. We weren’t denied of anything. We weren’t indulged either. Mum and dad made sure we knew the value of food and importance of not wasting them. Interestingly enough, all three of us have grown up to be hugely into food.
I wondered if I have accommodated too much of Kiki’s ‘unnecessary wants’. I fed her habits of snacks/treats, almost as a reward for her good eating. Sometimes enticing her with promise of small chocolate bar or an ice cream at the end of her meal. I am not against odd chocolate treats or ice creams here and there. But I am uncomfortable with her associating these snacks with good behaviours and expecting it if she is being good. She now negotiates with me. I can see how the way I feed her has already shaped her ways with food.
I decided I no longer want to hide/trick/negotiate her meals. I want her to enjoy food and build a healthy appetite. So I started introducing more varieties of vegetables and grains to her meals, involving her more in preparing it. I keep it more or less the same ingredients as what Toby and I eat. Just less spices and herbs. More simplified. She enjoys being part of it. We have less convenient snacks in between meals now - a huge saving to our food costs. I now simply offer everything laid out on her plate, tell her what it is and it is up to her to chose what she eats. And regardless of an empty plate or not, she will occasionally be offered afters. It’s not always easy. I am naturally one that wants to be in control but so as she. But we are all benefiting from less stressed around meal times by trusting each other. I just have to trust myself for doing my bit and trust her to make right choices. I’m in for a long game.
During my research into this particular subject I came across this article written by Hetty Mckinnon. We are not vegetarians but we do limit our meat intakes to ensure we’re doing our bit to support more harmonious and sustainable living. I found her tips very useful.
I also started reading First Bite by Bee Wilson. It’s been on my list for a while and felt timely. Have you read it?
How do you feed your children?
for the panna cotta makes 4 adapted from Felicity Cloake’s Perfect Panna Cotta
2 x 2g gelatine sheets
80g caster sugar
300g double cream
4 green cardamom pods, only seeds, crushed
1 tsp vanila bean paste
oil for greasing
for the rhubarb granita
400g rhubarb, roughly chopped
1tsp caster sugar
1 orange juice and zest
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
2 oranges, juiced to make up 300ml
I am not mad about desserts. Definitely savoury over sweets kind of girl.
But there are few things I enjoy making and eating on odd occasions. Crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle meringues, a good sticky toffee pudding and panna cotta with sharp fruits.
This version of mine has been tried and tested over the few years. After trailing many different recipes, I settled for final ratio of cream, milk and buttermilk which makes it light and almost refreshing. It is easy to make.
I have used cardamon which brings lovely citrus background note to the dish. On the nose it is through and through vanilla. Kiki had no issues of eating this. It is essentially just a grown up milk jelly. I must also add, she wasn’t so keen on rhubarb granita. Too sharp for her liking.
Here, I served mine with some toasted coconut flakes for extra bite. It is just an option.
To make panna cotta, first, dry rose cardamom pods and gently crush the seeds. Set a side.
Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water.
Add the cream, sugar, crushed cardamom seeds and vanilla paste. Stir and heat gently, until the sugar has dissolved and barely simmering. Take it off the heat, keep it warm and let the flavour infuse for 5mins.
Squeeze out the gelatine and stir it into the warm cream mixture to dissolve. Pour through a sieve into a clean jug. Stir in the milk and buttermilk.
Grease the inside of cups/ramekins of your choice. Divide the mixture between them. Cool and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
To turn out, dip the dishes briefly in boiling water and then invert on to plates.
For rhubarb granita, add all ingredients except 300ml orange juice into a ovenproof dish. Roast them at 180º for 25mins or until soft. Let them cool down.
Blend them into a puree and push through a sieve. This will make around 200g.
Mixed the puree into orange juice. Pour into freezer safe container and freeze. Using fork, scrape round the edges every half an hour or so to make flakes.