When stay-at-home dad and former food critic turned book author Matthew Amster-Burton found out his wife was pregnant, he vowed his kid would know the difference between store brand bacon and Nueske’s and share his obsession with bibimbap. And though his daughter Iris loves pizza, Amster-Burton is now raising a budding gourmand who adores sushi and who once ate both eyeballs from a roasted trout.
Granted, the eyeball incident happened during a rare appearance of a personality Amster-Burton has nicknamed Future Iris – the girl who loves strange foods. When serving picky eater Iris, Amster-Burton avoids preparing “fifties rejects like sloppy joes” by making compromises that bridge his love of good food with her unpredictable eating habits.
This does not mean he cooks separate meals for Iris or completely disregards her current likes and dislikes either. “I try and incorporate something I know Iris likes at every meal. I won’t cook without regard for her preferences – I wouldn’t do that for a friend I invite over for dinner, and I won’t do that for her,” he says. “But at the same time I want her to have opportunity to push her own boundaries when she is ready. So while Iris doesn’t like vegetables right now, I love them and vegetables are part of our meals every day. Sometimes Iris will take a bite of them and sometimes she won’t.”
Most importantly, when Iris avoids specific foods, Amster-Burton doesn’t force her to eat them. “The thing that I see other parents do that is not necessary is try to cajole their kids into eating more food or eating particular types of food,” he says. Eventually, he believes Iris will come around; until then, he’s discovered the best way to lighten the mood at mealtime is to adopt a hands-off approach.
But if Iris wants to try beef empanadas or even lobster, she knows her dad will be ready to serve her.
—By Ashley Gartland. Mathew Amster-Burton’s book is Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater.