Maureen Petrosky, a sommelier with twin toddlers, agreed to take the cookbook, Food Adventures
, for a test-drive.
She says she found a lot to like: The chapters start with purees and broths and continue with making the most of that window of opportunity when little ones are grabbing at your food anyway - when they want to feel included in the family meal.
One chapter offers advice for handling tots who already know the power of no; another focuses on immersing children in aromas; yet another, on packing school lunches.
There's even a section in Food Adventures on food as first aid - with remedies such as lemon barley water to ease a cough or sore throat, and mangu - a smooth porridge made with mashed cooked plantain - to soothe upset stomachs.
Petrosky made Pirate's Breakfast (fish cakes), laksa lemak (rice noodles with coconut milk and shrimp), and Indonesian satay with peanut sauce.
"Initially kids refuse new foods at this age," Petrosky says with confidence, "but if you let them play with the food, eventually they'll put it in their mouths."
And so it is with Christopher and Elliot Petrosky.
They stack the fish cakes like blocks and then line them up like railroad cars. But when mom takes a bite of a fish cake, Christopher's interest is aroused and he lurches for it. That gives Elliot incentive and before you know it, they've each swallowed a couple of bites.
She presents them with Indonesian satay, grilled chunks of white-meat chicken served on (potentially dangerous) wooden skewers, with individual bowls of peanut sauce. Quickly, the twins take to the joy of dipping.
Next up is lasa lemak, or rice noodles with coconut milk and shrimp. The boys have had shrimp before, but this is their first experience with turmeric (beware its tendency to stain fingers and clothes).
She arranges each boy's dish carefully with noodles in a light sauce, shrimp, cilantro leaves, fresh mint, bean sprouts, and lime. And she's pleased with the result.
"That's another thing I like about this book," Petrosky says, "This is pretty food. And even kids eat with their eyes."
The boys studiously disassemble their platters, sorting the noodles and shrimp in piles on the trays of their Eddie Bauer high chairs. Elliot puts some noodles in his mouth, sucks the sauce out, smiles and spits.
Petrosky smiles, too.
"You can't just look at a recipe and say my kid won't eat this. You have to give it a try."
- Dianna Marder