Laura from 11D is, I believe, the blogger I've been following for the longest time now. Pretty much from the beginning, I think, back in 2003 or 2004. We lived in Belgrade (or Bucharest?), and she lived in NYC in a tiny apartment some insane number of flights up (six? something like that?) with two little kids.
She's funny, smart, and beautiful. I have somewhat of a girl crush on her. Her blog has a sizeable group of commenters who are diverse and interesting enough to make the comments always worth reading -- not something you can say about just any blog. Or most blogs. Her readers add a certain something, they are not shy to criticize her but always in a respectful, almost lovingly-teasing way. It's a fun group. (And I love my readers, too. If I still have any.)
Laura posts very regularly (yes, I can hint at myself, you can stop now) and only the discussions about school vouchers are not that interesting to me, if only because as a European, I simply cannot wrap my head around those. I don't always agree with her but I always find her worth reading. For, gulp, nine years. Ten, maybe? A long time in the blogosphere.
Anyway, one recent post on her blog was about food and about how she feeds her family. I read it and I immediately felt guilty. I mean, we're doing everything wrong!
1. We don't use garlic at all - I'm allergic to it. I go around reading cook books and watching cooking shows, always thinking to myself that probably, my food is crap because we never use garlic. But it makes me sick and it smells horrible to me. So I use lots of onions and shallots. I tell myself that my kids make up for the lack of garlic by not drinking sodas.
2. We use butter! We use quite a bit of butter. I bake, I fry omelettes in butter, I add a dab of butter to soups for my skinny 9-year-old who could need some few more pounds on his ribs. My gurus are Ina Garten and Julia Child - everything is better with butter. We also use sunflower oil (high quality), cold-pressed local rapeseed oil, and olive oil. It's hard to get good olive oil here, and ever since I brought back some oil from a little Palestinian fair trade cooperative, I find I don't like the cheap stuff anymore. Not that it was expensive. It was just so good, and it is not available in Germany. Sigh.
3. We do eat meals where carbs are the main player. We eat Spagetti Alfredo a lot - it fast and cheap. I have a few 1-Dollar-meals that are dirty cheap but yummy. I usually add some raw veggies like carrots (which we basically always offer at meals, together with red pepper slices and cucumber sticks). But yes, it's not always a vegetable palooza.
4. I do not make separate dishes for us and the kids. Jenny Rosenstrach calls them "deconstructed dinners" and that's what I do. I offer many things seperately.
5. I don't always offer a salad.
6. We almost never eat dessert. More often than not, dessert is fruit. Sunday lunches at my Mom's include dessert and that's always very special. I like it that way.
7. We eat lots of bread. Germany is the home of the bread. We eat quite a variety, and hardly ever white bread. I still haven't tried Jim Lahey's No Knead Bread but it's on my list. Also, his pizza crust.
8. We do eat cheese. Oh, cheese is so good. I can't live without cheese.
So, is our diet really bad, I asked myself in a panic. As a German, I do guilt very easily. My poor kids! They will die of food-related disease because I'M A BAD MOM!
Time for a reality check.
1. We eats lots of fruit - mostly apples, mostly local, when in season homegrown - and lots of raw vegetables. Those I try to buy organic but they aren't always available. Vegetables inclucde carrots, cucumbers, red peppers, and kohlrabi - those are my kids' favorites. When in season, we have lots of radishes growing in the garden, and fresh spinach. Weirdly enough, my kids also love eating frozen corn and frozen peas. Judge me not. That runs firmly on my husband's side.
2. I love vegetables and often cook an additional vegetable dish for Doug and myself, since the kids perfer their raw stuff most of the times. Everybody has to try at least one bite during the meal, though.
3. We try to avoid snacking too much. (A la "French Kids Eat Everything" - I adore that book.) We introduced a "gouter" at 4 pm (when Leah comes home hungry and grumpy) and that may be a pastry, or crudités, or some special fruit, or a jogurt. (And by jogurt I don't mean low-fat yucky industrial stuff but wholesome German jogurt. High fat, some sugar but not too much, nothing artificial. Aaaaah.) Special days deserve a Nutella croissant.
4. We always eat dinner together. Always. Sometimes, it's a traditional German dinner with bread, sausage, cheese, and pickles. Sometimes, it's three courses.
5. My meat dishes are more involved. We eat roast chicken. Meatballs. Schnitzel. Goulash.
So is our diet inferior to Laura's? Because of the garlic and the olive oil? Not sure. I am trying to take away from this that diets are varied. Ethnic food exists for a reason and it would be sad if we all only ate Greek food, no? (Please say yes!) We are making an effort to feed our kids home-made meals, no processed crap, we don't drink sodas. My basement is full of jeweled jars with jams, pickles, juices. We grow tomatoes, lettuce, radishes, chard, potatoes, carrots and lots of fruits and walnuts in our backyard.
My kids are picky. Between the four of them, there are maybe five things they all like. (Pasta, pasta, pasta, pasta, and pasta. I'm only partially kidding.) We are trying to introduce new foods, one by one. It's a tedious process. It's also a leftover from years of living in countries with limited access to fresh vegetables, especially in the winter. I love eating a wide variety of foods and sometimes, I get very frustrated with my picky eaters.
I found that renaming things helps, even though my kids are not stupid. I got them to eat fish (many years ago) by calling it "shark". It's not fish, it's SHARK! Man-eating SHARK! Eat that SHARK before it eats YOU! Lots of giggles, and we still eat shark today, even though the kids did catch on eventually. Red lentil patties are called Super Hero Patties. It works, amazingly. A visit to the beekeeper in Ostheim convinced them to use honey in their teas instead of sugar. The list goes on.
I think we are doing okay.
Could it be better? Sure. Is it good enough? Nope. But we're getting there. I hope.