________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 21 . . . . June 8, 2007


Whining & Dining: Mealtime Survival for Picky Eaters and the Families Who Love Them.

Emma Waverman & Eshun Mott. Photography by Jenna Muirhead-Warren.
Toronto, ON: Random House Canada, 2007.
217 pp., pbk., $29.95.
ISBN 978-0-679-31454-7.

Subject Headings:
Food preferences in children.
Children-Nutrition-Psychological aspects.

Review by Lizanne Eastwood.

**** /4


Why are kids picky? Let’s be fair to kids. Every day they are bombarded with new experiences, new information and new expectations. They are foreigners in a land where everyone else knows what’s going on. And to expect them to eat, unrecognizable food every single day may be too much for them. It’s like backpacking through an exotic country and having to trust the locals that you are eating chicken and not cobra heart. After a while, you too would cling to what you know.

Almost all children go through a picky stage. In fact, research shows that thirty-six months is the height of pickiness. It even has a scientific name; neophobia, the fear of new things. Scientists haven’t figured out why kids go through this, but it may have been an anthropological means of protection during hunting-gathering days. Now, of course, the new scientific definition is “pain in the butt.”

I love this book; I really, really love this book! I am the type of person that reads cookbooks like novels, enjoying the photos of food like fine art. With over 300 cookbooks in my collection, I am always on the lookout for a new fix. This book fit the bill like a glove.

     Currently I am running a literacy-cooking program for preschoolers and their parents. The question about picky eaters comes up repeatedly, often by very distraught parents. Beyond talking about my own childhood experience of growing up a vegetarian wannabe in a very carnivorous household and being made to sit at the table till I choked everything down or devised cunning ways of disposing of the evening’s meal of beef stew, I didn’t have a lot of advice to offer. The authors of this part-cookbook, part-parenting book, dish up loads of insightful information and advice in a very conversational manner. Some of their anecdotes are hilarious, and the text almost feels like you’re talking to your sister or best friend.

     The authors have both been in the food business for years, as food writers, stylists and trained chefs. They are parents of small children and know that feeding your family, especially if it includes a picky eater, can be a daunting chore. They believe “the secret lies in the attitude and the parenting skills you bring to the table, and of course what your serve.”

     I have learned so much from these women, especially the calm reassuring advice that picky eaters generally grow out of it. I especially liked the list of storybooks about food for picky-eaters, including my favourite - Bread and Jam for Francis. The authors recommend that we need to change our focus – start thinking about the long-term goals, not the short-term ones. They say that the most important thing to remember is that it’s your responsibility to make good choices available – then let your kids choose what they’ll eat and how much. For many of us, this is novel advice having come from households where food was often used as a form of control or punishment.

     The book is divided into chapters. The first is “How did we get Here” covering topics such as The Family Meal, Family-Style Eating, The Short-Order Cook is on Strike, and Getting Picky Eaters to Try New Things. Other chapters are titled:

Nutrition: The Tricky Balance
The First Year: After this it’s all downhill
Breakfast: Your Best Chance to Stuff them Full of Health
Lunch: Squeezed at both ends
Snacks: Time Out!
The Picky Eater Hall of Fame
Family Dinners: The Best of Times, the Worst of Times
Dessert: The Sweet Life
Parties: They aren’t what they used to be.

     Of course, a cookbook is really only as good as the recipes it includes. Starting with the Chapter on Breakfasts, there are over 100 recipes throughout the book. I have already made a few of the recipes, and each one was a huge success, even with my picky teenage daughter. The Warm Soba Noodle Salad was better than any I have ever purchased, and the Roasted Chickpeas make a delicious, fun, crunchy and especially healthy snack. I loved the recipe for “Our favourite dried apricot bars” and will be making them often, as both a snack and for a quick breakfast-to-go. Parents whose children will venture no further than Kraft dinner or MacDonald’s chicken nuggets will love the recipes for “Beyond Boxed Macaroni and Cheese” and “Chicken Fingers” which can be baked or fried. These recipes will appeal to the whole family, not just your picky eaters.

     The book itself is gorgeous, with colourful appeal. The photos of the author’s children, friends and spouses, contemplating and enjoying food are so much fun to look at. The photos are by Jenna Muirhead-Warren, and she certainly has a way with a camera and children.

     There are sidebars on each page presenting anecdotes from friends and families, as well as important information and advice about such topics as fiber, baking tips, lunchtime quickies, and what’s the difference between fruit and vegetables anyway?

     The list of resources at the end of the book covers topics such as Parenting books, Feeding Baby Books and helpful websites, including one for parents of kids with anaphylactic allergies. I would highly recommend this book for all families, not just families controlled by picky eaters.

Highly Recommended.

Lizanne Eastwood is a Family Literacy Coordinator with the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy, a casual library employee and a homeschooling parent of two active teenagers in Grand Forks, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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ISSN 1201-9364
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