Wisdom Comes Suddenly

A Culinary Summer, Volume 10, The Final Chapter

September 18th, 2012 · 38 Comments

A new method for making homemade pasta: it’s called the facial technique.  Quite difficult.  Don’t try this at home.

I’ve procrastinated the writing of this post for as long as I could.  I tear up just typing the words, “Volume 10”.  I had no idea this summer would take us to so many new places. While I know a stretched mind does not return to its original shape, one simply cannot anticipate how she will feel inside a new brain until the exercise is complete.  Karen Le Billon’s book “French Kids Eat Everything”…well…it changed everything.  How is it possible for a Momma who lives to cook to be turned on her ear by one book?  After many nights of sleeping on this question, I can tell you this: French Kids didn’t so much change the way I cook as much as it changed the way I THINK about food.  And more importantly, how I’m now proactively teaching my children to THINK about food. Changed thinking = changed behavior, so there you have it.

In my excitement for our new “food paradigm” (i.e. trying new foods is as exciting as trying a new movie), I contacted Karen Le Billon and her publicist.  Not knowing what to expect, I threw my good energy out in the Universe, and it boomeranged back to me in the form of a happiness I cannot wait to share with you here:

Karen Le Billon has sent me 2 autographed copies of her book to SHARE WITH YOU!!!

Yep, she’s as personable and as kind as she seems in her writing.  But I warn you: her writing is transformative. You will never look at snacks, gimmicky diets, or America’s guilty relationship with our food culture the same way again. You will find yourself with the sudden urge to eat things you have never considered touching: radishes, cooked red cabbage, homemade soup as often as possible, veggies ALL OVER THE PLACE AND MAN DO THOSE SUCKERS SUDDENLY FIT EFFORTLESSLY INTO MY DAY.  None of these changes will require complex recipes or expensive gadgets.  It’s both simple and straight forward.  I am now showing my family how to join me in a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship with the foods that wash through our bodies all day, every day.

Let there be jam!

So what now?  Now that the summer has faded, the corn is officially coming down, and the kids are back in school?  Did we transition into a new routine?  Simply put: Yep.  Remember, once stretched…can’t go back.  The rainbow of veggies go into the lunchboxes, and only 25% return, on average (and probably because I pack too much to begin with).  More importantly, I can put nearly any veggie into those lunchboxes: broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, snow peas, green beans, sweet peppers, tomatoes filled with Mozzarella and sprinkled with basil, even salad.  And here is a first: milk.  My girls don’t drink milk, and as someone not terribly pro-milk, I haven’t pushed it.  But then I discovered they have been guzzling chocolate milk in the cafeteria, to the tune of 6 teaspoons of sugar per carton.  Go ahead…take a break, make yourself a cup of tea and measure some sugar while you’re in the kitchen.  Now imagine handing it to your child every single day, right before Math class. I substituted Horizon Organic Milk cartons into their lunchboxes, and our deal is: drink the good stuff, get a tiny treat at the end of your meal (i.e. a Hershey Kiss), and every few days Mommy will keep the treat at home, and substitute Horizon’s flavored Vanilla Milk as its own treat.  They LOVE it.  Do I think non-artificially colored organic milk has too much sugar in it?  You betcha.  I’m weaning them.  My goal is to be down to “Friday is Vanilla Milk Day!” by Thanksgiving.  Shhhh…..

One night, Sara and Kelly announced they would like to be in charge of the Vegetable Starter.  Looking at the picture below, I now know I ate cilantro, celery, grapes, and lemon.  It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever eaten, to be honest.  Luckily they left out the sugar, pretzel braids, and gigantic bowl of Hershey Kisses I see sitting in this picture, which seems unlikely, considering the age of the Chefs.

So speaking of mes petite Sous Chefs, how did our merry band of players fare in the end?

Kelly, our most reticent “to try new things” girl has been overheard on more than one occasion telling people, “I’m the kind of girl who likes to try new foods.  I don’t always like them, but I will always try them. I never know what I might like.” She’s broken her mac and cheese and pizza bite addiction, and now prefers hard-boiled eggs or a turkey and provolone sandwich for lunch.  She’s asked that hot dogs be removed from the house.  She doesn’t understand why she had such a fear of fresh herbs before, because “these little green things are good”. We’re still working on her sense of geography, as last week during a dinner game of “where did this come from?” (the meal was Cowboy Caviar), Kelly proudly announced “Pakistan”.

Sara, our most adventurous eater by far, is asking where have avocados been her whole life, and why did I wait so long to give them to her?  After all, they go with everything.  While she still enjoys the occasional sunbutter and jam sandwich, she’d much prefer an avocado and bacon sandwich on lightly toasted bread, s’il vous plait. Her favorite lunches include the ingredients for a “make your own yogurt parfait” bowl, which she deftly assembles in front of her friends (a real 1st grade conversation starter, so I hear).  Last week she and Kelly begged me to pack leftovers for dinner, and they ate roasted chicken on top of sage and garlic smashed red potatoes for lunch.  More than watching them eat it, I wish I could have overheard their description of it (a complete fabrication to follow): “Well, you see, the mint needs replanted, but we have just a boatload of sage….which makes you think of, you know…POULTRY. I mean really, doesn’t it just make you want to roast something?” Sara also needs to work on her geography, as she placed tonight’s dinner of fried green tomatoes, apple herbed stuffing on top of a pork loin, and balsamic roasted carrots, squarely in what area of our country?  That’s right…Mexico.

Which leaves Miss Avery, my precious niece who should surely win our “Most Improved Player” award.  This girl started the summer by picking at mac n cheese because it didn’t include the word “nugget” or “ketchup”.  I don’t pack her lunches or make her dinners these days, but I do know at my house, I never beg her to eat anymore. She learned that food is not a 4-letter word.  And at the end of it all?  She decided to convert to Catholicism.  I suppose you could argue these are unrelated events, but there is a part of me which will fondly remember the summer Avery “Got Food” and “Got God”.  She is my most consistent of geography bees, because it doesn’t matter if I put pasta, fried chicken, or fish tacos on the table, her response is always the same: “Aunt Orly, are we having Italian again?!”

And how did this Momma do? I find with all these veggies lying about, the picture above is my lunch on more than one day a week.  I’ve ditched my “white plates only” philosophy, so I can eat on the plates I carried back from Paris, play some French Cafe music on Pandora, and reminisce about the long, leisurely lunches I had with the girls.  I find I’m rarely hungry, and almost never snack anymore.  It takes no willpower…with all this produce in my gut, I’m just not hungry during the day. The emotional cost of cooking dinner has moved from “taxing” to “fulfilling”, and with a changed mindset, the work has become far closer to effortless than the daily mountain I once climbed.  In year’s past, I cooked nice dinners because I love food, not because I found it easy. Do I love going to the grocery store?  GOD NO.  It would take me less time to travel from Pakistan to Mexico, and then back to Italy. But I do love the end result, so I put in the time.

It wasn’t always pretty, and it was never clean, but in the end, it was an experience I’d like to repeat, improve upon, and watch it grow from year to year. This summer included swimming, movies, worksheets, games, tutors, playtime, crafting, friends….and delicious food.  There were lessons that will shape the eating decisions they will make for the rest of their lives.  There was the sharing of the precious gift of time.  There was the daily demonstration that food is love.  NOT GUILT (which is the world’s worst garnish)….just love.  NOT PERFECTION (I still love a good McDonald’s drive-thru now and then)…just love. And I think it’s official: My Kids Eat Everything. When I asked them what they would like to share with you about this summer, their response was pretty simple:

“Life is better when served with a cheese course.  Are we famous?”

My response?  Not yet. First you’ll have to graduate from next year’s cooking curriculum titled, “How to Wash the Dishes.”

I hope you enjoyed this journey with us.  We sure have enjoyed having you along for the ride.  If you’d like to enter my drawing for Karen Le Billon’s autographed book, French Kids Eat Everything, leave a comment with this post, and I’ll use a random number generator this Sunday at noon (EST), September 23rd, to select 2 winners.  Tell me about your favorite foods, or your favorite summer, or why you can’t wait to read this book.  Or hey guys…just leaving a hello is enough for me. Leave as  many comments as you wish, as each one equals one entry into the drawing. Comments indicating you’ve joined Karen Le Billon’s Facebook Page for French Kids Eat Everything will count as 2 entries. A final special thank you to Ms. Le Billon’s publicist, Megan Swartz from Harper Collins, for donating a copy of the book to our school library’s Parent Resource Section.  I extend to you a warm thank you from our administration, PTA, and the parents for your donation.

I wish you Godspeed and good food, my friends.  Now let’s giveaway some books!!

Tags: The Girls

38 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Roxanne Rodenberger // Sep 18, 2012 at 11:40 am

    I’m working in eating healthy. I’ve also started working out. Maybe this book will help Jay and I with meal ideas and portion control.

  • 2 Kara T. // Sep 18, 2012 at 11:48 am

    I’ve loved reading about your Culinary Summer Lori! Your posts have been entertaining and inspiring and as always you crack me up:)
    I hope to read this book soon as I am starting to wonder if my kids will ever want to eat something besides noodles. Don’t get me wrong, I love noodles, but I’m thinking enough is enough:) Bring on the veggies! Love you guys!

  • 3 angela k // Sep 18, 2012 at 11:50 am

    You have me intrigued!!! I have to read this book..while my Kids aren’t stuck on hot dogs and chicken nuggets anymore..in fact they ask for salads and some veggies! They even prefer them over some junk food. I would still love to nourish their bodies and minds better!!

    And you..well you are always amazing!!!

    Hip hop hooray!!!! For all you do for your own and others every day!
    Miss ya!

  • 4 The Momma // Sep 18, 2012 at 11:57 am

    You guys are awesome! Thank you!! Good luck!

  • 5 Ana Paula // Sep 18, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Thank you so much for letting us participate on your journey! We are always striving to get better here in our household!
    Can’t wait to read the book!

  • 6 Jennie // Sep 18, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Such a fun summer! I am feeling inspired by all of the non- picky eating in your house. Even my one year old picked all of the lettuce out if his salad and threw it on the ground…

  • 7 The Momma // Sep 18, 2012 at 12:36 pm


    My girls have SO done that!!! They used to call all lettuce “salad”. No salad on my sandwich please!

  • 8 Lydia // Sep 18, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    I already have the book and I don’t need another copy, so I’m not entering. I just wanted to say how much I have enjoyed following this series this summer. You have impacted the way I think about food, too, and you know what a huge undertaking that is!

  • 9 M3 // Sep 18, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Sounds great, glad it was a success! Our girls used to eat everything, and now they pretty much would order plain noodles (no butter no cheese no sauce no nothin) at every restaurant/meal if we’d let them. Bleh. They need a revolution.

  • 10 The Momma // Sep 18, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    M3, Your girls have always been the poster children of eat everything! It must be a phase. They are my role models! I always say, “The Salsa Girls would eat this!”

    Lydia, give it as a present! But not at your speciality drinks table at the formal tailgating parties. Wrong venue.

  • 11 Stephanie // Sep 18, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    I love that you are inspiring all of us to reexamine not just the food we eat, but the relationship that we have with that food. First is was Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman, then it was Jamie Oliver, and now it’s Karen LeBillon and Lori. You have entered my stratosphere of food writers!

  • 12 V // Sep 18, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Fantastic series! Thanks for getting me to think about food from a different perspective.

  • 13 Aunt Jenny // Sep 18, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Avery is still committed to trying new foods. I sometimes hear her reminding herself that she is a person who tries new food, but once she remembers, she gives it a go. Thanks for trying this out on her!

  • 14 Stephanie R // Sep 18, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    My kids love veggies (and fruit even more!). I do need to expand our veggie menu though to some more exotic choices.

    It’s been fun reading your culinary summer series!

  • 15 Amy Odland // Sep 19, 2012 at 12:19 am

    This is the first of your posts I’ve read…but I’m going back to read #1-9 right now! 🙂 Sounds like an adventure I’d like to do at my house. I don’t like cooking and we don’t eat very healthfully right now.

  • 16 Amy Odland // Sep 19, 2012 at 12:20 am

    I do ‘like’ Karen Le Billon’s page on FB…her post is what brought me to your blog!!

  • 17 Anne // Sep 19, 2012 at 12:36 am

    I follow The author on Facebook and love her posts, am so intrigued, yet haven’t read her book yet! I would love to win a copy!!

  • 18 Jeanne // Sep 19, 2012 at 1:09 am

    I am so inspired to get back to healthier eating habits by you and would love a copy of the book! Our biggest problem has been a lack of menu planning and abundance of snacks. Many thanks 🙂

  • 19 Kirsten Bergan // Sep 19, 2012 at 8:17 am

    Congratulations! I read this book over the Summer and with a few changes, my 2 year old now eats raw veggies and meat! We still have a long way to go to get him trying everything, but it is very exciting when he sits down to dinner with a real appetite!

  • 20 Silvia // Sep 19, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    I loved FKEE as much as you did, i was obsessed with it. We had a shorter version of your summer, with 3 full weeks of trying new veggies every day. I have 4 year old twins and a 6 year old who proudly tells everyone how her favorites soups are: watercress soup and fennel soup. Hope you don’t stop your writings, are enjoyable.

  • 21 Pat // Sep 19, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    I introduce my 21 month old grand-daughter to a new food every time she spends the night – – Grammie time is love time!

  • 22 Cindy W // Sep 19, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    What a wonderful blog entry! I joined Karen’s facebook page which sent me to you. I’m feeling inspired.

  • 23 Missy // Sep 19, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Please, PLEASE continue your summer culinary posts. Kid Salad is a favorite here now. I even took it to work one day and my co-workers had seconds.

  • 24 Sarah // Sep 19, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    Lori – you know I have been following along with your culinary summer! I have been so inspired by your posts. YOU could write a book about teaching American children how to learn and try foods – how to appreciate food more like French children. You’ve inspired me to at least start meal planning! I would love to own a copy of the book and to get more inspiration for healthier foods and a better way of looking at food!

  • 25 Jacque M // Sep 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Hey Lori, love the post. I need to learn to eat different food before I could make my kids do it. The grocery store produce section indimidates me 🙂

  • 26 The Momma // Sep 20, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    Jacque, I’ll go with you sometime if you want!!

  • 27 Kirsten // Sep 20, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    You are an inspiration!

  • 28 Lisette // Sep 21, 2012 at 8:19 am

    I can not wait to read “French Kids Eat Everything”! I came across this book reading an article in the NY Times about Karen Le Billon. This stemmed from reading “Bringing up Bebe” – which also discusses the importance of food. Having a 6 month old daughter, I immediately became intrigued – as I want to instill a love of food (not only healthly food but also the enjoyment of family time around the dinner table). Reading your blog has really inspired me to take action and start this new way of looking at food now!
    BTW – I became a fan of Karen Le Billon on FB! =)
    Thanks again for your inspiring words!

  • 29 Milena // Sep 21, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    Hi Lori,

    I have a picky boy, and so your passion for this book has me hopeful that it might help me with him. Lauren is so good about eating just about anything, and he is the opposite, you know, the twin thing: she says potato, and he says potahto.

    It is inspiring to read your blog. Thanks for sharing your talent for telling stories and living with heart with all of us.


  • 30 Sarah // Sep 21, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    I wanted to share that I became a fan on French Kids Eat Everything/Karen Le Billon on Facebook! I like seeing the new posts on my wall. Lots of great tips and inspiration!

  • 31 englishdame // Sep 22, 2012 at 7:41 am

    Lori – I must admit I read your blog every morning. Growing up in England, home grown vegetables were abundant but fruit was totally a different matter – a special tangerine from the local market from my Grandpa was a pure treat. Surprisingly when I came to the States I married a guy who was just not into fruit and vegatables – thank goodness I converted him. Fortunately my daughter would try everything at a very early age, and now my granddaughter is hopefully following in her steps! Keep up the good work!

  • 32 The Momma // Sep 22, 2012 at 7:48 am

    Thank you English Dame! Your granddaughter is a good eater, and much like 2 other little squirts I know, she MIGHT really love her “cake pop” days!

  • 33 Karin W // Sep 22, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    Lori – know that if I win, the book will sit on my shelf for a year and then I’ll read it when everything gets busy – that’s my book MO… My favorite food is still a candy bar but I’ve been following you all summer and the amount of cutting you do is absolutely amazing! We’re still at 4 meals a day (breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner). The one thing I wish that I could do is put our big meal mid-day but for whatever reason, schools and work frown upon pulling kids out of school and taking 2 hr lunches daily for a family meal… Anyway, I liked Karen Le Billon’s facebook page and hope you’re having just as fantastic a weekend as we’re having (celebrating my husband’s birthday with a cookout – duh – I forgot to get a fruit tray)

  • 34 Andrea // Sep 22, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Lori – I’m excited about this drawing because I’ve been dying to read this book since you first posted about it! I just haven’t gotten around to buying it yet. Now that I’m married and not in grad school full-time I’m finally able to cook real meals. I love food and cooking!

  • 35 Andrea // Sep 22, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    I also want to share the book with my sister who recently had a baby. We share recipes all the time, and I know she’d be interested in this book to use as her baby grows up!

  • 36 Roxanne // Sep 22, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    I’m learning to try new things. For instance tonight we made quinoa with kale. I loved it. It’s a recipe I got off Pinterest. I actually had some mangos and I like the mangos in with it.

  • 37 Sue // Sep 23, 2012 at 10:40 am

    My 2 1/2yr old great granddaughter would rather eat veggies and fruit over anything else. I try to always have either or both cut up in the frig for her. She knows that whatever is in the Dora bowl she can have as much and as often as she wants. But I do struggle coming up with meals for her to eat that’s not the same week end week out.

  • 38 Debbie L // Sep 23, 2012 at 10:53 am

    “French Kids Eat Everything” ! Connor eats nothing. 🙂