As a child, my Ukrainian grandmother, Baba, was always trying to feed us. By “feed”, I don’t mean give balanced and moderate meals, I mean make us "real chaaaabby" and happy. You never know how hard a winter will be. When we would arrive at her house, there was every kind of goodie imaginable, especially ones my mother never gave us. Her purse was full of Luden’s Cherry cough drops (no medicine, just pieces of cherry candy with cocaine-like addictiveness) and Freedent gum, the freezer bursting with Jello Pudding pops, cabinets loaded with Honey Combs, and jars of Snickers bars. When we were all about two sugary bites from barfing, she would stop basting the roast long enough to look at us and the wrappers on her floor and yell, “Yooooooy! No more fiflikeh! Ged oudda here! Go outside and play!” Minutes later she would call us to a dinner full of beef roast, potatoes, cabbage, and bread with sour cream and gravy on it all. When we slowed down for a moment to breathe, she would beg us, “Eat! Eat! You’re too skeeeeny!” I love my Baba.
Sunshine and Baldilocks are sometimes required to go to the doctor for extra appointments. The first is not my fault; it’s Mr. Responsibility’s…or should I say, Mr. Cranium’s. Both of our children have had to go in for “head” checks to make sure that they don’t have some sort of abnormality. I learned quickly to send the child with her father so the doctor would understand that this is genetic. The sheer size in combination with slender necks and glowing pale skin can only be described as light bulb-esque.
The other appointment is for weight checks. My once cherubic babies have both slimmed down to mere sprites, and I’m the worst mother of Ukrainian descent ever. When this first became an issue, the doctor (who had three pamphlets warning of childhood obesity hanging on the wall) had to dig to the very back of the file cabinet to help me figure out what to do. On the way home, Ukrainian mom stopped at the store and loaded up on every fatty and nutritious item she could find: sour cream, cream to spike the milk, peanut butter, bananas, ice cream, and, (crunchy/healthy mom shudders) canned spaghetti and meatballs. Ukrainian Mom made and tried to tempt Sunshine with it all. There were mashed potatoes and gravy, smoothies, hamburgers, and macaroni and cheese. The child ate two olives and an eighth of a tomato with ketchup. Total failure.
Baldilocks is not quite as picky, but she is skinny nonetheless. I think this has mostly to do with the fact that her diet consists mostly of crayons, stickers, and board books (indestructible my badoot).
The thing that has surprised me most about the kids is their desire not for bland “kid” foods, but for highly flavorful foods. Sunshine eats her eggs with salsa and hot sauce while Baldilocks likes roasted squash with curry powder.
Though it mostly ends up on the floor, they have inspired my cooking. I leave you with one of their favorites:
Nachos with Homemade Hummus and Salsa
2 cans chick peas
¼ cup tahini (in the peanut butter aisle)
Juice from a fresh lemon
3 finely minced cloves of garlic
3-4 tbsp olive oil
Drain chick peas and reserve some of the liquid for later. Combine all of the ingredients (except lemon juice) in a food processor/blender and begin grinding. Add lemon juice, plenty of salt, with reserved liquid until consistency and taste are to your liking. If you want it very, very smooth, cook the chick peas for a few minutes prior to blending. Place in serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with paprika.
1 lb tomatoes
1 lb tomatillos (usually next to the tomatoes, green in color with papery covering)
2 cloves garlic
1 large onion
½-¾ cup fresh cilantro
2-4 jalapenos (remove seeds for reduced heat)
Juice of one lime
Chop all ingredients well and place in a large pot; salt to taste. Gently warm for a few minutes—don’t cook it, just get it warm so the ingredients will marry. Serve as is for very chunky salsa. For medium chunky, run half the batch through a blender. For uniform texture, blend the entire batch. Salsa can be frozen, but shake wildly to reincorporate once it’s thawed.
For the girl’s favorite treat, serve hummus and salsa with fresh nachos.