What's in Your Lunchbox?

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Eating In

This summer I spoke to a mom friend who was completely bored by the lunches she was packing for her sons, and wanted to break out of a PB&J rut. I set out to compile a few fun lunch alternatives, but realized there’s so much more to talk about when you talk to a mom (or dad) about what they feed their kids. So this series will take a candid look at how local parents solve the daily breakfast-lunch-and-dinner puzzle.

Our first subject: Sadie Antrim, the 7-and-a-half-year-old girl of Talitha Whidbee, owner of Vine Wine in Long Island City and Champion Coffee in Greenpoint, where she serves baked goods like her homemade granola, a typical breakfast at home (her recipe follows).

How would you describe Sadie as an eater?
I would call her a “new eater” or a New York City eater. While she’s picky, she’s not picky in the typical sense. She loves grilled octopus, only eats hard, aged cheeses like Gouda… She used to eat everything but now she eats a lot of pasta, rice and beans. And anything Mexican or Indian.

Really?
She can go pretty spicy. Her palatte changed at two and a half, three. She ate anything until three–spicy, not spicy, Thai, Indian. Then she started excluding foods. She would only eat vanilla, not chocolate. Then at 5 she got really plain. Now she’ll eat spaghetti and meatballs which is a new thing. But she never stopped eating Indian or sushi.

She doesn’t sound too picky.
We were out a few weeks ago and she wouldn’t eat the vegetable lasagna cause there were vegetables in it. She wouldn’t eat the gnocchi because she didn’t like the texture. The bolognese sauce (which isn’t spicy) was too spicy. But then we’ll go to Marlow and get her oysters and prosciutto and she’ll be like “This is the best meal in the world!”

Eating Out

So when she doesn’t like anything you offer, how do you react? Do you make her eat something?
It totally depends on the scenario. If she chooses something and she orders it and she doesn’t want it, then I won’t order anything else. But if I go into a restaurant and I suggest something, I will order her something plain on the side. But she has to take a bite of everything.

And how about at home?
Well, I don’t cook her things that I know she doesn’t like. And I usually don’t serve her one dish. But if she doesn’t like what I’ve made and she’s taken a bite of it, I’ll just have her eat whatever else she’s having for dinner and then she’s done.

And do you keep trying to introduce a food she doesn’t like?
Yes. I will reintroduce a food numerous times. And I notice if she’s at a friend’s house without a family member there, she’ll eat whatever she’s served. [Note: That’s a recent photo of Sadie eating lasagna at home, a dish she didn’t like until she’d tried it at a friend’s.]

I never make her finish her plate and she doesn’t have to finish an item she doesn’t like, but she has to take a bite of everything.

What’s a typical breakfast?
Granola or instant oatmeal with milk and a banana and foamed milk on the side.

What’s a special breakfast?
Chocolate chip pancakes.

A typical lunch?
A frozen hot dog–organic, plain and cold. Some red pepper slices, cherry tomatoes or apples with lemon juice. Some kind of carb: Ritz crackers with soy butter or peanut butter, or pretzel sticks. A gogurt yogurt, frozen so it stays cold. For lunch I do a lot of frozen things and they thaw by the time she eats, like frozen peas. I will do PB&J once in a while. And juice or water.

How about a fancy lunch?
A bento box if we have sushi leftovers. Little baby meatballs with skewers. And the egg molds–we go in and out on that.

Who turned you on to those?
This Gwendomama post. They were really handy for about a year. I sent an egg every day and she usually ate just the whites. And she would only eat it if it was molded. You hard boil the egg, peel it when it’s warm, then put it in the mold and chill it in the fridge.

I also have these crazy apple molds and cheese molds of an elephant and a bunny. You can buy a lot of them on eBay and Amazon.

What’s your typical dinner routine?
It varies. I do organic chicken nuggets with panko breadcrumbs. Spaghetti and meatballs. One night of Indian food in pouches with couscous. Always a whole wheat pasta night–usually without sauce, just steamed peas and butter. Usually a Mexican night of quesadillas and refried beans or red beans and rice. I eat most of the time with her, but not on the pasta night. I’m totally of the belief that frozen peas, pasta, and a glass of milk is a full meal. But we’re talking school year here, during ther summer I’m not as rushed.

Well I think when your kid is a good eater you don’t worry about the times they eat frozen peas.
Her friends are really good eaters. Sadie doesn’t like mayo or sauce or anything that is texturally wrong. I often feel like she’s the pickiest one in her bunch.

What’s your stand on sweets?
She explained to me the other day that she hides candy around her room so she’s never without it. I was like, great!

I kind of think you should give your child sweets, but they should be definitiely sweet. It shouldn’t be all the time or every time they ask, but it shouldn’t only be on a holiday. We don’t really use sweets to bribe, but she is allowed to buy herself some sweets. Also I have the cafe, so she probably gets sweets more frequently than if I didn’t.

What was the policy growing up?
There was no sugar in the house unless you went and made something sweet yourself. We were so organic. My mother soaked her own beans and brown rice and brocolli was a common meal at home.

And do you have a sweet tooth now, because of that?
My sister and I have kind of binge sweet tooths. I don’t just get one chocolate bar, I’ll get two. I think that earlier, I had a huge sweet tooth. Sugar just felt really controlled.

Below, Talitha shares her not-so-sugary granola recipe, for breakfast at home or as a homemade holiday gift.

Champion Coffee Granola

6 cups oats
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
¾ cup chopped nuts, I use pecans but you can use any nut you prefer
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 cup maple syrup
1½ cup oil, like canola

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients, mix well, then add wet ingredients, mixing after each addition until all the oats are well coated. Pour onto a large sheet pan, bake for 1½ hours, rotate your pan half way through the baking process. You can turn off the oven and leave the granola in to continue to crisp up for another hour. If you want to add dried fruit, do so after the granola has cooled.

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