in the Kitchen
a love of food with children—and hoping to find the right
begins with mother,” Edna O’Brien wrote, and I can’t help
but think of that statement every time I feed my baby something
new and he responds with an enthusiastic “mmmmm.” I respond
with equal enthusiasm: “Good baby!” or “Look, honey, he loves
Indian food!” or what have you. I think about this, with guilt,
when I remember the various eating problems I’ve had with
my second son, who, perhaps due to an infancy plagued by multiple
ear infections and resulting antibiotic treatment, would only
eat white food until the age of 3, when I enforced the family
rule of having to take at least one bite of whatever is on
the menu that night. And now, I find the bits of broccoli
and cherry tomatoes that he’s secreted behind the radiator,
thinking he’s faked me out with the fiction that he’s eaten
think about it when, praising the baby’s taste for fruits
and vegetables—something we haven’t seen since our oldest
was a baby, back in 1995—my 4-year-old looks perturbed. This
is, after all, the kid who will shriek when presented with
a strawberry, to the point that the neighbors must think I’m
asking him to eat cockroach for breakfast, or perhaps pulling
out his toenails with tweezers.
raising children, it’s often impossible to separate their
individual traits and tastes and dislikes with some failing
on your own part. With me, so much of what matters has always
been about food, and so it’s not surprising that I constantly
wonder how my own relationship with food has colored my children’s.
Confession: As a small child, I sometimes hid bits of hamburger
or pork in a desk drawer. Obviously, it didn’t take long for
my mother to uncover the smelly evidence, and when she’d confront
me about it, I’d stupidly lay the blame on my dad—the same
guy who, in the name of economy, uncomplainingly ate everybody
else’s leftovers for 50 years. This only happened maybe three
times, and the memory of it still makes me blush with embarrassment,
but when confronting my 9-year-old’s hoarding and hiding,
I wonder, am I to blame for this?
than that, I wonder if my kids, knowing that I am such a foodie,
try to forge a certain relationship with me based on that.
Granted, each of them enjoys working with me in the kitchen,
baking cookies or coffee cakes or making dinner. Inevitably,
when they have friends over, I’m in the kitchen whipping up
some special treat, and they relish the fact that their mom
knows her way around the kitchen. Dinners at our house are
special times in which everybody sits down together, five
or six times a week, to a home-cooked meal, and I take special
note of the dishes that draw their praise in order to remember
to make them again. That said, there are dinners that are
ruined by the lukewarm response, complaints about the presence
or size of the diced onions or the lack of a meat protein,
or—which is most often the case—an underlying resentment,
a lingering issue, or blatant anger at a decision I’ve made.
If anything, my kids know that the way to get back at the
Mommy who denies their request for Game Boy time or won’t
let them Rollerblade in the house is to diss her dinner.
food begins with mother. I can see my own mother letting a
perfectly good mealtime go to waste because one person confessed
to not particularly liking leeks. How stupid. I know this,
intuitively and practically, and yet, sometimes, I fall prey
to it. That said, there were also times when my mother would
let toddler me happily rearrange by food group and alphabet
the rows of cans in her lazy Susan, or take out each and every
pot and pan just to feel their weight and veneer. My earliest
memories involve perusing her many cookbooks, my fascination
with the actual recipes and menu plans equaled by my fascination
with the graphics, the illustrations, the bits of papers listing
Mom’s grocery lists or clipped recipes from other sources,
the notations made by mother to make a recipe better or more
cohesive, and, above all, imagining how I would make this
or that meal especially memorable.
time I was 8 or 9, my mother would let me take out all of
her cookbooks, conjure up a special menu, and set a special
dining-room table, using whatever she had in the dish cupboard,
on the pretense that my guests would be eating that which
I had planned. I’d scribble “coq au vin” or “lobster roll”
on scraps of paper, and place them in the dish that I thought
was appropriate, and prepare an entire table, complete with
appropriate dishes, napiery, tablecloth, flowers from our
gardens, and a seating plan and menu. This would keep me occupied
for hours. Once “finished,” I would sit at the head of the
table and lean back in my chair, breathing an appreciative
sigh about yet another meal that went astonishingly well.
back, I think my mother suppressed her fear that I’d crack
Grandma’s oyster bowl because this activity kept me satisfactorily
occupied for several hours. This and, of course, the fact
that I put everything back in its proper place. Some tendencies
cooking is at once a necessity, a pleasure, a reward, and
a rare creative outlet. And usually, it’s done with one or
more of my four sons afoot. The youngest, 15 months old, is
particularly enraptured of the whole process, refusing to
let me put him down while I cut and dice and saute and simmer.
Like me, 40 years ago, he loves perusing the shelves of my
pantry, or touching the various textures secreted in the open
refrigerator. He carefully takes each item out of my own lazy
Susan, particularly liking the huge metal colander, which
he lovingly hands over to me, like a young acolyte at a church
my mother, his mother lets him hang onto her hip and shoulder
while she gets dinner ready. With my third son, I got the
hang of doing things, including shelling shrimp, one-handed,
so it’s standard nature now. He particularly likes to help
push the pulse button on the food processor, so much so that
the mere fact of taking a piece of that appliance out of the
dishwasher sends him into a panic, fearful that I might be
trying to sneak the use of it without his involvement. As
I stir or mix, he purses his lips and makes smacking noises
until I let him have a taste of what’s cooking, whereupon
he murmurs an appreciative “mmmmm,” his face crinkling with
delight. From what I’ve observed, with him, it’s as much the
various tastes as it is the actual process of cooking, of
helping to prepare a daily family rite.
in love with the fact that this particular child is already
so invested in something that I love so much, and yet, again,
I’m worried that my pleasure in his involvement somehow makes
the other children feel, well, less adequate. To quote O’Brien
again, “Food was pleasure, food was reward, and food was substitute
for something other, possibly love.” In my own relationship
with food and cooking, equal parts necessary caretaking and
creative musing, I wonder about the possibility that such
will prove the breeding ground for all manner of childhood
emotion. My children know that I love to cook, that I love
to try new foods and to prepare them for others, to introduce
them to the pleasures of taste and texture. Many times, they
share the indulgence. But I realize that, like countless others
before me, I use food to reward, to show my absolute love
and to bestow happiness, as when I make the family a favorite
chocolate cake for dessert or from-scratch popovers for dinner.
are complex beings, and again, it’s difficult to separate
their individual psyches from one’s own assets and downfalls.
When a profound love of food and dining comes into the mix,
it’s easy to see real or imagined conflicts thrown into the
already volatile mix of growing up, of giving one’s offspring
those “wings and roots.” Usually, it comes out all right at
the end of the day, as when the kids come home, hopeful that
there’s some remnant left of this morning’s coffee cake, or
when they happily respond to my announcement that we’re having
chili for dinner. That recognition of something inherently
good, that they know their mom made for them, and that they
so eagerly return to, somehow preserves for me the idea that,
while food may not absolutely equate with love, it can be
proof that a connection exists.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
further we get from 1609, when Henry Hudson hit
Albany, the better the deal for Albany Restaurant
Week. This year’s event, sponsored by the Downtown
Albany Business Improvement District, takes place
April 9 through 14, and gets you a three-course
meal for $16.09 at participating eateries: Albany
Pump Station, Amo La Bella, Bayou
Café, Café Capriccio, Franklin’s
Tower, Hudson Harbor Steak and Seafood,
Jack’s Oyster House, Kelsey’s Irish
Pub at the Crowne Plaza, La Serre, the
Mansion Hill Inn, McGeary’s, Nicole’s
Bistro, Pagliacci Ristorante, Pearl
Restaurant, Savannah’s, The Comedy
Works, V & R Restaurant, Victory
Café and Webster’s Corner at the Crowne
Plaza. Reservations are a good idea: Call
the individual restaurants. . . . Sample the wide
range of dining offered at the resort’s many venues
during the Taste of Turning Stone, noon
to 8 PM on April 14, in the resort’s Event Center
(Turning Stone Resort and Casino. 5218 Patrick
Road, Verona). Along with cooking demonstrations,
food booths, ice carvings, gift baskets and more,
there will be a 2:30 PM Celebrity Chef Cooking
Show featuring Lidia Bastianich, who hosts her
own PBS show, Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen,
runs five acclaimed restaurants and has written
three cookbooks. Admission is free; guests can
buy tickets to sample the food. For more info,
call (800) 771-7711. . . . Remember to pass your
scraps to Metroland (e-mail food at banilsson.com).
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very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's
at Ogdens. You review described my dining
experience perfectly. This wasn't the case
with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or
Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree
that a restaurant can have an off night
so I'll give the second unit on Central
Avenue a try.
yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back.
Second, I haven't had a chance to visit
Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading
would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant
- it's not that far away. People traveled
from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam.
From his background, I'm sure the chef's
sauce is excellent and that is the most
important aspect of an Italian restaurant.
Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on
the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm
looking forward to trying this restaurant
- I look forward to Metroland every Thursday
especially for the restaurant review. And
by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam
location and is opening a new bistro on
Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running
in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake
Bistro. It should be great!
comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants
being as "standardized as McDonald's"
shows either that you have eaten at only
a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or
that you have some prejudices to work out.
That the physical appearances are not what
you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing
on the food. And after all, that is what
the main focus of the reviews should be.
Not the physical appearances, which is what
most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on
Central Avenue, may not look the greatest,
but the food is excellent there. And the
menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian,
chicken, and more..