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Every other Thursday, we bring you Nicholas Day—on cooking for children, and with children, and despite children. Also, occasionally, on top of.
Today: Nicholas on the importance of feeding us, rather than them—and a farewell, for now.
When I decided to write this column, a little over three years ago, I did it on a whim. I’d never read anything about food and children. I’d never skimmed a hey-you-hectic-parents cookbook. I’d never read an article about what children eat, or don’t eat, or how long they should chew for maximum nutrient extraction, or what foods they are most likely to forcibly eject at peak velocity. I liked children, and I liked food, and I thought that was enough.
I was wrong. I discovered that the conversation about food and children involved a very different calculus from children plus food. It involved a lot of worrying, and a lot of misinformation, and a lot of game-planning, but not much delight. Not much pleasure. And not much actual eating.
I like to think that the three years of this column have been a small weight on the other side of the scale. Because it has been about very little other than delight, and pleasure, and actual eating.
And all of you let me get away with it. More than that, really. You aided and abetted me. You should be ashamed of yourselves.
Implicitly at least, this column has tried to make the case that we will not think about food and children more sensibly—that we will not feed our children more sensibly—until we stop thinking in terms of feeding them and start thinking in terms of feeding us.
Don’t cook for children. Cook for people.
It’s been an easy case to make here. No one has ever said there were too many recipes for dal (see the chana dal with golden raisins below, nostalgically reposted from the very first column), or too many recipes with fishy fish, or too few recipes that any self-respecting child would actually eat. No one has even complained about my overlong tangents that had nothing to do with children or food. Meanwhile, I’ve stolen your tricks, filched your recipes, borrowed your best lines. It’s been a wildly unfair relationship, and if we’re no longer on speaking terms, I understand.
If I’m getting sentimental, that’s because I’m saying goodbye, simply because after three-plus years I’ve said the little I had to say about food and children. The delight, and the pleasure, and the actual eating, though—all of that has only just begun.
I wish you an immense amount of each.
Adapted from Raghavan Iyer’s 660 Curries
1 cup chana dal (yellow split peas)
1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
3 tablespoons ghee, divided
1 red onion (or 2 if you have it), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 cup golden raisins
3 dried bay leaves
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 cup chopped tomato
1 serrano chile (if without sensitive palates, quadruple), minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon garam masala