Nicholas Day on Babies, Dinner, and Haiku - plus a Giveaway!

April  2, 2013

We're sitting down with our favorite writers and cooks to talk about their upcoming cookbooks, their best food memories, and just about anything else.

Today: We chat with Nicholas Day, beloved Food52 columnist and author of the new Baby Meets World, about all things babies: what they know, what they eat, and what they say, in haiku form. Read on for a few fun facts and a good laugh, and enter to win one of ten copies of Nicholas's book!

Book Nicholas 

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Every other week, we try to stifle our laughter while reading Nicholas Day's Dinner vs. Child column, where he discusses cooking for, with, and (occasionally) on top of his children. In his new book, Baby Meets World, Nicholas sheds new light on infancy and those mysterious little creatures we call babies. This is no parenting manual, though -- it's full of anecdotes and fun facts that will delight and surprise anyone who has a baby, knows a baby, or once was a baby. 

In an effort to share this book with our community -- and as an excuse to read more of his writing -- we bugged Nicholas for a few more baby-related facts, some dinner ideas, and some poetry. We're also offering ten copies of Baby Meets World to our readers -- read on for details!

Sometimes Merrill's baby Clara comes to visit the test kitchen, and we really like playing with her, but the idea of having our own babies scares us. What sage advice would you give to people who tend to be freaked out by babies and their mysterious ways?
First of all, they bite. So approach with caution. Second, not only do babies have no idea what they’re doing -- they also have no idea that you don’t know what you’re doing. This is your great saving grace: they are oblivious to your ineptitude. But they are not oblivious in any way to your love. Third, you’re not wrong to be scared: even after you have a baby, the idea of having a baby is scary. I’m terrified just thinking about it. Fourth, you know how some high schools used to have teenagers carry around eggs and pretend like the eggs were their babies? Don’t fall for that: real babies are nothing like eggs. I’m still pretty pissed about that.

Homemade baby food: yay or nay?
I personally like adult food. I’m confused by all the grown-ups who make their own baby food. Don’t they find the portions too small?

What are your go-to recipes for nights when you have, say, a crying baby on your hands and not much time to chop or stir? 
We follow the model of some hunter-gatherer societies in which the babies are allowed to handle machetes after the first year. So that’s some help with chopping alliums. 

Honestly, our go-to, sky-is-falling recipe is whatever’s in the freezer. Also: eggs on fried rice, eggs on lentils, eggs on tortillas. Not the egg you’re pretending is a baby, though. Use a different egg. (Also, cereal. Here’s my recipe: fill bowl, add half-cup milk, gently stir. Then precipitously lower head into bowl.)


Hungry? See Nicholas' six favorite ways to eat eggs for dinner.

We're looking for some good cocktail party ice breakers. What's the coolest fact about babies you learned while researching this book?
So there’s the story about how preemies in incubators were displayed on carnival midways. There’s the thing about goats being used for wet nurses. There’s the way that some societies used to salt their newborns, like prosciutto, before swaddling. 

But that’s just the wild and wacky side of things. My favorite parts of the book are about the incredible capacities babies have even as newborns, even when they do nothing but yell at you and drool on their onesies and roll their eyes back into their heads. Despite all appearances, they are marvelous beings -- so awake to the world, so creative, so astonishingly resilient. In Baby Meets World, I try to get us to see infancy anew, to see it not as a predictable sequence of events but as a cabinet of wonders. I also try to let some air into the room. Childrearing in America can be claustrophobic: there are so many anxieties and neuroses and right ways that a parent can hardly catch a full breath. This book looks around the world and back in time to make it clear that there’s never been a right way. I don’t offer any advice. I offer some skepticism, some wonder, some perspective. 

I’m a little worried about how long people are going to talk to you at this cocktail party, though. Do they look like they’re slowly edging away?

In closing, please write a haiku about babies.
Not to be a total cliché of a proud parent, but here I’m going to quote a haiku that Mila, our 10-month-old, wrote just this morning:

PhPhPhPh BA!

Want to win a copy of Baby Meets World? (Trust us, you do.) Tell us in the comments: did you ever have to care for an egg and pretend it was a baby? Did you break it? Did it start to smell after a week of successful egg-rearing? We want to hear everything. Ten winners will be chosen at random this Friday!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • LucyS
  • Rachel Travis
    Rachel Travis
  • cookinginvictoria
  • tjioe_chi
  • Nevyon
Marian Bull

Written by: Marian Bull



LucyS April 6, 2013
We didn’t have eggs, but we did have to do the flour baby. My sister was three years ahead of me, when my school’s sex ed course was called ‘values and choices.’ By the time I got to it, they had decided it was too un-PC to teach ‘values’, so they just changed the name to ‘choices.’ And we had to have birdseed instead of flour, for reasons that remain unclear. I put a doll-sized hooded jacket on it, which was useful for holding its blue balloon head.

We were both pretty good kids and got through the course with our values more or less intact, but there were some casualties. One boy decided that he would see what would happen if he tossed his flour baby down a flight of stairs, and showed up to ‘turn in’ his baby for final inspection covered in flour and holding a limp shred of bag. Another passed out on the first day of the course and was allowed to write a report on the history of the telephone instead. No one really understood why, and his later high school record suggests he might have benefited from a little instruction on choices. One person in my class came in very distraught because his birdseed baby was infected with weevils. That sort of thing.
Rachel T. April 5, 2013
Haha, no, never had to do that! [email protected]
cookinginvictoria April 5, 2013
Nicholas, I love your column and the recipes that you highlight. You never fail to make me chuckle. Your book sounds fascinating. As a child, I never did the egg, flour, sugar baby or prosciutto thing, although I do remember hatching chicks from an incubator. We live in the Pacific Northwest now, and my second grader and her class have just successfully hatched salmon eggs and are watching them grow through salmon "babyhood" before they will be released back into the wild. This experience is teaching them all sorts of interesting lessons about birth, babyhood, and the circle of life. I came to parenthood rather late in life myself. When my daughter was a newborn, I remember being absolutely overwhelmed by the responsibility of having this tiny being in my care. Now that those days are behind us, I find parenthood one of the best of all life experiences -- yes, it is challenging and frustrating, but it is also humbling and rewarding, and it fills me with indescribable joy.
tjioe_chi April 4, 2013
Never did the fake baby in middle or high school. But there were other classes that did it. Salting babies like proscuitto? That just makes me go "mmmmm, proscuitto." I usually stick my baby in a baby carrier and cook with him strapped onto me. Seems like he enjoys the vantage point. I like it best when they're old enough to go on your back. Otherwise I'm too nervous to cook on the stove with a front carry. Their little toes are too close to the burner for my comfort.
Nevyon April 4, 2013
I had to carry a sack of flour. Now that I have a 9-week-old, I can say that it is nothing at all like a sack of flour. Thanks, high school sex ed class.
goldirobs April 4, 2013
Never had to do the egg-baby thing. And thank goodness! The yolks made me a little oogey until a few years ago. Growing up my dad told a story about how his dad would say "whoops, there goes the chick!" whenever someone would break thru the runny yolk of an egg...ruined eggs for me for years.
Hopefully this book has some insights on kids that are more helpful than those picked up from a certain father o' mine...
Hgranger April 3, 2013
No eggs in school except to hatch chicks in an incubator. My brother wanted to hatch more at home. My parents were game, driving quite a distance to purchase fertile eggs and helping him build an incubator (cardboard boxes and light bulbs, I think.) This successfully produced two hens and a rooster, who proved very annoying to our suburban Long Island neighbors when he crowed at 4 am. But we had lots of fresh eggs.
Nisha N. April 3, 2013
ha! I love that Haiku!

Never had to care for an egg-baby. Though I did crave boiled eggs when I was pregnant. Not the same thing, I know...
I was planning on buying this book anyway, so I don't mind not winning. Though if it's signed copy, I'd LOVE one. :-)
cheaton April 3, 2013
You only need to walk down my high street to see that egg and flour babies are unnecessary - just look at all those teenage mums!!
Amy W. April 3, 2013
I didn't but i had a fake baby that you had to put a key in the back to make it stop crying. It was for my high school child development class
Kristen M. April 3, 2013
In 6th grade, we did the egg thing. I carried it around in a bread basket with a flowery cloth napkin for 3 days before it rolled off the foot of the bed. We also had another 6th grade egg project, in which we designed contraptions to drop them off the roof. I think this muddied the message of Project Egg Baby, but it was fun. Thanks Mr. McClurg!
Marian B. April 3, 2013
We did an egg drop competition, too! I think I put mine in a jar of peanut butter....
Wulffmom April 3, 2013
I never did the egg or flour baby in school. But now they have these high-tech babies that cry in the night and record how you take care of them. As a pregnant highschool teacher last year, one of my students arrived at school with her "baby" looking frazzled and told me I didn't know what I was getting myself into. I guess these new "babies" work!
Nicholas D. April 3, 2013
I love this story.
Wulffmom April 3, 2013
Thanks! And she was right!
Dave April 3, 2013
The true story is that I killed my sister's flour baby, by complete accident. I dropped said baby on the floor, and some flour spilled out. The flour is still on my hands to this day.
Nicholas D. April 3, 2013
AND: I love this story too. Those hands will never be truly clean.
Hayley R. April 3, 2013
Im feeling a little uneducated right now?! Eggs? Flour sacks? Salted Prosciutto?!? We never had such things in my little Roman Catholic School.. Now 34yrs old and expecting my very first "bundle of joy", which if I'm quite honest seems only intent on making me vomit, at all times of the day, "morning sickness?!? Seriously that was just someone's cruel joke.. Day Sickness more like!
Well it's safe to say, I could do with as much support & encouragement as I can possibly squeeze right now... To say I am freaking out at the concept of being responsible for a little person is quite an understatement!!! :s Eeek!!
JadeTree April 7, 2013
I called mine Evening Sickness. I could make it to noon...and then it was downhill from there. I lived on Cheerios for supper with my second! I had my first at 34, too, and it is culture shock to go from having run your own life for years to being servant to the Emperor/Empress! Just want to send you some encouragement! But go read Merrill's columns on baby food. Go read her articles on freezing food for the early baby weeks. Go find a snuggly wrap so you can wear your baby (start with a Moby and get into woven wraps later. Seriously; you and the baby can be happy this way.). Make a list of delicious things you will eat the second you deliver and make a list of who will have the honor of bringing these things to you. The things you're worrying about will probably not actually be the things you will end up freaking out about so have a mama foodie day and draw up lists of things your child will get to eat and savor (and huck at you) for the first time in your presence. Read Nicholas's articles and remind yourself that your sense of humor will be one of your best helpers when it gets crazy. Not to mention the good food from Food52! Get some SeaBands and lemon water - you're doing it! It's going to be like nothing else in your life!
Gibson2011 April 2, 2013
We didn't use the eggs. Instead, we had sugar babies. I just remember one poor girl who had twins and had to carry around 8 lbs of sugar for a week. Oh, and I'm expecting my first real baby in eight weeks so hopefully that training came in handy.
wutsfasupa April 2, 2013
Neither the egg nor the flour sack -- just real babies! One of our own, and now two grand babies! Both experiences priceless.
Randi April 2, 2013
I had to carry a flour baby, a 5 lb. bag of flour wrapped in a dish-towel diaper, for high school health class. I don't think I've called on that experience yet in my 11 years of parenting.
pdmarquardt April 2, 2013
I had to carry a swaddled prosciutto.
erinbdm April 2, 2013
I did the egg thing in high school. I remember watching all of the older kids do it over the years and thinking it would such a maturing experience. When it was finally my turn I think I broke the egg within a day or too. So far so good with my real kids though--they're made of sterner stuff than my egg baby.
sexyLAMBCHOPx April 2, 2013
Food and babies are so much fun to watch. I love the stage when they move on to solid food and discover dropping or throwing it off their high chair. Also, putting anything and everything on their plate and they just eat it all - no discretion yet! Cracks me up.