Reader, I have a confession. Well, a typically middle class Mummy confession. Adam, my eldest, my four year old, is a fussy eater. Not just a little bit fussy either, he is a full on, will not eat, meal times can be a misery fussy eater. He's been this way since he was about 8 months following a particularly nasty stomach virus. Obviously he will eat chocolate, crisps and anything bad for him. I am actually thinking of renting him out as a quick way of working out whether food is good or bad for you, on the basis that if he will eat it with enthusiasm and without coaxing, it is without a doubt the worst type of processed, sugar/salt filled food available.
We don't stop trying though. Every night I cook something vaguely healthy and try to get him to eat it. Some nights we manage ok. Others turn into a bit of a showdown. Sometimes I can deal with it, sometimes I can't (as Charlotte Moerman of the Buggy Blogs writes in her book Instructions Not Included writes 'hell after all hath no fury than a mummy whose laboriously made fish pie has been rejected').
As a fully paid up member of the middle class mummy society, this inability to get my son to crunch down on a raw carrot for snacks or to eschew crisps for a bit of filled gem lettuce leaves often feels as a downright failure. Of more concern though is the thought that his younger brother will watch this little behaviour trick and take it on board for himself. Currently Luke eats most things, but I can already see that he has learnt from Adam, and the vegetables are getting more difficult to get down him by the day.
In short then, I'm desperate for ideas, for any help in how to get healthier food into Adam. So when Ebury Books asked me if I'd like to review some Annabel Karmel recipe books, of course I jumped at the chance.
Now, I'm no stranger to Ms. Karmel. Of the three recipe books we bought out with us to Bosnia, 2 were hers. So sending me more of her books is a bit like preaching to the converted. But, any new recipes, anything that might become acceptable to my little fusspot, are very desirable. First they sent me the latest Annabel Karmel New Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner. This is the fourth edition and I have a previous edition with me, so I was able to complete a fairly exhaustive compare and contrast. At least, of the chapter 5 which was the only part of the book relavant to me now with 2 toddlers in the household. Much as I wish to Blog with Integrity and conduct a thorough and exhaustive review, going back to pureeing food was never going to happen. Anyway, I can confirm that the new edition looks pretty good, has colour pictures and a couple of pretty pastel pages, but the core of the book, the recipes and the information that comes with it is pretty similar.
Luckily for me they rapidly realised their mistake and proceeded to send me the Complete Family Meal Planner which was far more appropriate. So for the last month I have been testing out a range of different recipes. As I mentioned before, I've got a few of her books, so wasn't surprised to see many of the recipes were repeated here. She has a few themes which she uses often. A meal based around meat or chicken with soy sauce, honey, garlic and lemon (or a variety of) are commonly found in the book, definitely delicious and sadly not acceptable by my little fusspot. On the other hand her Hidden Tomato Vegetable Sauce is the only way to get Adam to ingest any form of vegetables at all, as long as I don't get over excited and try to hide too many vegetables in it. That mistake took me about 6 months to recover from, so for anyone else thinking of trying to sneak a few extra veggies in that way, think twice. Her Bang Bang chicken is the only dish that I can confidently say will lead to a clean plate. The Chicken and Apple Ball recipe was a surprising success too.
I have two gripes with the recipes though. The first is her assertion that fussy children will eat food if it is presented well. So, there are such incidents as the Teddy Bear Rissoles with olive and peas for eyes and carrots for the ears. Now, in this household, for food to touch anything that is red, orange or even (heaven forbid!) green apparently means that the entire plate is rendered unfit for human consumption. There is no way that I would ever be able to persuade him otherwise. I know that Ms. Karmel is supposed to have had a fussy eater as a child, but in my experience this tactic takes up a lot of time and will lead to certain misery at the meal times.
The second moan is that I find her dishes can be unnecessarily complicated. Not to cook, for even someone with my meagre culinary skills can manage them pretty easily, but in the food. In our experience we have found that the best way to get the fusspots to eat something is to keep it as simple as possible. So, for example, rather than fill burgers with breadcrumbs, onions, chopped red peppers and parsley, we are far better off going to the butchers, getting the best quality meat possible, getting the butcher to mince it, make it into a patty and cook it with nothing else added at all.
But I'm whinging. I've already said that I'd be lost without her books. Anyone with children who doesn't have one of her books on their shelf should. On the other hand, if you already have one (or two or even, like me, 5) then you probably won't gain too much from these additional ones.
Right what's for dinner?