Mike Dariano


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It's Feeding Time at the Zoo (book excerpt)

Each meal time at our house is a new event. I’m not talking about new because it’s not yesterday or tomorrow and we’re on a space-time curve thing. It’s new because my kids have a disease called eating amnesia where they forget how to eat. Symptoms include; forgetting what foods they’ve eaten in the past, forgetting how to get food from their plate to their mouth, and forgetting that any words spoken through a mouth full of spaghetti are inaudible. Their food ends up off their plates and off the table and why we bother with either I don’t know. I guess the only reason is because if we ate on the floor, then the dogs would get all our food, instead of only some of it.

For much of my young life I was fed the same meals, lunch each day would be a peanut butter sandwich served with chips, an apple, and possibly a cookie. Dinner once a week would be spaghetti and breakfast for dinner would be at least once a month. I remember these meals like they’re ingrained in me and portions of those sandwiches probably still are. If I ever die an early death I would wager they find a peanut butter ball stuck in my gut.

I’m not complaining, I loved these meals but I was also ignorant. I didn’t know there were foods much less entire food groups outside of bread, pasta, and pancakes. Now I make bon appetit meals for my family, sometimes literally coming from the pages of Bon Appetit. I make adobo chili salsa and zucchini fritters. I use kale, couscous, and cucumbers. Given my limited culinary upbringing I make food my wife and I enjoy, the kids are less receptive.

When our kids were first born there was a popular cookbook that advocated concealing pureed vegetables in childrens’ food. The idea was that you would be tricking your kids into eating their vegetables, only they wouldn’t know it. The theory sounded simple, the application, not so. In practicality this meant, destroying your kitchen to make the purees and freezing a ton of pureed vegetables only to forget about them until two years later. I’m blaming the system, though jamming pureed bags of prunes into the depths of the freezer was my own fault. Instead of hidden vegetables I declared that we would make our kids eat their vegetables the regular way.

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