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One of the things I love about the cookbook Time for Dinner is how it acknowledges the variety of approaches to feeding a family. Really, there’s a spectrum that stretches all the way from making one kid-friendly meal for everyone to share, to making an entirely separate meal for your kid (enter the lure of conveniences like mac n’ cheese from a box). Positioning ourselves somewhere on this spectrum is a challenge I face daily, and there are as many different ways to get the job done as there are days in the year.
Take last night, when Leo and I went out for pizza and Aaron scrounged in the fridge for leftovers later. Ahem. Or the night before, when we grilled spicy lamb sausages for adults and a wiener for the small fry, then served rice pilaf, cucumber-yogurt sauce (too garlicky for the tender palate) plus plain yogurt and cucumbers, and a sliced tomato salad. When I have the time the latter approach is how I like to play my recipe cards: it involves a sense of communal activity, allowing Leo to enjoy the same overall concept of the meal, but without denying those of us with coarse grown-up palates a hit of flavor.
Oftentimes, the whole thing is as simple as “grown-up sauce”: some kind of spicy, interesting drizzle that comes together quickly and can be replaced with ketchup or soy sauce for Leo. A recent fish supper we all enjoyed perfectly demonstrated the “grown-up sauce” technique: Inspired by the very similar salad at a local restaurant called Lot 2 (where they serve all sorts of marvelous grown-up sauces—I’d recommend getting a sitter if you go) I whipped up a creamy buttermilk dressing for green beans, corn and tomatoes.
Now, Leo loves green beans, corn and tomatoes, and he likes buttermilk pancakes. Maybe your kid would dig the salad. But intuition told me that Leo would throw a fit if his corn was off the cob and his vegetables were, sigh, touching. So: pan-seared wild salmon fillets with corn on or off the cob, tomato slices and green beans, either separate or as a salad with a drizzle of buttermilk dressing. We grown-ups enjoyed real food that was seasonal and easy to prepare (yay summer!) and we mostly shared the experience as a family. My hope is that this practice will maintain the myth that we all eat the same meal until such time as we actually do. Which would be…next year? Five years from now? 15 years?!!