the kitchen reader: hungry monkey

by Stacy

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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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Birch October 4, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Do you have the book? I’d be interested in reading it (in my copious spare time). Of course, our kid won’t eat pizza, and likes hummus and broccoli.

I’ve learned that she won’t eat anything she doesn’t like, she won’t starve herself, and always have a drink on-hand in case something’s too hot or she doesn’t like the taste.


Kate October 5, 2010 at 5:30 am

This book has been on my Wish List for a long time now, so glad you reviewed it! We are very lucky and have a child who will eat (or at least try) nearly anything. We often joke about how I am the pickiest eater in the house (I really am!). Also, every night he helps me prep in the kitchen….he sneaks lots of bites in the process, but how could I be upset about him sneaking bites of carrots, broccoli and edamame? He seems to love cooking, I’m hoping we can continue that so he can develop a healthy outlook on cooking & food.


Bridget October 5, 2010 at 1:06 pm

I’ve heard of this before, and it sounds really interesting! I’m glad to hear that it’s as funny as I thought it might be, even if you don’t have kids.


Jill October 5, 2010 at 1:14 pm

I wasn’t sure what I’d get out of the book either, but I thought he was so funny! The snack mom part was especially good. I think it’s so fun that you read it out loud to your husband!


Meryl October 7, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Glad you got a laugh out of it too!


katiebug October 15, 2010 at 6:46 pm

On your strong review, I just picked this up for Tim. I can’t wait to see what he has to say about it. ; )


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