The September selection for The Kitchen Reader was Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater by Matthew Amster-Burton, chosen by Meryl of My Bit of Earth.
This is not a book I would have selected on my own, but that’s what I like best about our book club! I really enjoyed it. Amster-Burton, a Seattle food writer, is half of the Spilled Milk podcast. I have listened to the podcast before and didn’t connect them until writing this post, actually. Surprise!
As someone without kids I wasn’t sure I would find the book terribly useful or interesting, but I did. I really enjoyed reading about a stay-at-home foodie dad’s perspective on parenthood and feeding his daughter, Iris.
“Hungry Monkey is the book I wish someone had handed me before Iris was born so I would have known that breastfeeding is challenging (even for dads), that there are two simple rules to take a lot of stress out of feeding kids, and that it’s okay to feed a baby sushi and even spicy enchiladas. Most important, I would have been reassured that having kids doesn’t require dumbing down your menu: if you love to eat, a new baby presents an opportunity to have more fun with food than ever before in your life.
And, yes, more frustration.”
When I started reading the book I giggled so much that my husband kept asking what was so funny. I ended up reading the whole book out loud to him, a chapter or two before bed each night. Not only was this a nice evening ritual, but it made it easier to make him feel guilty about the similarities between his eating preferences and those of the 4-year-old in the book. I am only half kidding.
The book’s biggest strengths are the honesty and humor it contains. Amster-Burton is self-deprecating but honest about the surprises and lessons of early parenthood. His assessment of his own previously-held beliefs that children only gravitate towards default “child chow” like pizza and hot dogs due to marketing and lazy parenting: “Boy, was I a dumb jerk.” Some especially funny sections describe his stint as the preschool “snack mom,” and his subscriptions to parenting (mom) magazines.
What I took away from the book was the lesson that feeding kids can be a challenge, but by making food an important part of your lives, it can also be an adventure. It’s not always easy, but it’s possible. My husband commented that he appreciated Amster-Burton (a trained chef) saying that he often serves frozen potstickers for lunch. Yes, they make their own at home — sometimes — but the frozen ones are fine, too. It may not be the best book I’ve read, but I appreciated the candor and information it contained and enjoyed the journey.
Have you read Hungry Monkey? What did you think?
For other opinions check out the blogroll at The Kitchen Reader for more reviews.
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