Mrs. Joe Pastry Speaks

Allow me to introduce myself, I am Jo Pastry. I rarely appear on this site, and then mostly as the butt of one of my husband’s snide remarks. However after reading yesterday’s post on the history of the “health” muffin, I decided it was high time I put up a post of my own. Though I am not a regular baker, I have been making my share of muffins the last several months, most of them out of the book Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld.

However I haven’t been especially happy about it. In fact I’ve been trying to figure out just what it is that bothers me about this new trend in feeding kids, i.e. hiding good-for-you ingredients in packages kids will find appealing (as Joe has I’m sure mentioned, we have two children, both girls, ages 4 and 1). This morning, as I set out to make a batch of Jessica’s “Peanut Butter & Jelly Muffins”, which feature carrots, it hit me. Cooking this way undermines my two main purposes in the kitchen: including the kids in the food preparation process and teaching them to like strange foods.

I’m no Joe Pastry, which means I am neither quick nor efficient in the kitchen, so when I take on a cooking project I like to make it a group effort. This is especially true when I make pancakes or muffins. Josephine always accompanies me, at least when she gets to be in charge of adding ingredients to the bowl and stirring the batter. However when she saw me measuring out the pureed carrots for our batch of deceptive PB & J muffins, she threw a fit. “Daddy doesn’t put carrots in my muffins!” she complained. Kids, I thought to myself, they’re a lot smarter than we think.

Of course when the muffins cooled, little Josephine barely touched hers, save for licking some of the jam off the top — but then she knew what was in them! Personally I thought the muffins tasted great (though I confess they did have the gumminess and weight of a too-healthy snack), so I froze the rest hoping that one day soon Josephine will forget about the carrots (fat chance), or maybe Joe will eat them for midnight snacks.

Much of my disappointment comes from the fact that I yearn for my children to become adventurous eaters. I confess I seethed with jealousy over last week’s New York Times food section article “Scorpions for Breakfast and Snails for Dinner.” It was written by a fellow who lives in Beijing, where his children eat pickled turnips in nursery school. It was interesting, but in the end not very helpful. Mostly the author just bragged and wagged his finger: “My children eat anything. My 9-year-old daughter reaches for second helpings of spinach, and when we eat out I have to stop her brother, now 13, from showing off the weird things he’ll consume by ordering goat testicles.” Well goodie for you!

But in absence of moving to Beijing or force-feeding Josephine those darn Seinfeld carrot muffins, where do I go from here? What’s a poor Kentuckian whose daughters love rainbow goldfish to do? I suppose just keep on cooking (and baking) in hopes the children will one day take an interest in things they don’t see on TV or on a typical school menu. Eventually they’ll have to start liking a greater variety of foods (won’t they?). For now though I’m giving up the deceptions, since I’ve come to see that healthy eating is more than a few spoonfuls of beet puree, which are only incidentally nutritious. Healthy eating is a habit that lasts a lifetime, and it’s one that parents have a responsibility to teach.

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